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By Charles Lam
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"There is something for us too," Reagan promises his listeners if they support Israel. "We are going to reign with Him over all the nations of the world . . . It will be a theocracy with the absolute reign of Christ—with a rod of iron."
Anyone who deviates from the Bible "will be tried immediately. No appeal. No need for appeal. There will be immediate punishment. Humanism is the religion and philosophy of the devil. God will use the millennial reign to prove that."
Reagan plugs no book when he finishes, satisfied with his closing graphic: a picture of a rabbi blowing the shofar near the Wailing Wall that looms over our heads.
Between sets, previous speakers manned booths outside the sanctuary, hawking various books and DVDs or mingling with the crowds. But no one received attention like Kent Hovind. Hovind poses for shots, signs autographs or simply shakes hands as he approaches the Ocean Hills stage.
Hovind is a media darling: a well-spoken, boyish-looking creationist who calls himself Dr. Dino and runs a Florida amusement park that shows dinosaurs walking the earth alongside humans. But he's controversial even amongst creationists. In 2002, Hovind and Answers in Genesis attacked each other through their websites about each group's methodologies (Hovind, for instance, believes a Japanese scientist once found the fresh carcass of a dinosaur, while Answers in Genesis said such a claim is "self-refuting").
Hovind begins his "Steeling the Mind" lecture with his stock introduction: evolution is the "dumbest, most dangerous religion in the history of humanity."
"It is fun to make fun of evolution," Holvind says, grinning. And that's why he has a standing $250,000 offer for any scientist to trump him in an evolution-versus-creationism debate. "Bring 'em on," he says. "They're a lot smarter than me, but I slaughter them because I'm right and they're wrong."
He shows charts showing the increase in school shootings, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and abortions over the past four decades. He mentions the Columbine killings: how Eric Harris wore a shirt that proclaimed "Natural Selection" as he gunned down his classmates.
"What is going on? I believe evolution is a primary reason," Hovind says matter-of-factly. "Since the inclusion of evolution in textbooks, there has been a moral collapse in our country. It's not the way it used to be . . . We are in the center of the battlefield in the greatest war in history." The only advantage the saints have, according to Hovind, was their "infallible book. I already read the book—we win."
Images flash on the screen. Slaves. The Cambodian killing fields. The Trail of Tears. Nazi concentration camps. The gulags. Eugenics. Chairman Mao. Abused aborigines. The Rwanda genocide. Pearl Harbor. "90 percent of Hitler's S.S. were homosexuals." All evolution's fault.
"A straight line runs from Darwin to the extermination camps," Hovind says. "I don't think you understand what happened to the Jews until you understand evolution."
Hovind doesn't reach his final point—that evolution was part of "Satan's coming New World Order"—but he doesn't need to. The people who live amongst you were ready to spread the Gospel. He wraps up with II Chronicles 7:14, which reads, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
But Hovind repeats it differently: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall vote Republican and join the militia . . . That's not what it says? What Bible are you reading?
"Folks, if America needs to be saved, it's now," he finishes. "There are troubling times coming."
The auditorium erupts in cheers shortly after.
The conference is over. The saints swarm the Dr. Dino table and weigh down their arms with literature. Many visit the stage, where a 500-year-old Torah is on display.
"I learned so much—it's amazing what these men know!" a tattooed thirtysomething tells me. "During lunch I was standing in the middle of Taco Bell, and I realized I was standing amongst a bunch of imbeciles."
"Are you going to Israel this year?" I ask.
"Of course," he replies, smiling. "Fourth time. You need to go where the action's going to be."