In Silverton, Oregon, Sonrise Ranch is hosting a sold-out, family-friendly festival on its grounds called “Eclipsed With God’s Love,” which will include outdoor church services and Christian film screenings. In Casper, Wyoming, which is expecting thousands of visitors, a pair of Baptist churches and a local chapter of a Christian nonprofit will hand out hundreds of copies of God of Wonders, a movie, styled like a nature documentary, that features creationist explanations for everything from weather systems to DNA. “Additionally, if our parking lot is utilized for eclipse watchers, we will take that opportunity to try and share the Gospel,” a pastor explained, according to the Baptist Press. In Chillicothe, Missouri, a Baptist-run campground will host a “Wonders of Creation Solar Eclipse Family Retreat” of hiking, swimming, and other activities, interspersed with time for worship and teachings. “Since we’re in the range of the eclipse, we thought we were in a position to do teaching and ministry for families,” an organizer told The Pathway, a Baptist publication in Missouri.
The ultra-Orthodox Jewish-outreach organization Chabad wondered in a blog post about the Jewish perspective on the solar eclipse. Although the Talmud, a fifth-century compilation of rabbinic teaching, warns that “when the luminaries are stricken, it is an ill omen for the world,” Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin writes, “an eclipse is not caused by sin. Rather, it is an indication of a trying time, a time when there is a natural predisposition for sin, and for strict judgment of that sin.” The Rabbinical Assembly, an organization of Conservative rabbis, explored the question of a potential blessing for the solar eclipse. In Judaism, there’s a blessing for nearly everything, from weather-related phenomena like lightning and thunder to everyday activities like preparing meals and going to the bathroom—but none for an eclipse. “One could certainly respond with any number of texts from our tradition that speak of inspiration derived from celestial bodies,” Rabbi Joshua Heller writes, and offers some advice on DIY blessings.
For a small group of Christian leaders, the solar eclipse is less about spreading the Word than receiving a message from God—and not a good one. In a recent blog post, Anne Graham Lotz, the Christian evangelist daughter of Billy Graham, compared the celebratory mood of viewing parties for the eclipse to the biblical feast Belshazzar held in Babylon, oblivious to the Persians and Medes sneaking up on the kingdom, ready to take over. “While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something,” she said. “Time will tell what that something is.”
Reverend Mark Creech, the head of the Christian Action League in North Carolina, agreed with Graham Lotz in a column at The Christian Post. “America is definitely ripe for judgment,” he wrote. Gary Ray, a writer for Unsealed, an evangelical Christian news site, told The Washington Post this week the eclipse may be a hint about the second coming of Jesus Christ. “The Bible says a number of times that there’s going to be signs in the heavens before Jesus Christ returns to Earth,” Ray said. “We see this as possibly one of those.”