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6527212 April 19, 2009

NOTE TO ... Endtime Magazine

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.

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