Apocalypse? For Some Christians
It Is Now, After WTC & Anthrax

WASHINGTON (AFP) - For some conservative Christians in the United States, the September 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax terror can only mean one thing: the biblical apocalypse is now.

For these believers who trace their fundamentalist Christian traditions back to the evangelical movement's roots in US history, the signposts to doomsday are crystal clear in the Bible.

They draw inspiration from the Book of Revelation, the biblical window onto the end of the world attributed by some scholars to the apostle John.

For these mainly Protestant groups, Revelation explains the true significance to the flames and death visited on New York on September 11.

Chapter 18 speaks to them of New York, when it says: "Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her."

Even more so when it says that the world's rulers will "see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry."

For Ernesto McKenzie, a Pentacostal Church pastor in Washington the words ring true.

"It's like reading something from the headlines of our time," said McKenzie, whose Pentacostalist Church boast a following of 10 million.

"It seems to be that we are at the interlude of a dreadful time," he said. "All those dreadful things that the Bible is talking about in Revelation and Apocalypse, time of tribulations such as there has not been before, neither will there be after."

The bioterrorism scare in the United States in the form of anthrax letters could be the start of those so-called tribulations, which could last seven years, scholars of scripute say.

Following the airborne terrorist strikes on New York and Washington that left more that 5,000 people dead, Americans have been seeking solace in religion in increasing numbers.

Books dealing with the apocalpyse are flying off shelves at stores and Bible sales are at record levels.

"That trend started the weekend following the attacks (of September 11) and has continued over the past six weeks or so," said Tara Powers, spokeswoman for "Family Christian Stores" which owns 350 book shops in the United States. There is "no sign of it dying down right now," she added.

Across the country, some clerics and church leaders are chiming in on new religious fervor and the fear that is stoking it.

In a message for all believers, Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson of the Church of God in Christ, which boats a following of 5.5 million people, spoke of the second coming of Christ.

"What we have seen today could very well be the beginning of the countdown that will lead to the final world conflict which will usher in the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," said the bishop based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Other religious figures are keeping cooler heads. Hank Hanegraaff, president of California's Christian Research Institute, dismissed the doomsday scenario as so much 'newspaper theology' in comments to The Washington Times.


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