Speaking at Harvard recently, Bill Moyers, a preacher in the Church of Unreconstructed Liberalism, painstakingly constructed a straw man and then bashed it to pieces. Moyers has apparently permitted disappointment over the re-election of George W. Bush to push him over the edge into irrationality -- an edge on which he has been teetering for several years.
"One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal," he declared. "It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington."
Moyers then sketched for his Cambridge audience a scary portrait of these extremists. "In this past election, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index ... a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century ..."
Believers in the rapture, Moyers warned, know that "they will be lifted out of their clothes (after Armageddon) and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow."
They do not fear a war with Islam in the Middle East, Moyers claims, because they see it as "an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire."
Now Moyers has a degree from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, so he must know that the people who believe the rapture is imminent are very few. And he must further realize that there is no evidence whatever that the inhabitant of the Oval Office shares such eschatological views.
No matter. Moyers cheerfully conflates believers in the Rapture Index with all religious conservatives; in fact, with all conservatives. "We're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers. ... Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total, more since the election -- are backed by the religious right."
As the Rev. Moyers surely knows, being backed by the religious right is not the same as believing that Armageddon is around the corner. "A 2002 TIME/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophesies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true." The poll did not ask when.