The researcher behind a recently released study that found that the vast majority of evangelicals believe that violence across the Middle East “is a sign that the end times are nearer” told The Church Boys podcast that he was stunned by “how large of a majority believes in this.”
Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland and a fellow with the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, said that he wasn’t at all surprised to find a gap between evangelical Christians and non-evangelical Christians when it comes to agreement that violence is a sign that the end is drawing nearer.
But it was the large proportion of evangelicals — 79 percent — who agreed with this sentiment that truly surprised him; this compared to just 43 percent of non-evangelical Christians.
“[I was] not [surprised] by the gap so much, because I expected the evangelicals to focus on prophecy far more than traditional Christians. We’ve known that, that’s not a particular surprise,” Telhami said. “What surprises though, how large a majority of evangelicals believes in this, that this really is a sign and that something is going to happen in Israel, things are going to turn against Israel as you get closer to end times.”
Listen to Telhami describe the results below at the 42:00 mark:
He wondered whether this high proportion — which clearly indicates a widespread embrace of a literal belief in biblical prophecy — is elevated due to the news that has been coming out of the Middle East, along with the related fears that many have over terrorism.
Considering that he doesn’t have any historical material to compare the results to, Telhami said that he can’t be sure, though he plans to continue exploring the fascinating worldview.
One of the most unique facets of Telhami’s research was his quest to separate evangelicals and born-again Christians — two groups that he said some improperly assume are homogeneous in nature.
“Here is the interesting thing, in the information that we have, many of the surveys lumped the two together, born again [and] evangelicals, because people assume they’re very similar and people assume that also that helps with enhancing the size of the sample,” he said. “It turns out there [are] really important differences.”
Telhami continued, “Whereas almost everyone who says they’re evangelical, about 90 percent also say they’re born again Christians, the opposite is not true. Nearly half of those who say they’re born again Christians don’t consider themselves to be evangelicals.”
To point out the differences among these two groups, the researcher said that 75 percent of evangelicals are Republicans, though born-again Christians who do not count themselves as evangelical are actually more Democratic.
As for the massive embrace of the Republican Party among evangelicals, Telhami said that there’s an important consideration to make: that the view of evangelical Christians isn’t necessarily the “norm of the Republican Party.
“If you … set aside the evangelical Republicans out of the Republican party, they constitute roughly 23 percent of the Republican party, those who say they’re evangelicals,” he said. “If you set them aside, then the rest of the Republican party on matters related to Israel and the Middle East is not different from the rest of the population.”
As TheBlaze previously reported, when it came to more specific details about the end times in Telhami’s study, titled, “American Attitudes Toward the Middle East and Israel,” 5 percent of Christians said that they believe the end times and the return of Christ would happen in their lifetime; 72 percent said that they were not sure if it would unfold soon or in a thousand years.
Find out more about Temhami’s research here.
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