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Tue February 17, 2004
Isn't It Ironic
Some of life's most ordinary moments can be the most enlightening, or at least entertaining.
By Catherine McCall
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Catherine's commentary.]
There's a lot of confusion these days in America about what it means to be a family, to be married, to be going to heaven or to hell. Wardrobes malfunction, weapons disappear, and carbohydrates are bad for you--except when they're good.
Through it all, there is the steady tick of that Sunday evening stopwatch signaling the stories to be told on the granddaddy of news shows: 60 Minutes.
So there I was the other night, one of millions of Americans, eating supper and watching tv when the first segment began: a story depicting the rising influence of evangelical Christians on American culture and politics. Reporter Morley Safer spoke with Reverend Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the "Left Behind" books, a series of novels that describe the end of the world, what evangelicals call the Rapture.
When the moment arrives, only those people who have "personally trusted Jesus Christ as their savior," (and all children under twelve), will be lifted up and taken to "a better place."
I wondered who would take care of Mason and Hattie if I was among the chosen ones. I'd never qualify for several reasons so I took another sip of wine and kept watching the show.
Seventy million evangelicals in America see themselves as charged with persuading non-believers to join the flock. To them, the Rapture is absolute reality and could occur at any moment. And the nation of America, according to leading evangelicals, has an integral role to play in preparing for this big event.
During the 60 Minutes story, Reverend LaHaye told Morley Safer, "I think if you cut us, Jerry and I would bleed red, white and blue. We believe that God has raised up America to be a tool in these last days, to get the Gospel to the innermost parts of the earth."
This is an incredible certainty that these American evangelicals espouse. There is no wiggle room for doubt, no gray area, and thus no place for probing questions. The Bible is to be read as the literal Word of God.
Then George W. Bush came onto the screen, naming Christ as the political philosopher he most identifies with. Despite the bright-eyed clarity with which he and other evangelicals spoke, I was left with many questions, and a bit of indigestion.
Why has America-as opposed to some other nation--been crowned with the calling to lead an unsaved world out of the darkness and into the light?
Before I could come to terms with my confusion, the stopwatch was ticking again prior to a commercial, and then the next thing I heard was this:
"When the moment arrives, will you be ready?"
At first I thought Reverend LaHaye was back, or that it was a Christian message of some sort, except a man and a woman were gazing through candlelight at one another, the music soft and seductive. Images of several couples in romantic settings crossed over the screen and again the voice asked?when the moment arrives, will you be ready?
The medication being advertised promised to assist with erectile dysfunction for up to thirty-six hours.
I laughed, enjoying the reminder that irony is alive and well and pulsing right through the heart of America.
Catherine McCall is a psychiatrist who lives and works in Wilmington.