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The Australian "Christians", with only 26 members, must be one of the smallest religious sects in the world.  But they sure get around.
Yesterday four of them arrived in town at noon an old Dodge pickup truck with a camper top.  The truck, which the help of a new engine installed in Toledo, Ohio, has brought htem all the way from Sacramento, Calif., where they started out in April.  They plan to reach Boston today, and then head south to Florida.

The Christians (that's what they like to be called) got out on Main Street outside Clark University and started to do what members of small religious sects do best - hand out pamphlets and talk the ear off anyone who will listen about what Christianity really is.
There are four other teams of Christians working in the United States right now.  They have already taken their message through Australia, and will soon be in England.  They are one busy little bunch of proselytizers.

But the big push right now is in this country, and for good reason - one of the Christian's teachings is the imminent "fall of America."


The Christians' T-shirts either declaimed PRIDE GOETH BEFORE DESTRUCTION or showed an American flag flying upside down - an international symbol of distress.  They believe that sometime soon the Soviet Union will suddenly attack the United States and almost destroy the country.  Any survivors will flee to other countries, or will be taken prisoner.  And yes, they are dead serious.

Now you want to know exactly when this is going to happen, right? Well, anywhere between two and 50 years.  It's always hard to get an exact fix on these prophecies.

The four Christians were hamish Pilbrow, 27, Martin Filla, 20, Richard Fauchon, 18, and Paul Henry, 28.  I asked Henry what kind of reaction they had been getting.  "It depends," he said.  "Some people listen.  Some say, 'Go back to Australia.'  Some are annoyed that we have the flag upside down.  One guy in Rome (N.Y.) tried to run us down.  You only have five or 10 seconds to get their attention, and most people don't stop.

"But Jeremiah (the Old Testament prophet) had a hard time, too.  He preached the destruction of a certain city for years and years, and it didn't happen until the end of his life."

So the Christians are your basic kooky apocalyptic Christian sect, although they don't like to be called a sect because that is an organized thing.  Like most kooky apocalyptic Christian sects, they base their prophecies on the Book of Revelations.  "Revelations talks about a beast and a whore," Henry said.  "We believe Russia is the beast and America is the Great Whore of Babylon."  The Christians' beliefs call for the beast to destroy the whore, which will be through a surprise nuclear attack.  There will then be only seven years before the start of Christ's 1,000-year reign on earth but not before humans resort to animal sacrifice and a great meteor kills a billion people.

If the Christians have a saving grace, it's their sense of humour.  I asked Henry how the four survived without working.  "We seek the kingdom of God first, and let food and clothes and other things follow," he said.  "And sometimes you actually find people who are willing to put up four kooks from Australia."

The Christains was started by an American, Dave McKay, who left his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., in 1967.  Back then, his prophecies were less exact than they are now.  "I felt that the long-range prognosis for America was not good," he said by phone from the Christians' base in Sacramento.  McKay left his job as a hospital orderly and emigrated to Australia, where he worked as an editor and then in public relations.  Over the years he refined his beliefs and began attracting young converts.  Now McKay, 45, lives with his wife and four children and other Christians in a large house outside Sydney.

Why is America targeted for destruction, and not some other country?


"People here put money before God," Henry said.  "I know other countries do, but here it's so blatant.  This is the richest country in the world, and it has more people calling themselves Christian than any other."

"We're not coming here to say that Australia is better than America," McKay said.  "We can't present any country as ideal.  It just so happens that this is what we understand from Bible prophecy.  And in a symbolic way America is the capital of Christianity and the captial of capitalism, and it can't be both.  It's Christianity is only the sheep's skin covering the wolf beneath."

The belief that the holocaust will take place in between two and 50 years from now is an approximation, of course, and it could be tomorrow.  Considering this, I asked McKay if he and the Christians were at all worried about being in America. "Yes, there is a little nervousness about being here right now," he said.

The four young men outside the gates of Clark continued to do the work of their God, passing out pamphlets and talking with those who would stop.  Few did stop. But at least most people, who seemed to be either faculty or students at Clark, were largely polite.

Not so, however, the construction worker from the site of the new building at Clark.  He took one look at the flag flying upside down and said belligerently, "Greatest country in the world, pal. If you don't like it, go to Iraq."

The Christians smiled at each other knowingly.  Jeremiah had it tough, too.
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