Look Out! The World is Ending! ...Again!
People are leaving Christianity in unprecedented numbers. How should the church lure them back? Get all horny over a murderer! ...Right? No?
To sensible adults who’ve read a book, current events in Ukraine look like the unhinged flailing of an old man with a micro-penis, but, to people with bloodthirsty imaginary friends, IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT! AGAIN!
This time for real, though!
Haha, no. Not really. For that to be the case, Christianity would have to lunge over more hurdles than Rocky Balboa that time he blindly charged through traffic with a gaggle of cheering children hot on his heels for the twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity to beat the Hell out of a delightful Black man who was really the better fighter.
The day after Russian dictator Vladimir Putin brutally attacked the sovereign republic of Ukraine, American evangelicals fell over themselves to shovel a load of crap to their credulous followers on social media. Greg Laurie even peeled himself off the corpse of Steve McQueen to proclaim, “Is there any prophetic significance to what is happening in Ukraine right now? The answer is… Yes!”
(Greg Laurie, for those of you who don’t know, is a humble servant of Christ worth $20 million.)
Of course, Christian charlatans and marks alike have been shoehorning everything from toast to the concept of weather into proof of Jesus’ imminent return since the Man himself made obtuse references to Enoch in that halcyon time when people thought the sun was magic. The books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation are chock full of all kinds of vague nonsense people who don’t understand what a legitimate prophecy would require in order to be remotely credible have taken as a reason to be terrible, terrible human beings with no concern for long-term consequences.
Americans who have never actually read and will never actually read the goddamn Bible rely on what amounts to buzzwords like “Gog” and “Magog.”
In the little story, Gog and Magog – cities? people? DC Comics characters? – descend from the “far north” upon a peaceful, reconstituted Israel, whose people had been “brought out from the nations, and all now dwell securely,” within said city. The resulting war that follows has been grist for torture porn like the Left Behind series which is FAR more widely read than the goddamn Bible. (It’s not any better, though. Everyone knows all the best fan fiction is affiliated with Satan.)
During this war, Jesus swoops in on a rope looped through his hand holes (haha, no, He comes on a horse– the rope thing would be way, way too self-aware and clever for the Bible) to come to Israel’s rescue. Then, the Prince of Peace goes full-bore John Wick on anyone who hurt his Daddy’s widdle feewings. You know, like George W. Bush.
All of which leads to the end of the world as we know it and the establishment of a new and better Kingdom of God on Earth. (Read: Celestial North Korea.)
‘But… if God is perfect, how could He have a new and better kingdom?’ you ask.
Well, “God” (at least insofar as Jehovah/YHWH) is pretend. He can have whatever He wants. You’d think He’d have a better means of conveyance for His only son than a crappy Heaven horse, given that He’s fictitious, but, again, the Bible is awful. Not just morally awful, but qualitatively awful, too. It’s a shitty little tale with nothing to recommend it. You’d think Jesus would have a funny sidekick or something, but no. It’s a dour, hate-filled, completely nonsensical mess from “In the beginning…” to “Amen.”
But let’s get back to what the Purveyors of Truth™ who absolutely don’t have any $ort of ve$ted intere$t in mi$leading people have to $ay about their boyfriend…
(I bet you thought I was just going to sidestep right around the idea of a “peaceful” Israel, huh? I’ll see your lack of faith and raise you Palestine.)
“One of the beauties of end times theology is it’s protean,” Randall Balmer, a professor of American religion at Dartmouth College, told Rolling Stone. “That is, it can be shaped and shifted to comply with particular circumstances, and it allows those who subscribe to it to claim to have a command of history, that they know how it’s all going to come out eventually.”
If the phrase “American religion” doesn’t tickle your Camus, let “a command of history” set in for a second. Here’s a visual aid:
Since the start of this whole backward shitshow, Gog and Magog have been used as a label for (theatrically deep breath) Babylon… Rome… the Vikings… Germany… Russia… pretty well any country whose name ends in –istan… Russia again… Barack and Michelle Obama… Russia… a pizza parlor… and now Russia again. Russia’s the Steve Martin of end times theology, is what I’m saying. Or John Mulaney, if you don’t get the Steve Martin reference.
Hilariously, during the Cold War, exactly the same kind of Americans who now constitute your local chapter of the Gravy SEALS decided – based on sheer hubris – that the U.S. was the “new Israel” and Mikhail Gorbachev was the Antichrist. These people even thought his little birthmark was the “Mark of the Beast.” See, Satan was originally going to draw a bad-ass skull made out of three sixes, but that was hard, so he made a dismissive wave and mumbled something about Impressionism.
(In my mind, Satan is always played by Vincent Price and it’s just great.)
As a side note to that rich, nutty cup of crazy juice, the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 was seen as the apocalyptic cherry on top. The formation of the modern state of Israel was the side note. Americans are cartoon characters.
Zack Hunt, author of Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets It Wrong, told Rolling Stone, “The biblical authors are not trying to do fortune-telling. What was important to these writers was just this message of hope: ‘There’s this enemy, and God is going to deliver us.’”
Yes, with an if… no, with a but.
First, prophecy is, by definition, bunny-brained nonsense. As Matt Dillahunty has pointed out many, many, many times: a prophecy can only be considered valid if it meets a specific, explicit criteria inevitably. Dillahunty explains, to paraphrase, if you’re working towards fulfilling a prophecy, it’s not a prophecy, any more than his going to a restaurant and ordering a steak and the waiter bringing him a steak is a prophecy that he would eat a steak that day.
Vague language and broad generalities mean nothing. “You will hear of wars and rumors of war.” Well, fucking duh. Has there ever been a time there weren’t wars or rumors of wars? Fun fact: There are less wars now. And less people die in them. Which is part of why it’s a big deal when creatures like Russian dictator Vladimir Putin attack peaceful neighbors. The Bible also predicts bad weather.
But, to go back to Hunt’s point, yes, broadly speaking, most of the biblical “prophecies” were intra-community messages of hope. “We will get through this. God will deliver us from our oppressor.”
That oppressor? Rome. It’s not even well-disguised.
The story, such as it is, is over.
But you can’t—and won’t—make evangelicals believe that.
Make no mistake: Christianity is a death cult. As Lenny Bruce said, “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crucifixes.”
And they just can’t wait for everything they’ve ever known to be destroyed to make way for the “glory of God” (who… sounds a lot like Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, when you think about it).
This unhealthy narrative gives them license to frame real problems and tragedies – climate change, disease, global conflict – into comic book power fantasies. These aren’t things that need attention – as humans, what can we really do anyway? – but foreshadowing for their cosmic snuff film.
“Let’s go to Matthew 24,” Greg Laurie said as he clogged up Facebook with even more disinformation. “What did Jesus say? ‘In the last days, there will be wars and rumors of wars.’ There will also be plagues. If the coronavirus is not a plague, I don’t know what is!”
This is all a dog whistle for the pants-shittingly horrific 41 percent of Americans who believe this infantile yarn filled with magic and plot holes.
“Their senses are tuned in to the news to look out for these things because they’ve been trained to look out for these things at church,” Hunt told Rolling Stone. “They’ve been disciplined into doing that. They’ve been conditioned to do that. They’re constantly looking out for anything that they can grab onto to say, ‘Hey, that’s biblical prophecy.’ If you’re in that world, it’s exciting – as perverse as that sounds – because it means Jesus is coming back.”
But it’s not a cult or anything.
Rolling Stone also reported that, on February 28, raptureready.com upped its cry for help “Rapture Index” to 186. The record high is 189 and “anything above 160 means ‘fasten your seatbelts.’”
So… fasten your seatbelts, the Rapture Index is listed lower than the record.
Pat Robertson, who knew Jesus the first time, even
rose out of the crypt came out of retirement to cackle, again, paraphrasing, “Well, boys and ghouls, Putin is being compelled by God. God says, ‘I’m going to put hooks in your jaw and I’m going to draw you into this, whether you like or not.’”
Haha, I liked Hellraiser too. Literally everyone in that film was more moral than your slavery-advocating god, Pat.
I agree with what Zack Hunt went on to tell Rolling Stone:
“Wars and rumors of wars become this perverse source of excitement. In an individual person, that might not be problematic, but when you have organizations or lobbying groups leveraging or pressuring politicians to be more aggressive against Putin, that [has] a real-world impact. Biden is not going to listen to Pat Robertson egging him on, but there’s something really perverse about hoping for nuclear holocaust. It’s bloodlust, is what it is.”
And yet you can’t find a Christian willing to bet that their magical carpenter is actually going to show this the five grillionth time they’ve wet their pants in anticipation.
I know because I would take that bet.
And I would blow every last dime on blackjack and hookers. Just to prove a point. Haha, no, no, I’d invest it wisely and you’d never see me again.
“Read your Bibles,” Pat Robertson went on to croak. “Because it’s coming to pass.”
Better still– Read the goddamn Bible.
Because, if you’re smart enough to read and have a SHRED of moral fiber, you’ll end up an atheist.
And God knows we need more of those.