end times

Via New York Times, a fair portrait of 'Doomsday Prophet Who Says the Bible Predicted Trump'

Via New York Times, a fair portrait of 'Doomsday Prophet Who Says the Bible Predicted Trump'

Dominating Sunday’s Metropolitan cover of the New York Times, an in-depth piece by Sam Kestenbaum delved into — as the print edition put it — “Preaching the Gospel According to Trump.”

Unfortunately, that yawner of a headline failed to rise to the level of the story.

Kestenbaum’s nuanced, carefully crafted profile of New Jersey pastor Jonathan Cahn deserved a better, more eloquent title.

The headline on the online version of the piece is more precise and closer to the mark:

#MAGA Church: The Doomsday Prophet Who Says the Bible Predicted Trump

The subhead:

A charismatic pastor in New Jersey (who also calls himself a rabbi) leads a church fixated on end times. Before the apocalypse, however, he’s fitting in a trip to Mar-a-Lago.

Kestenbaum’s colorful opening sets the scene:

On a Sunday morning at Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne, N.J., a bearded pastor named Jonathan Cahn stood on an elevated platform, gazing over a full house. Stage lights shifted from blue to white as the backing band played a drifting melody. Two men hoisted curled rams’ horns and let out long blasts.

“Some of you have been saying you want to live in biblical times,” Mr. Cahn said, pacing behind a lectern. Then he spread his hands wide. “Well, you are.”

Sitting at the end of a sleepy drive an hour from Manhattan, Beth Israel may look like any common suburban church. But the center has a highly unusual draw. Every weekend, some 1,000 congregants gather for the idiosyncratic teachings of the church’s celebrity pastor, an entrepreneurial doomsday prophet who claims that President Trump’s rise to power was foretold in the Bible.

Mr. Cahn is tapping into a belief more popular than may appear.

Keep reading, and Kestenbaum — a contributing editor at The Forward as well as a regular writer for the Times — demonstrates his religion writing experience as he explores Cahn’s theology.

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Jim Bakker plus real estate plus the apocalypse plus zero new reporting equals WHAT?

Jim Bakker plus real estate plus the apocalypse plus zero new reporting equals WHAT?

Jim Bakker likes to build things.

In the old days be built really big things and news consumers with a long attention span will remember how that turned out. Click here for a recent news update.

Today he's building smaller things -- like Ozark cabins for the post-apocalyptic age. Buyers will need lots of Bakker approved religious-home furnishings, of course.

As you would imagine, there are people who want to write about that. The question is whether, in a social-media and Internet journalism age, WRITING about this topic actually requires journalists at a major newspaper in the Midwest to do any new REPORTING, other than with an Internet search engine.

Here's the Kansas City Star headline: "Televangelist Jim Bakker calls his Missouri cabins the safest spot for the Apocalypse." Read this story and count the online and streaming info sources. I'll start you off with the overture:

Televangelist Jim Bakker suggests that if you want to survive the end of days, the best thing you could do is buy one of his cabins in Missouri's Ozark Mountains. And while you're at it, be sure to pick up six 28-ounce "Extreme Survival Warfare" water bottles for $150.

Bakker, 78, made comments promoting his Morningside church community alongside his co-host and wife, Lori, on an episode of "The Jim Bakker Show," which aired Tuesday. The show is filmed there, near Branson.

Then there's a short flashback to the PTL Club days in Charlotte, with no attribution necessary. That's followed by a temptress Jessica Hahn update, care of reporting by The Charlotte Observer a few months ago. Then a bit more history, with no attribution.

Then we're back to information gained by watching the new Bakker show from Branson.

But wait. Read this next part carefully.

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Same old song? The Charlotte Observer takes new look at Jim Bakker and his latest gospel

Same old song? The Charlotte Observer takes new look at Jim Bakker and his latest gospel

Long ago, The Charlotte Observer won a Pulitzer in 1988 for its groundbreaking reporting on the misuse of funds by the PTL television ministry. Thus, the folks who run that newsroom no doubt feel the need to keep readers updated on the doings of PTL founder Jim Bakker after a 31-year hiatus.

So it’s come out with an anniversary package detailing not only Bakker’s new calling in life but also a sidebar on a new book about PTL and a piece on whatever happened to Tammy Faye Messner, Bakker’s first wife. The main Observer stories on PTL’s problems broke in 1987 (you can our own tmatt about lots of the background on that). One year later in February 1988, Jimmy Swaggart’s empire fell due to his sexual sins.

It would be a whole other post describing what it was like being a religion reporter during those two years. I was at the Houston Chronicle and the Bakker-Swaggart scandals, plus Pope John Paul II’s 1987 swing around North America, ensured members of the religion-beat team got on the front page a number of times.

But that was then. Here’s what the Observer just wrote.

BLUE EYE, MO. -- Three decades after his PTL empire near Charlotte crumbled amid financial and sex scandals, Jim Bakker is back on TV with a different, darker message:
The Apocalypse is coming and you better get ready.
Ready to be judged by God, sure. But the main mission of “The Jim Bakker Show” -- broadcast from a Christian compound deep in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri -- appears to be to sell you fuel-less generators, doomsday guidebooks and freeze-dried food with a shelf-life of up to 30 years.

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It's the end of the world as they report it: New York Times listens to echo-chamber voices

It's the end of the world as they report it: New York Times listens to echo-chamber voices

Good morning, journalism class. Today's topic is the question of the voice in writing, specifically news writing.

No, we're not talking about active voice versus passive voice, Rather, let's look at the voices -- the "subject matter experts" as the phrasing goes -- selected by a reporter and a media outlet to speak to a given item.

For this question, we can thank The New York Times and their recent feature titled, "Apocalyptic Thoughts Amid Nature’s Chaos? You Could Be Forgiven." While the subject itself is interesting, it was the voices heard in the story -- as well as those not heard -- that caught my attention.

Here we go:

Vicious hurricanes all in a row, one having swamped Houston and another about to buzz through Florida after ripping up the Caribbean.
Wildfires bursting out all over the West after a season of scorching hot temperatures and years of dryness.
And late Thursday night, off the coast of Mexico, a monster of an earthquake.
You could be forgiven for thinking apocalyptic thoughts, like the science fiction writer John Scalzi who, surveying the charred and flooded and shaken landscape, declared that this “sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now.”

We go on to a survey -- written and published before now-Tropical Storm Irma made its first U.S. landfall as Hurricane Irma -- the thoughts of several experts about the relationship, if any, between environmental disasters and the End of All Things.

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'End-times cat cult': Why Bob Smietana's 'Apocalypse Meow' story really is the cat's meow

'End-times cat cult': Why Bob Smietana's 'Apocalypse Meow' story really is the cat's meow

Wow. Wow. Wow.

This Nashville Scene cover story by Bob Smietana really is the cat's meow. I mean, it's an in-depth exposé titled "Apocalypse Meow." What's not to like? 

I must echo the sentiment expressed by Scene editor Steve Cavendish in this tweet.

Don't let the focus on feline factoids leave a faulty impression. This is no fluff piece. It's a furry ball of fantastic journalism, even if it involves — as Smietana's investigative report so eloquently describes it — "a complicated mash-up of spiritual experimentation, charismatic leadership and cute cat videos."

(By the way, this video contains 10 of "the cutest and funniest cat videos of all time." However, as far as I know, it has no connection to the cult covered by Smietana.)

Smietana opens the story as if talking casually with a friend. But then the conversation with readers takes a jaw-dropping turn:

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Apocalypse when? The Deseret News muddles details on some complicated theology

Apocalypse when? The Deseret News muddles details on some complicated theology

When The Atlantic came out with "What ISIS Really Wants," its classic piece on Islamic apocalyptic thought, in March 2015, it got a lot of press because of its clear-eyed insistence that the role of Islamic doctrine and history could not be ignored, when describing the radical faith preached by ISIS.

Remember, it's only been two years since ISIS declared a revived Islamic caliphate on June 29, 2014.

Maybe that's the reason why the Deseret News is writing about the end of the world in a recent story that links the two religions that have detailed Last Day narratives: Christianity and Islam.

The likeness ends there. Versions of the end of time are radically different among the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But you might not know that from the following article: 

The world didn't end during the early years of the Christian community, despite the apostle Paul's imminent predictions.
It didn't end in 1914, although WWI gave people quite a scare. It also didn't end on May 21, 2011, to the chagrin of popular evangelist and radio broadcaster Harold Camping, who predicted the date of the apocalypse several times during his career.
Apocalyptic teachings, including the idea that God intends for the world as we know it to cease to exist, have been part of both Christianity and Islam since their beginnings. In the U.S., around 1 in 5 adults say the apocalypse will happen in their lifetime, a figure that's stayed relatively constant over the past century.

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Check this out: This New York Times analysis takes ISIS at its prophetic word

Check this out: This New York Times analysis takes ISIS at its prophetic word

If you go to YouTube and do a search for the terms "ISIS" and "prophecy," what you will get is several pages of material that has next to nothing about what the leaders of the Islamic State believe is their role in the future of Islam and the world.

Instead, what you will find is links to videos that examine ISIS in light of prophecies about the end times that some Christians see in the Bible. If you are looking for a likely candidate to ignite the apocalypse, ISIS is at the top of almost all of the lists.

But what about debates INSIDE ISLAM about what has or has not been revealed about the future and the end of all things?

That was the subject of a recent analysis piece at The New York Times that dedicated a refreshing amount of attention to a controversial issue in Islamic thought and tradition. The headline: "U.S. Seeks to Avoid Ground War Welcomed by Islamic State."

The starting point in this equation: ISIS elites want the United States to get involved in a ground war in the Middle East.

Why? That's the complicated question.

... When the United States first invaded Iraq, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the move was the man who founded the terrorist cell that would one day become the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He excitedly called the Americans’ 2003 intervention “the Blessed Invasion.”
His reaction -- ignored by some, and dismissed as rhetoric by others -- points to one of the core beliefs motivating the terrorist group now holding large stretches of Iraq and Syria: The group bases its ideology on prophetic texts stating that Islam will be victorious after an apocalyptic battle to be set off once Western armies come to the region.

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Jesus, the Mahdi and Hugo Chavez

A note of condolence written by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, upon the death of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has been the occasion of some of some mirth in the press. The Washington Post and the Huffington Post have made arch references to President Ahmadinejad’s statement that Hugo Chavez will be resurrected at the end of time. The Washington Post observed:

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