NOTE TO ... Endtime Magazine

April 19, 2009

Let me start by saying, I believe in God. After years of Bible Belt submersion, my most shining moments of intense belief occurred sitting in molecular genetics class during my senior year of college. How could these mind-blowing, multi-layered intricacies of nature happen by accident? The absolutely astonishing secrets of the human body illuminated for me the idea that somehow there was purpose and planning. Contrasted with the simplistic message of Christianity I was taught as a child, it sometimes seems that God is placating us, boiling down his complexity into a simplistic message that the least intelligent Earthling can fathom.

If you knew the amount of good versus evil rhetoric that flew through my childhood household amidst an ever-crumbling marriage, frequent suicidal ideation, screaming, despair, and several highly creative people packed in a space too small to hold them, you'd understand why I don't so easily accept passionate pleas and emotional interpretations laced with words soaked through and through with alarming religious and political connotations.

My mother has been a devout fundamentalist Christian for as long as I can recall. She's been reading Endtime Magazine and listening to your program, Politics & Religion for almost a decade now. When she first began listening, your leader, Irvin Baxter, broadcast his show from Illinois. By the time my mother became a widow, Mr. Baxter had moved his operations right into her hometown, Dallas, Texas. She now attends Mr. Baxter's weekly bible study in person and even went with him and his other paid companions to Israel a couple of years ago--a dream come true trip she couldn't afford to take. Trouble is, Mr. Baxter constantly proclaims an end of the world message. As a result, 99% of every conversation I've had with my mother over the last five or so years has somehow come round to her favorite topic--the end of the world as we know it and the second coming of Christ.

Recently my mother asked me once again to read Endtime Magazine so that I would be prepared and have the understanding necessary to survive on God's side in the coming years. I've taken a quick look at the magazine in years past, but this time I decided to read it cover to cover and properly evaluate what has become my mother's primary focus. Now, while I don't currently have every Bible verse memorized, I was raised in a super duper highly fundamentalist environment smack at the center of the blazing Bible Belt. I have a fairly good understanding of Bible basics and Christian doctrine. So I set out to assess the Endtime Magazine out of genuine love and concern for my mother.

Here are my conclusions:

1) Not counting the plea to subscribe in the footer of each page (something not often seen in traditional magazines), nearly every other page of the 25-30 page magazine advertises a product developed by Endtime Ministries such as videos, CDs, Bible study materials, speaker appearances and tours, subscriptions, books, etc. And these products are not cheap!

2) The magazine includes sections called Letters & Feedback, and World Review. In Letters & Feedback, all responses are used as an avenue for continuing the message that we are in the end times. Except for Bible verse references, none of the responses are supported by sources. The responses are also used as a way to point out Endtime Ministry products that can further clarify the responses. In the World Review section, world news is shared under various categories such as 6th Trumpet, EU Watch, Mark of the Beast, Antichrist, and World Government. The news is presented in brief paragraphs that clearly appear to be out of context. No sources are provided.

3) Every article is chock full of words and phrases such as imminent destruction, bloodshed, World War III, rivers of blood, and suffering. Opinions and personal interpretations weave through the writings of Mr. Baxter like a tornado ripping through facts. Everything gets jumbled up into an overpowering whirlwind tugging at the emotional core of those unable to assess true journalistic integrity. Like innocent youngsters in love, they are swept away.

The thing is, my mother is a wonderful Christian woman who is alone in a big city with only her faithful dog and a few busy friends. I've tried to tell her that even if the world is soon ending according to God's plan, we cannot alter that plan. But she is never satisfied with my actions, words, or deeds. This is a woman who told me once that Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and the Pope are likely not passing through the pearly gates. How much more can I do to make it onto her list? Just the other day, in the midst of our never ending end-of-the-world conversation, she shared with me that her newest prayer is for my husband and I to lose everything we have so that we might find God (according to her and Mr. Baxter's definition, of course). I said, "Thanks for that Mom," and was sad for several days. The God I believe in would not wish a mother to say such a prayer for her child. But apparently, this prayer comes by way of the God supported by Endtime Magazine.

If you are sincere in your beliefs and would like to spread what you believe to be critical political and religious information across the globe, why not do it using real journalistic integrity rather then taking the swept away strategy? Why not do it without every other sentence being an advertisement for your products? My mother lives on a tight fixed income like many of our nations' senior citizens. Must she send her money to you instead of using it to provide for herself? She is in need, yet she wants to help you, Mr. Baxter. But I am the one who must listen to her tired and worried voice when she talks about bills that must be paid and the car she can't afford to fix. I bet you have a nice enough car. My mother just needs one that works so she can drive herself over to your Bible study.

Trust me, I've heard it all. Every single fundamentalist come back for just about every intelligent question or doubt posed by the human race. There is nothing you can say that hasn't been said to me. I've lived in your world. Now I live in my own, and believe it or not, there is still room for God. Sure, I'm slowly dealing with all my personal issues around organized religion and hypocrisy. Some of the most religious people by your fine standards have caused the most damage in my life, and I'm tired of their excuses. I'm tired of their promises that God can ease any pain I may be feeling and rescue me from a life of sin. I have rescued myself, time and time again, and I have done it with the strength, intelligence, tenacity, and downright wicked gumption that God himself zapped into my DNA through those miraculous molecular genetic processes he created.

If only my mother could fathom those intricacies, she might consider that there is likely no way on God's green-depleted Earth that anyone is going to figure out his plan, much less Mr. Baxter. That's where faith, peace, and thankfulness for what we have come in. Like an ant on a log, I'm doing the best I can, gladly carrying a load much too large for one heart to bear. I have faith that when my log is blown to bits, I'll be at peace knowing I did my absolute best. Apparently my best doesn't meet the standards of my mother and Endtime Magazine, but somehow I trust that God is smart enough to get it.

Amen.

Comments

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said:

One can only imagine the plethora of interesting comments you’re going to receive on this post. Thanks so much for your candor and honesty and, most of all, for having the courage to call out these so-called leaders for the ways they frighten, mislead, and take advantage of eager believers. We can never know God’s plan, and to convey anything else is an outright lie.

Celeste

Celeste said:

I would like to thank you for this letter, as it demonstrates clear thinking and a willingness to keep an open mind, not to mention a desire to seek and find the truth. You are obviously concerned not only for your mother, but for your entire family as well.

I share your fascination with the intricacies of genetics as. Intelligent design is clearly indicated when one observes the human body in any kind of detail. I have a child with epilepsy. Her neurologist is foremost in his field, he has been practicing for 30 years, and he told me himself, “The human brain continues to dumbfound us. There are many things I cannot explain to you, and we cannot give you a reason for the seizures. The best we can do is try to control it with medication.” A learned man like this was willing to admit, much of the human brain is beyond him.

As to this gentleman, Mr. Baxter, I share your objections to his methods. As you mentioned, no sources are given and solicitations for money abound. This does not jibe with the Bible, which Mr. Baxter claims to follow. Christ never asked for money, rather He reminded His followers that God was more than able to provide their needs.(Matthew 6:33)

Like you, I was raised in a fundamentalist environment, and I can honestly say it did nothing for me, save to foster a general sense of fear and insecurity. I came to believe that I had missed the mark, that God did not find me acceptable. Enter my grandmother. She encouraged me to read the Bible for myself, and I did. From it I learned it is God who gave me what is good about myself, and I can trust God with everything. I can trust Him for today and tomorrow. I don’t need to know when the end is coming, because I trust God to handle it. As you mention, God will carry out whatever plan He has for the future, and I am quite certain He doesn’t need our help with that.

Now it is not for me to say who will pass through the pearly gates, rather I am grateful for people like Mother Teresa who said she didn’t worry about the money for her orphans, she said that she knew money would come if she would seek God first. What else could you see in a life such as hers but pure unadulterated love, how could that come from anyone but God? Ghandi himself said, “I do not like your Christians, but I like your Christ.” I agree with him, Christ is the example to strive for. In Ancient Rome, Christ’s followers were referred to as Christans, because the word means, “Little Christ”. When did we, as Christans, stop trying to be like our Christ?

And so, I don’t mean to sound simplistic, but after years of careful study of history and archaeolody, I have become convinced, there is nothing that man has invented that can compare to the Bible. It is the word of God, whom I believe to be the source of everything good. The freedom, the peace of mind, the self-esteem and the love we all long for can be found by seeking and finding for ourselves what God says. God wants to speak to all of us, personally, directly, we don’t always need a preacher. God is not watching us from a distance, He is here with us, only a breath away, longing to show us all that we DO count, that we ARE loved, that we all have something good to give. I wish for all who read this that you may be well and that you may be prosperous. You have no need to lose it all to find God. He is as close to you as the very mention of His name. I am not a Baptist or Methodist or Catholic, I’m just a person like you who happens to love Jesus and tries to follow Him. May God bless all who read.

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