Beck Fuels End-Times Hysteria Over Egypt

While much of the world looks at the Egypt uprising as a spectacular story of human courage and hope for freedom and democracy in the face of oppression, in the world of Biblical prophecy there is only one lens: a sign of the end, a prophetic sign fulfilled, or the beginnings of the tribulation. Sites like Now the End Begins, Prophecy Today, and Calvary Prophecy Report are just a few of the blogs and websites referring to the events in Egypt as a sign of the end or — more ominously — the beginning of a new war.

Conspiracy monger Glenn Beck has of course jumped with both feet into the fray, repeatedly referring in the last week to one of his favorite obscure books, “The Coming Insurrection.” Beck, without having to say anything religious, recites every end-time theme; fire, riots, Islam, Israel, you name it. Beck’s latest assertion is that the Egyptian uprising will result in a Muslim Caliphate. Ridiculous, yes, but it is the dog whistle that calls together conspiracy theorists, rapture-watchers and end-times purveyors. His constant refrain that this is our “Archduke Ferdinand” moment no doubt will sear a vision of an impending World War III into the minds of his listeners, and his blackboard will continue to contribute to the growing right-wing conspiracy theories that President Obama is engineering this from the White House.

The upshot of all of this is that while the rest of us are raptly watching Al Jazeeera (because CNN, MSNBC, and Fox only care about American tourists leaving the country, and have nothing of substance to say) to witness the impending overthrow of an authoritarian leader, others are taking advantage of the situation to exploit religious beliefs about the end-times. I don’t have a problem with the regular rapture watchers speculating about various events, because that’s what they do (and hey, it can be fun to read at times) but Beck’s constant haranguing and conspiracy theories are much, much more dangerous than any small-time blog.

Beck may not be explicit about his religious take on the current events, but his “teaching theater” feeds into many end-times beliefs. Too bad there isn’t a million person march to Fox News headquarters to demand that Roger Ailes pull the plug on Beck. Hey, it’s a fantasy, but you never know.

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.