- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

Several weeks ago, one of the best-known figures in American Pentecostalism came out with an astonishing forecast of terrible doom.

He is David Wilkerson, 77, best known as the founder of Teen Challenge, the wildly successful ministry to drug addicts. He is also the author of “The Cross and the Switchblade,” a 1963 best-seller (15 million sold).

In recent years, he’s been pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan, N.Y., earning enormous respect for taking on what used to be a crime-ridden area and creating a large congregation that has a variety of outreaches to the poor as well as the powerful.

Mr. Wilkerson is one of the most respected but underrated evangelical leaders in the country. He’s not on anyone’s Top 25 list; he doesn’t do the talk-show circuit or appear at the White House. But people do not know what to make of his prophecies of devastating and ruinous times soon to be visited upon Americans for various national sins.

In 1973, he published a book called “The Vision” predicting an array of woes worldwide. I got to interview him in 1998 and I pointed out that although some of the prophecies had come true, a number had not. He responded that all of them had come to pass somewhere in the world.

I thought that was a bit of a dodge, and he seemed as surprised as anyone when the planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

His latest warning, posted March 7 on his blog (https://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/), stirred no little comment as it’s as dire as they come. New York City and its environs will be set afire by rioters, he said, adding that other cities will experience widespread looting and destruction as well.

The reason? “God is judging the raging sins of America and the nations,” he wrote. “He is destroying the secular foundations.” He suggested readers lay aside a 30-day supply of nonperishable food, toiletries and other essentials.

Since there is a significant subset of Christians who think today’s economic troubles are the beginning of a catastrophe that will topple America from its perch as the world’s most powerful country, setting the stage for the Antichrist, Mr. Wilkerson’s words sped around the Internet and made the Drudge Report.

But he has been giving variations of this prophecy for a long time now, starting in 1992, when he prophesied race riots “next year” in New York. He also prophesied an economic crash in 2000, which did not happen.

He’s not alone in getting the timing wrong. I have an article from the October 2004 issue of Charisma magazine, which is widely read by Pentecostals, by Omaha pastor Hank Kunneman who said three Supreme Court judges would vacate their seats. When two openings came up in 2005, I fished out the article from my files and waited for number three. Four years later, I am still waiting.

The Old Testament recommends death for false prophets, which is why Mr. Wilkerson assured me 10 years ago he really is not a prophet. But he does give prophecies. I respect him for his work with the poor and drug-addicted. He and I share a common birthday (May 19). But in these days of constant panic over our cratering economy, let’s have some accuracy along with the anointing.

• Julia Duin’s column Stairway to Heaven is published on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at Julia Duin.

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