March 23, 2006
|GET BUZZFLASH ALERTS||MAUREEN FARRELL ARCHIVES|
by Maureen Farrell
A few years ago, a Time/CNN poll found that that more than a third of Americans search the news for signs of the Apocalypse. Since Sept. 11, they've not had to look very hard. In the immediate aftermath of World Trade Center attacks, for example, the Associated Press reported on Satan's visage in the smoke clouds, an incident Peggy Noonan wrote about in the Wall Street Journal. "If you are of a certain cast of mind, it is of course meaningful that the face of the Evil One seemed to emerge with a roar from the furnace that was Tower One," she wrote, before reminding readers that a cross emerged unharmed amid the falling concrete and wreckage.
Of course Jesus made his fair share of appearances, too. A "winking Jesus" from Hoboken, N.J. was featured in the New York Daily News while a Jesus-in-a-window got considerable airtime on a Texas NBC affiliate. One North Carolina TV station was prophetically prolific, reporting on the Messiah's apparitions on everything from tail pipes to dental x-rays to fish bones.
Yes, since Sept. 11, the news has gotten more surreal, with divine sightings and apocalyptic musings becoming more commonplace. Such talk has always been with us, of course, but it's no longer tied to David Koresh or Marshall Applewhite or Jim Jones-type cultists. "One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress," Bill Moyers wrote, regarding the shifting political realities fueling this mindset.
From the political to the personal, people are reporting on, and preparing for, the end of the world. And though apocalyptic reports have ranged from the superstitious and silly to the sensational and scary, few can argue that they're not on the rise. How weird have things become? Consider the following:
Former GOP Strategist says 'a lot of Americans have stopped worrying about the economy because they're waiting for the Second Coming.'
The Emerging Republican Majority author and former GOP Strategist Kevin Phillips bluntly states that "[T]he Religious Right and the would-be theocrats are the danger now," telling Lou Dobbs that many Americans have literally stopped worrying about the economy "because they're waiting for the Second Coming."
Phillips' latest book American Theocracy was also the basis for a question posed to Mr. Bush in Cleveland this week when a reporter asked, "Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse?"
It took Bush five minutes to answer, when a simple "Yes or No" would have sufficed. Why? As Phillips points out, with 45% of Americans now believing that the Antichrist is already on earth, Bush risks alienating a large segment of the population, regardless how he answers. "He can't answer the question weather or not he believes in Armageddon or it's happening in the Middle East," Phillips states. "He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't."
Madonna is trying to purchase a front row seat for the return of the Messiah
In March 2006, it was reported that Madonna is attempting to buy a house overlooking the Sea of Galilee, to get a bird's eye view of the Messiah when he returns. "US pop diva Madonna wants to buy a house in the Israeli town of Rosh Pina, where the ancient Jewish Kabbalah tradition expects the Messiah to appear at the end of the world," the AFP reported.
According to the Times of London, representatives for the singer have been propositioning homeowners "offering to pay any price to secure a property on her behalf," with one resident already agreeing to sell her house, which is worth approximately $500,000, for $1 million. Will Madonna ante up? Will she find her apocalyptic dream house in time? Stay tuned.
London's Independent runs the headline: 'Apocalypse Now: How Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth'
Is that headline apocalyptic enough for you? If not, the accompanying
article offers plenty of food for fretting. Citing urgent warnings from
200 of the world's top climate scientists, the article highlights the
climate changes currently taking place and the consensus that time
is running out to reverse this disastrous trend.
A talking fish says the end is near
Before the start of the war in Iraq, the New York Times and other major news organizations reported on how a talking fish stunned workers in New York City. "A fish heading for slaughter in a New York market shouted warnings about the end of the world before it was killed" the BBC announced in March, 2003, reporting on two fish cutters who heard the fish say 'Tzaruch shemirah' and 'Hasof bah'," which essentially means [in Hebrew] that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is nigh."
The Guardian/Observer reported that "some now believe the fish's outburst was a warning about the dangers of the impending war in Iraq," citing George W. Bush's alleged Messianic beliefs as cause for concern.
The 'mark of the beast' is making a comeback
In the 1760s, American colonists believed that the Stamp Act, which required a stamp to be placed on legal documents, might actually relate to the "mark of the beast" the Book of Revelation warned against. In the 1930s, some opined that the mark might be found in the "union label" commercial jingles later told us to look for. These days, however, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has people seeing 666.
Though the State Department was set to begin using RFID tags in passports beginning this year, the negative reaction was so overwhelming that the government had to hold off on its plans. "No mark of the beast for me you Luciferian beehivers. You can take all those RFID chips wrapped like a burrito in the HR 4(6+6+6) national id bill and stick it up yor [sic] own arse!" wrote one irate poster on the State Department's Web site.
Although anti-RFID activists (who despite Harvard educations, also believe these chips might be "the mark of the beast") continue to rail against this technology, RFID implants are being used by businesses and hospitals and are being marketed to parents.
"Why is [former Bush administration official Tommy Thompson] volunteering for the Mark of the Beast?" Blogosphere heavyweight Boingboing.com asked, just months before RFID implants became the talk of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation hearings.
A Seattle newspaper asks, "Is Bush the Antichrist?"
No news of the "mark of the beast" is complete without speculation regarding the Antichrist, of course, and Rev. Rich Lang's sermon "George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism," is a perfect place to start. "You sit atop the nations like the Biblical Whore of Babylon openly fornicating with the military men of might," Lang wrote in an open letter to the president, accusing the entire Bush White House of a "diabolical manipulation of Christian rhetoric" which is "the materialization of the spirit of Antichrist: a perversion of Christian faith and practice." (In a more secular contemplation of evil, former Wall Street Journal editor and Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts openly wondered if the Bush administration would covertly plot another 9/11 -- and perhaps even set off a nuclear bomb to advance its agenda. )
As Christian leaders squared off in a Seattle Weekly article regarding the nature of the Antichrist and his relationship to the current administration, columnists and bloggers wondered whether or not God speaks to (and through) George W. Bush.
If so, God surely works in mysterious ways.
Legendary American novelists say the world is coming to an end
"I'm trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending!," Kurt Vonnegut recently declared, right about the time that Madonna was reported to be looking for real estate for the event. The late Hunter S. Thompson also made a similar observation. "This is going to be just like the Book of Revelation said it was going to be -- the end of the world as we knew it," he wrote in 2003.
The Guardian says the world will 'probably' end in 2006
In 1997, former Wall Street Journal journalist Michael Drosnin wrote The Bible Code, based on the premise that hidden messages are embedded within the Bible. Using a letter-based numerological system created by Jewish mystics and facilitated by computer technology, Drosnin searched for signs of the Apocalypse and found that 2006 and 2012 have special significance.
How significant? While followers of the Mayan prophecy often point to Dec. 21, 2012 as the day the world will end, in Jan. 2006, the Guardian/Observer cited Drosnin's sequel, the Bible Code II, to make its own tongue-in-cheek prediction.
A 'crying' statue is given major mainstream attention
While thousands of divine apparitions are reported each year, they are usually attributed to natural causes or hoaxes and are not taken very seriously. In a 1998 article for Forbes magazine, however, when Peggy Noonan penned her prescient warning regarding "the big, terrible thing [certain to occur] to New York or Washington," she spoke of such matters as if they were Gospel truth. "When the Virgin Mary makes her visitations--she's never made so many in all of recorded history as she has in this century--she says: Pray! Pray unceasingly!" Noonan wrote.
Noonan's superstitious nature aside, by March, 2006, the mainstream media also began taking such apparitions seriously. A statue of the Virgin Mary -- which is said to be crying blood --grabbed national headlines and was featured on national morning television.
Most Americans believe that the prophecy in the Book of Revelation is going to come true.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, sales of the Left Behind series jumped 60%, with Book 9, which was published that October, becoming the best-selling novel that year. Two years later, Time/CNN magazine poll underscored why the series was so popular -- finding that 59% of Americans believe that the Book of Revelation is going to come true.
"If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of last book in the Left Behind series, Glorious Appearing, and publish it across the Middle East, Americans would go berserk," Joe Bageant wrote, of the twelfth book in the series. "Yet tens of millions of Christians eagerly await and celebrate an End Time when everyone who disagrees with them will be murdered in ways that make Islamic beheading look like a bridal shower."
Why does this matter?
1) Left Behind series co-author Rev. Timothy LaHaye -- the political activist Rolling Stone dubbed "Rev. Doomsday" -- reportedly played a "quiet but pivotal role" in putting George W. Bush in the White House.
2) LaHaye shares the same End Times theology as the Islamofascists we're trying to neuter. "And as far as the imminent apocalypse is concerned, they're on the same page as the Mullahs in Tehran," conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote of America's fundamentalists. "Just in case you were sleeping soundly at night."
The "Rapture Index" stands at 'Fasten Your Seatbelts'
To anyone paying attention to the Left Behind series phenomenon, it is no surprise that prophetic activity is currently being analyzed and measured. The "Rapture Index," which founder Todd Strandberg calls "the Dow Jones Industrial Average of End Time activity," has been given widespread attention, something that would have been unheard of just a decade ago. Even more importantly, it's being taken seriously.
Last year, Jon Carroll spelled out the significance of this new form of prophetic measurement. "What does it all mean?," he asked in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The Rapture Index, as of this writing, stands at 153. Anything over 145 is labeled by the Rapture Actuaries as 'Fasten your seat belts.' In other words: Repent for the End Is Near."
A Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich is auctioned on e-bay
Remember when a decade-old Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich fetched $28,000 on e-bay? Soon afterwards, the Virgin Mother miraculously appeared on a frying pan while Jesus manifested on indoor plumbing. Attempts to auction off these and other miracles, however, did not receive national and/or international attention.
The White House consults with End Times zealots before setting policy
While the link between the Bush White House and the Religious Right was clear from the start, the connection between those actually rooting for the End Times and Mr. Bush was not. Before the war in Iraq, President Jimmy Carter explained why the majority of Christian churches were against military intervention (except for those literally praying for Armageddon), but few knew why Mr. Bush was shunning mainstream churches in favor of the more rapture-minded.
"Some wonder if the president might be influenced by evangelical teachings that envision an end-of-the-world battle between Israel and its enemies. It would be dangerous for a president to take a particular theology like that and apply it to world events," former Nixon aide Charles Colson mused, a little more than a year before the Guardian reported that "US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy."
Ultimately, however, an e-mail unearthed by the Village Voice proved how entrenched fundamentalists actually are. "Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios," Rick Perlstein wrote, in an article that should scare the bejesus out of everyone.
Legislation to Turn the US into a Theocracy is Introduced in the House
Remember when Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James Watt said that we need not worry about depleting our natural resources because, thanks to End Times prophecies, future generations wonít be needing them anyway? Or when Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said he believed that "time is running out ..." as in Armageddon is approaching?
Back then, Frank Zappa appeared on Crossfire, shocking panelists when he said that the US was gearing up to become a fascist theocracy. More than two decades later, legislation to complete the transformation was introduced in the House.
"If enacted, the Constitution Restoration Act will effectively transform the United States into a theocracy, where the arbitrary dictates of a 'higher power' can override law," Chris Floyd wrote. Columnist James Heflin warned that "If the Act passes, Iraqis would have stronger protection from religious extremism than Americans."
Cosponsored by Sen. Brownback, whose rent is subsidized by the "secretive" religious organization, the Fellowship, the legislation is the work of Dominionists, or Christian Reconstructionists, who call for the "universal development of Biblical theocratic republics."
The crusade to Christianize America in order to prepare for Christ's Second Coming is not one that is going away any time soon. The Act, which was reintroduced in 2005, is currently being marketed by the media-savvy Concerned Women For America, which was founded and is headed by Rev. Timothy LaHaye's wife, Beverly.
Members of Congress try to facilitate apocalyptic prophecy
In the 19th century, a British minister named John Darby came up with a theory of "premillennial dispensationalism," pointing to end times signs such as wars, natural disasters, a global economy, and the return of the Jews to the land promised by God to Abraham. Recently, members of Congress (nearly half of whom are backed by the Religious Right) have expressed their support for what many see as the prerequisite for Christ's return: making certain that Israel fully belongs to the Jews.
Though the idea of dispensationalism took root when Darby began preaching in America, Ronald Reagan took things one step further, appointing Late Great Planet Earth author Hal Lindsey as a Middle East affairs consultant to the Israeli government and the Pentagon.
But these days, End Times zealots have even greater influence. "Christian
Zionist leaders today have access to the White House and strong support
within Congress, including the backing of the two most recent majority
leaders in the House of Representatives," the Christian Science
Monitor explained. Sen. James Inhofe told his fellow Senators that Israel
had a right to the occupied territories "because God said so" while
former House minority leader Rep. Richard Armey told Hardball host Chris
Matthews that he favored "transporting" the Palestinians to
While many Israelis welcome such support, author Gershom Gorenberg underscores the underlying ugliness. "They don't love the real Jewish people," he told CBS' 60 Minutes. "They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that's not who we are. If you listen to the drama that they are describing, essentially it's a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act."
In a starkly honest essay, Christian Reconstructist Gary North pointed to the elephant in the revival tent. "In order for most of todayís Christians to escape physical death, two-thirds of the Jews in Israel must perish, soon. This is the grim prophetic trade-off that fundamentalists rarely discuss publicly, but which is the central motivation in the movementís support for Israel, he wrote, regarding fundamentalists' defense of "the doctrine of an inevitable holocaust."
Given the Y2K brouhaha, why would anyone take North or any other fundamentalist seriously? Perhaps because, thanks largely to the formation of the Values Action Team, the Religious Right has been given "a direct lobbying line to the US Congress."
Middle East Official warns that the "Gates of Hell" will be opened after Iraq invasion
Arab League chief Amr Moussa's famous 2002 prediction that a war in Iraq would "open the gates of hell" in the Middle East was made official in Feb. 2006, when the Australian reported that "the gates of Hell are opened." (Given that prominent conservatives are now issuing mea culpas regarding the war in Iraq, perhaps hell has merely frozen over?)
When the war in Iraq began, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story entitled, "War in Babylon has evangelicals seeing Earth's final days" while the Washington Post subtitled one of its pieces, "End-Time Interpreters See Biblical Prophecies Being Fulfilled."
Both were criticized by Christianity Today for being inaccurate.
Which conjures up the most obvious question. How can anyone measure the validity of any of these predictions? Unless the world actually ends, that is? After all, end times prophecies have been with us throughout history, with each proving more inaccurate than the last.
Even so, there is something unique about our post-9/11 world that not only lends itself to bizarre supernatural assumptions, but the idea that such superstitions, if acted upon, could lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.
"For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington," Bill Moyers wrote.
In other words, prepare for the news to get even weirder.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2004, Maureen Farrell