I mostly leave alone wacky religious claims except where they cross into making historical claims since there are many people more qualified than I to opine on theology. However, yesterday I heard something that was so profoundly stupid—and also founded on a historical claim—that I was left dumbfounded. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to share one other wacky religious idea I discovered yesterday.
You’ll probably remember that on America Unearthed S01E08 "Chamber Hunting" Scott Wolter claimed that a colonial era spring house (a stone building used for storing food) was a Freemason-Templar site for “ritual bathing.” Many of us wondered why he thought the Templars and Masons engage in ritual bathing, when this simply isn’t supported by evidence. Well, I found the answer. I’ll publish full details in the book version of my America Unearthed coverage, but the short form is this: He’s been reading too much Templar-Holy Bloodline conspiracy literature. I wasn’t familiar with this apparently vast subgenre, but many authors claim that the Freemasons are Templars and the Templars are really the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, who engaged in ritual bathing. Therefore, of course, so do Masons. This is based on the work of eighteenth century Prussian crackpot theologian, Freemason, and porn writer Karl Bahrdt, who proposed that the Essenes were a pre-Masonic secret society that worked with Jesus to fake his death in order to create a false religion through which the Essene-Masons could rule the world.
The disturbing part is that Wolter apparently has a master-narrative in mind that dictates how he views the sites he investigates. If they can be made to conform to the Essene-Templar-Freemason Holy Bloodline narrative, then they are in (like the Tucson artifacts, the Welsh Indians, and “ritual bathing” chambers), but if they do not support the Holy Bloodline narrative (like Norse giants, Viking swords, and the like) then they are out.
But enough of that; on to the really insane religious claims.
The former governor of Arkansas and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee has a radio show that is the first real competitor to Rush Limbaugh in the early afternoon timeslot in a generation. Huckabee bills himself as conservative but not confrontational, and it showed yesterday. (I do not listen to his show but was forced to do so yesterday thanks to another person's choice of radio station.)
Huckabee had on Jonathan Cahn, a messianic rabbi who has some extreme beliefs about God’s plan. Cahn believes that God speaks to the United States through the stock market, specifically the Dow Jones Industrial Average (a kind of burning bush-cum-Metatron), and he also believes that God planned the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington as a reenactment of events from the Book of Isaiah, a warning of the coming apocalypse as punishment for America’s sins. (This is a theme Jerry Falwell started when he blamed abortionists, feminists, and gays for bringing about 9/11 in the weeks after the attacks.)
Specifically, Cahn claims that Isaiah 9:8-10 is “reenacted” in the events after 9/11, which is recapitulated in Isaiah 9:11. (COINCIDENCE?!?!)
He provides details of these claims in a series of books, CDs, and DVDs under the title of The Harbinger that he sells for a small fortune. The DVD set is EIGHT discs, with a “condensed” three-disc set going for $45! Over the past year, Cahn has become wealthy as Christian audiences have flocked to hear his message that terrorism is part of God’s end time plan. Apparently, his message is confined largely to the Christian market since I had never heard of it and could find little written about it outside Christian websites and media. To tie this in to America Unearthed, some Christian groups wondered if Cahn’s theory that America was God’s new chosen land could possibly be true since it would mean God was ignoring the evil Freemasons’ control of America, especially their embrace of more than one religion!
Huckabee said he was “fascinated” by the “real proof” Cahn provided that God speaks through stocks, plans terrorist attacks, and is judging America for sexual sins.
On the radio show, Cahn provided the following “real proof.” He cites first Isaiah 9:8-11, which tells of Israel’s defiant response to God allowing Israel’s enemies to attack in response to apostasy in Israel:
8 The Lord sends a message against Jacob,
From this, Cahn derives the following claims:
This is just stupid. The New York Stock Exchange reopened on September 17, 2001, and it lost 7.1% (684 points) that day, closing, as usual, at 4 PM. The decline continued for a full week, so the “crash” was not a one day event. Somewhere near seven years later, when the 2008 financial crisis hit, the stock market lost 7.0% (777 points) on September 29, 2008 after the House rejected a $700 billion bailout plan. Again, the market closed at 4 PM, as it does every day it is open. Neither event ranked among the ten largest percentage declines in Dow history, all of which happened before 1987, eight before 1940.
Tom Daschle did quote Isaiah 9:10, probably without understanding its Biblical context. However, he was the majority leader of the Senate in 2001, which is not a constitutional office. (The only Senatorial constitutional office is President of the Senate, who is the Vice President of the U.S.) His speech on the Senate floor was not the “official U.S. government response,” as Cahn claims. That was delivered by Pres. George W. Bush, the head of state and government. It wouldn’t even be an official Senate response since it was not adopted as a sense of the Senate resolution, the official declaration of senatorial opinion.
While a sycamore tree was crushed by a falling beam at Trinity Church, it was not replaced by a cedar. It was replaced by a Norway spruce in 2003.
The World Trade Center was made of steel, glass, and concrete, not brick. The new Freedom Tower is similarly not made stone, though there are granite facing stones on the largely concrete 9/11 memorial.
The rabbi also claims George Washington "dedicated" America to God in New York in 1789, making it the "Temple Mount" for America and the proper site for God's wrath. He basis this on Washington's 1789 inaugural address, given at Federal Hall on Wall Street, now the site of the New York Stock Exchange. Here is what Washington said:
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.
This was hardly different than the conventional appeal to the blessings of God given to the crowned heads of Europe, who after all believed that they reigned by divine right; it was simply part and parcel of eighteenth century rhetoric. Across the sea, after all, the Habsburg emperor still claimed to rule God's own kingdom, the Holy Roman Empire, as the viceroy of God himself.
Biblical code specialists (seriously) immediately seized upon the series of sevens in the 2008 crash as evidence that God was speaking to America, and this was added to the Isaiah prophecy claim, which had been floating around Christian sites since at least 2006, if not earlier. (I'm not going to wade through all the Christian conspiracy sites.) Cahn has merely repeated them almost verbatim from Christian conspiracy websites. (Even alternative religious authors recycle ideas without credit—ethics!) Cahn concludes that God is reenacting the prophecy of Isaiah, leading up to the captivity and disbursement of America, just as happened to Israel.
There is obviously a huge demographic of dedicated believers who badly want to believe that America is God’s chosen land and the He takes special interest in America’s spiritual development. This same impulse stands behind both the Templar-Holy Bloodline claims of America Unearthed and allegations of God’s 9/11 plan. Clearly, the attacks of 9/11 were a huge psychological blow whose ramifications are still being felt, and it is not surprising that many do not want to look at the geopolitical causes and consequences and prefer instead to throw up their hands and declare that it was all due to America’s insufficient commitment to Christianity, and a return to the true religion will fix all ills and bring God’s blessing back.
This kind of revitalization movement is seen over and over again, including the classic example of Handsome Lake preaching that a return to true and pure religion could help the Iroquois overcome the cultural devastation of European contact.
What astounds me is that there is a vast parallel culture of people seeped in religious prophecy, Templar revelations, and Freemason conspiracy theories who have a magical worldview that imagines America as God’s special chosen land (blessings end at the border; sorry, Canada) and who want desperately to find God and Jesus right here in the U. S. of A.
I’ll be honest; this isn’t a subculture I’ve had a lot of contact or experience with, and I don’t think I want to. How do you even begin to have a reasonable discussion with people whose idea of a debate is deciding whether God truly blessed America or whether the Freemasons are faking it as part of a Satanic conspiracy?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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