America is imploding, the world is ending, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. Our limited mortal power, however, can slow the process by spreading Christianity -- at least according to First Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress, who last night launched his 11-part series based on his forthcoming tome Twilight's Last Gleaming, due on bookshelves in January 2012.
"The overall purpose is to tell Christians -- or to help Christians to understand -- how they should respond to the culture in which they're living," Jeffress told Unfair Park when we spoke this afternoon.
Kicking off on 9/11, the series explores "why America's collapse is inevitable, what Americans can do to delay America's eventual demise, the relationship between abortion and America's fiscal crisis, how to prepare for the coming persecution against Christians in America," according to the promo video. Last night's lecture didn't back down from the promised dramatics.
Jeffress, dressed in a dark suit and red-striped tie, looked decidedly presidential standing at a podium in front of a blue backdrop featuring the stately image of the Statue of Liberty you see above. He began his lecture by praising a figure upon whom he showered much complimentary honor -- not Jesus, who received the expected ample praise, but Glenn Beck, the "conservative former Fox luminary" and new North Texan. Though he tells Unfair Park he disagrees with Beck in many instances, Jeffress says he took a long, hard look at Beck's Restoring America rally and was decidedly impressed by his desire to change the status quo. "I began thinking at that time, 'What can I do in our country to make a difference as well,'" Jeffress says.
Yesterday, the energized pastor told the approximately 1,800 churchgoers that he had both bad news and good news. He started with the bad.
"America's demise is inevitable," Jeffress said. "We have been conditioned to believe in America's resilience." But America will end because the world will end. And America's downfall will come first because the world will be ruled by the Antichrist in its final days, which means there won't be, you know, democracy. With the bad news hanging like the thickest storm cloud imaginable, Jeffress relaxed for a moment.
"Now enough gloom and doom," he told the crowd. He told them they have the "ability and responsibility to delay the decay of our country" and warned that curing short-term social ills must never overtake the long-term goal of spreading the gospel.
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"We should see our present situation as an opportunity" to share the message of Christ, Jeffress said of our country's "rampant immorality." He explored several biblical metaphors to drive home this point, urging parishioners to spread the light to displace the darkness and to act as salt, preserving the earth's good and slowing our culture's inevitable and irreversible decline.
During his first 18 years as a preacher, Jeffress said, he avoided discussing social issues when speaking in the pulpit. Though he insists social issues are not typically his focal point --sayeth the man who preached "Why Gay Is Not O.K." and create the so-called Grinch List -- he said in our interview today that that while he expects terrorism and the federal deficit are battles that will eventually be won, he is more concerned about "the spiritual issues that are rotting away the foundation of our country," such as gay marriage and abortion. He does not believe there is a biblical perspective on immigration or health-care reform, and stressed that it would be a "great mistake to biblicize what are political issues."
As for the intersection between the Bible and politics, it was impossible not to ask Jeffress his feelings about Rick Perry. The pastor tells us that though he feels Perry is a "God-fearing man" who has "energized the race," he will not endorse a candidate just yet, especially with "a lot of strong Christians" in the running. (But, as we noted in July, Jeffress was among the group of pastors who met with Perry in June at James Robison's LIFE Outreach International campus in Euless.) Even without addressing a specific contender, one of Jeffress's 11 sermons will focus on guidelines in choosing our nation's leader.
"There is a tide of evil rising up that is about to engulf our nation," he said near the conclusion of last night's sermon while looking directly into the cameras that broadcast his message throughout the massive church and the web. "We can tolerate no more." Before welcoming members of the crowd to approach the pulpit to join the congregation or simply say hello, he gave a brief commercial for next week's message: "When a Nation Implodes," which will explore three Supreme Court decisions "that will ensure the eventual collapse of our nation." Stay tuned.