60 Minutes and Evangelical Christian Theology

By Curtis Shelburne

It has been a good while now since our church’s program of teaching included a Sunday evening service. In fact, we try pretty hard NOT to program much on Sunday evenings at all, so that this little section of the week actually becomes for our folks, if not a “day of rest,” at least an “evening of rest.” One thing this means in practicality is that, if I want to, I get to watch CBS News’ 60 Minutes program.
I often wonder why I want to. I prefer not having anything approximating a serious thought on Sunday evenings, and the 60 Minutes media stars frustrate and anger me at least half of the time. But still I kinda like the format, and I enjoy listening to Andy Rooney even when I disagree with him because I’m often as surly and opinionated as he is.
So I was watching that program one Sunday or a few ago when the lead story was entitled, “Rise of the Righteous Army.” CBS Correspondent Morley Safer was focusing on “evangelical Christians” who, he says, “form one of the most potent forces in American politics and society,” people who “place their faith, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, above everything else in their lives and hope to spread that Gospel to the world.”
According to Safer, 40 per cent of the votes for George W. Bush in the last election came from evangelical Christians. And, according to Safer, the beliefs of these folks are “beginning to reshape the culture as well — thanks to a group of best-selling novels known as the ‘Left Behind’ series.”
Hmm.
My ears perked up when I heard this introduction. You see, if I was to try to locate myself in the larger map of Christendom, larger than my little mud puddle, I’d probably opt for “evangelical Christian” as a pretty accurate description of me and where I fit. And I’d certainly like to think that “evangelical Christians” make a difference in our society and culture.
But, wait a minute! The difference we make is “thanks to” the “Left Behind” series?
I think Morley Safer is confused. Or maybe I am. Do all “evangelical Christians” believe in the theological premise of the “Left Behind” series? A firm belief of Christianity in general has always been that Christ is indeed coming back. I believe that with all of my heart. But I think I’ll leave how and when up to Him. Personally, I don’t at all buy the specific and, to me, strange end-time opinions of the “Left Behind” authors (though I’m very jealous indeed of their sales). I think they’ve misinterpreted parts of Matthew 24 and lots of Revelation. I’m not very surprised that a guy like Morley Safer thinks they’re weird.
But it also really bugs him that they look only to one God and one Savior. Color me weird that way, too.