April 10 saw yet another US Christian Zionist conference in Jerusalem: “Epicenter 08“, hosted by Christian author Joel C. Rosenberg (whom I blogged on in the very early days of this blog, here and here). The conference was organised in conjunction with the neo-Pentecostal Calvary Chapel, and Calvary’s leader Chuck Smith was one of the speakers. Smith, like Hal Lindsey, has published numerous books on the “Last Days”, including one which predicted the Rapture would occur by the end of 1981. Rosenberg scored rather better in 2001 with a tale of Islamic terrorists hijacking a plane and crashing it into an American city, with the result that enthusiasts have dubbed him to be a “modern Nostradamus”.
The conference – which can be viewed on an official website – came in the wake of a Rosenberg book and DVD also entitled Epicenter, and dealt with a familiar theme: the dangers of Islamic radicalism and Iran, and the consequent need to support Israel. Rosenberg was particularly excited by links between Russia, Iran, and Sudan, which he believes presages an alliance against Israel as predicted by Ezekiel – however, he also cautioned that we can’t know for sure that this is how things will unfold, and God may “kick the prophetic can” up the road by a few decades.
Among those addressing the conference was ex-CIA director Porter Goss, who did not appear in person but provided a recorded interview. Rosenberg claimed that Goss had found the book Epicenter to be “fascinating”, and this was how they came to meet. Goss’s interview dealt with obvious subjects: chaos in Pakistan might lead to the wrong people getting their hands on nuclear bombs; Iran might use a surrogate to deliver a dirty bomb in Israel or the USA (although this was “less likely than it used to be”); there are signs of paranoia in Russia; Iraq “has to come out right”. Rosenberg followed up with a call for his audience to make sense of this “though the lens of scripture”, although Goss himself offered no Biblical ruminations.
Retired Lt-General William Boykin (speaking in a personal capacity) sang from the same songsheet, announcing that although what he was about to say was influenced by his study of “Top Secret information”, his talk would present information from unclassified sources only. These included Armageddon, Oil, and Terror, an apocalyptic paperback written by John Walvoord in the 1970s and revised for the second time last year by Mark Hitchcock (strangely, books in this genre tend to require numerous revisions as the years go by. I blogged on this one here), and Infiltration by Paul Sperry. He also took the opportunity to plug his own book, Never Surrender. In fact, the talk went no further than to rehash familiar talking-points from websites like FrontPage or WorldNetDaily.
Boykin was keen to stress that not all Muslims hate the west and want to kill infidels, and that that this was not a war between Christianity and Islam. He also noted, citing Bernard Lewis, that suicide was forbidden in Islam and that radicals had turned around a 1,400 year old Islamic doctrine to justify their actions. However, he also claimed that the “Islamic armies never stopped”, and that today we are seeing a new strategy of advance: “Jihadists” wanted to destroy the Western democracies because they are “inconsistent with Shariah law”, and that the West was hampered because of “complacent and permissive” elements. It was probably only “a matter of time” before Islam “dominates Europe”, and Europe’s failure to support Israel is because it has “all but forgotten” the Holocaust. Further, “recruitment to Islam is rampant” in the USA, particularly in prisons, and money from Gulf States means that universities now teach “political Islamic propaganda” which encourages “young people to tolerate the intolerable”. As for Goss, Iran in particular represents an urgent danger – Ahmadinejad “seeks to bring apocalypse upon the world” as a religious duty. Boykin concluded with a bit of spiritual warfare:
Here’s the way I want to show up at the gates of heaven. I want to come skidding in there on all fours. I want to be slipping and sliding and I want to hit the gates of heaven with a bang. And when I stand up, when I stand before Christ, I want there to be blood on my knees, and my elbows. I want to be covered with mud. And I want to be standing there with a ragged breastplate of righteousness, and a spear in my hand. And I want to say, “look at me, Jesus, I’ve been in the battles, I’ve been fighting for you.” Ladies and gentlemen, put your armour on, and get in the battle. God bless you.
Other speakers included Likud MK Gideon Saar, who railed against “this Oslo crap”, and David Ortiz, an Israeli pastor who lives in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Ortiz’s young son was recently seriously injured by a parcel bomb, and as Ortiz gave his account he was visibly distressed. Although it is not yet known who sent the bomb, anti-missionary Israelis are stronger suspects than militant Palestinians.
Rosenberg and the other speakers stressed that the dangers of Islamic radicalism needed to be taken very seriously and confronted urgently. Apparently the best way to do this is to suggest that recent developments may be a prelude to the Biblical apocalypse, and to offer a one-note analysis of why extremist Islamic ideology has emerged and is growing.
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