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Last Generation Generosity or Consecrated Crisis Mongering?

“Uncle” David Gates wants you to know that we are living on the edge of a cataclysmic convergence of global crises in the final months of Earth’s history. Jesus will certainly come back no later than 2031. In the coming months, the American economy will utterly collapse, the military will “seal” and prevent entry into or exit from all major cities, and soldiers will come and remove the bodies. Just like Katrina, Gates says.

If you’re making 20-year plans, you are just demonstrating your ignorance. Your money is already worthless, you will not be able to buy any food, and if you are not planting a garden already, you’re toast. Oh, and by the way, if you watch soap operas, listen to “worldly” music, or read “worldly” literature, you’re not going to make it, sorry. 144,000 Adventists who will be saved? Probably an exaggeration, Gates says.

Watch Gates Discuss the Coming Crises

Short version of similar presentation

Now I recognize that this is probably not the best time to be Ben Bernanke, but predicting the immanent death of most Americans and saying and the army will swoop in and pick up the corpses? Come on! What is going on here?

It would be one thing if this were coming from a man in a cave claiming to see visions, but this is an associate director for ADRA, a guy with several television stations in South America, millions of dollars in assets, and an email list of tens of thousands of Adventists! This is someone who speaks to Adventist audiences around the globe, and is probably Adventism’s most famous (and sought after) missionary.

And he is asking you, Seventh-day Adventists, to get serious about mission work. Sell your stuff, because it’s going to be worthless anyhow, and invest everything in saving souls.

Gates is not alone. Look at these excerpts from a piece by G. Edward Reid, the North American Division stewardship director. The article is entitled Last Generation Gives All.

    We also understand that the work will be finished in an environment of sacrifice. But just what is sacrifice? Is it “giving till it hurts?” Or is it “giving till it feels good?” We all want to be involved at the end of time on the right side of things. So what are we to understand about sacrifice?

Quoting Ellen White:

    But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing for the necessities of life, in blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.”(Christ Object Lessons, p. 351).

Commenting on the Widow’s Mite:

    Why did He commend her? Not because of the size of her gift. No doubt it was the smallest amount that was given that day. He commended her offering because she gave from her want. She sacrificed to assist what she believed was the church of God.

Summing Up:

    I personally believe that we are very near the end of time. A time when each of us should be not only giving of our abundance but giving of our want. We should be divesting ourselves of our assets and placing the proceeds into the cause of God so that not much of our stuff will be burned up at the end.

Ed Reid (see his Even At the Door) and David Gates both push a looming doomsday scenario fortified with dire financial predictions (those $100 bills will soon be used for toilet paper, Gates says). Both Reid and Gates do ministry structured around benevolent giving—Gates to fund multi-million dollar mission projects, and Reid as the North American Division stewardship czar.

Tossing homiletical and hermeneutical ethics out the window, both blur the lines between eschatological expectancy and terror-tinged guilt trips. The message, in essence, is that in light of the Economic Armageddon (Reid’s term) that is almost upon us, you’re crazy to cling to money or property. Give it to the work of saving souls instead (if you’ll just sign here…). Otherwise, it’ll be gone anyhow.

We’ve been down this road before—the Qumran community went there, the Millerites went there, the Branch Dividians went there… If anything, those events ought to serve as cautionary tales that temper what Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Religion at George Washington Univeristy Paul B. Duff calls “crisis mongering.”

Duff notes the ostensibly successful tactic of crisis mongering—creating a crisis or exacerbating an unstable situation so that a crisis might result—serves to rally a community around a common purpose and to ensure the indispensability of a charismatic leader. Or in our case, to persuade people to relinquish their assets for the sake of saving more souls.

I am certain that both Ed Reid and David Gates fully expect to see Jesus come within the next few years. Nobody should doubt their sincerity. At the same time, Qumran, Ascension Rock, and Waco all stand as sobering reminders of the potential consequences of selling the farm in the face of apparent coming crises.

After all those previous end-time episodes, here we are.

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