Review: Robert Jeffress: Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola are Only the Beginning (2015)

February 17, 2015 in General

Review: Robert Jeffress: Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola are Only the Beginning: New York: Faithwords: 2015
While I was searching the Net for new homophobic and transphobic idiocies, I encountered a very recent gem, no doubt soon to appear in New Zealand fundamentalist bookshops. Its title is Countdown to the Apocalypse- Why ISIS and Ebola are Only the Beginning!  Oh, and apparently marriage equality is one of the signs of the end of the world. Read on…
Before the end of the Cold War and the advent of the millennium with no harmful effects except the election of an utterly moronic US president later that year, fundamentalist bookshops were infested with badly written sensationalist “prophecy” volumes and even worse apocalyptic fiction titles “predicting” that western secularisation and the advent of social liberalism, feminism and LGBT rights within public policy would lead to “persecution” of fundamentalist Christians and global disaster, leading to the advent of a “new world order” or “one world government” of  totalitarian liberalism that would then infringe the substantive human rights and civil liberties of fundamentalists, putting them to death.  Thankfully, Tim LaHaye’s ghastly Left Behind endtimes potboilers were the last manifestation of that particular fundamentalist cottage industry, until recent current events.
The author of this latest tiresome tome is predictably a Southern US fundamentalist minister, Robert Jeffress. With nothing better to do with his time, Jeffress scrolled through conservative Christian and right-wing US online media outlets and decided to cobble together a series of heinous current events- the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Ebola’s grim path of destruction within Western Africa, as well as the spread of marriage equality throughout much of Western Europe, New Zealand and the United States. How could these three story arcs possibly be associated with one another?  Obviously, they aren’t. ISIS is the product of short-sighted US Cold War geopolitical strategy and the neoconservative dogma of the Bush administration and the foreign policy network of People for a New American Century and last decade’s Iraqi War. Ebola is the result of a derelict charnel house health infrastructure, poverty and poor transport, education and social services within Liberia, Guinea and Sierre Leone, ill-suited to deal with the spread of any pandemic.  And given social secularisation, effective LGBT lobbying efforts and consequent legislative reform, marriage equality is the outcome. Obviously, to the mainstream observer, each foreign policy, biomedical and social reform story arc have independent and discrete causal paths.
We aren’t talking about mainstream observers here, however.  As I have noted in earlier Gaynz.Com columns, there is a conspiracist element in fundamentalist rhetoric and political perceptions.  If they do not obtain political victory in a given arena of public policy, they usually then claim that “religious freedom” is “under attack” and that the “end result” will be wholesale attacks on basic human rights and civil liberties.  However, the Christian Right does not mean what the rest of us understand by meaningful religious and philosophical freedom.  They appear to mean that conservative Christians and others should be exempted from anti-discrimination laws when it comes to employment, accomodation and service provision on the basis that freedom of religious practice should be absolute. However, that way lies madness. In the United States, such absolutism has led to instances where animal sacrifice, drug ingestion and handling of poisonous reptiles are all “justifiable,” no matter what ensuing harm is caused.  While peyote ingestion is a legitimate sacred Native American religious ceremonial activity, the others are more questionable.  Fortunately, in mainstream western jurisdictions, freedom of religious practice is circumscribed if there are questions of harm and injury that would result from its absolute exercise. Jehovahs Witness parents cannot force their children not to obtain blood transfusions and polygamy is illegal in New Zealand.  However, freedom of worship, religious association and assembly, doctrine and religious speech, conscience and belief are all preserved as basic civil liberties.  No one is asking conservative Christians to ordain LGBTI individuals or conduct LGBT wedding ceremonies.
 Certainly, Ebola is a human tragedy, but international medical co-operation and foreign aid have helped to mitigate its worst effects in the afflicted areas of Western Africa in this context. Certainly too, ISIS is a murderous Sunni Islamist revolutionary group seeking to take advantage of weakness, social fragmentation and Shia/Sunni dissension within Iraq and its abuse, torture and cold-blooded execution of both western captives and Muslims who do not share its brutalist medieval Wahabbi fundamentalism should be rigorously condemned and fought. However, it has alienated Al Qaeda with its very acts and its existence causes tension within anti-regime Middle Eastern insurgent groups, which suggests that there are multiple possible points of intervention and constraint that may be available.
But hey, like others of its tiresome, histrionic apocalyptic genre, Countdown to the Apocalypse isn’t about sober, rational analysis of foreign policy, social change or epidemiology. It’s a paint by numbers or join the dots game that skims the surface of its claims and comes up with paranoia and overheated conspiracy theories. It isn’t the first of its kind, and while its kind is rarer these days, it isn’t quite extinct yet.
Not Recommended:
Robert Jeffress: Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola are Only the Beginning: New York: Faithwords: 2015
“Texas Pastor Robert Jeffress: Christians being forced to bake gay wedding cakes is a sign of the Apocalypse” Towelroad: 15.02.2015: .html

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