Richard Bartholomew in his “Notes on Religion“ blog took a look the other day at a Mormon congressman-elect, Chris Stewart, who will represent Utah starting in November. The interesting thing about Stewart is that he wrote a Mormon-friendly version of the end times, what Roll Call calls a”Latter Day Saints-like version of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry B. Jenkins’ apocalyptic Christian fiction series “Left Behind.”
As Bartholomew relates, this series is “published by Glenn Beck’s Mercury Ink. The series is entitled Wrath and Righteousness, and ten “episodes” are due to be published over the course of one year.” Mercury Ink, as related here yesterday, is also purported to be considering republishing David Barton’s discredited book of lies about Thomas Jefferson.
Now this series may or may not be “the Left Behind series for a new generation” as Glenn Beck asserts. What is significant is the hold the so-called end times have on the conservative Christian mind, even after 2000 years of waiting. Seriously; after all this time they should not be thinking in terms of being ” left behind” but abandoned and forgotten. You can read the Bible (Old and New Testament) and see the evolution of Satan in monotheistic thinking. You can also see the evolution of beliefs in Jesus’ return from immanent to ” soon” to ” someday” to ” let’s talk about something else.”
All of this might seem to be of only marginal interest to non-Christian or even moderate Christian readers but we have to keep in mind that people who think like this – Stewart being a case in point – get elected to office, or like Glenn Beck, influence those in office. Look at the close-call we had with Esther-reborn, witch-hunter-sanctified Sarah Palin. Look at some of the others now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives or running for office. Look at Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum.
Look at Mitt Romney, now running for the highest office in the land.
Bartholomew makes an interesting observation about this book’s politics:
One difference from Left Behind is that although the Saudi “pawn of Lucifer” is perhaps not the same thing as the Antichrist, the series appears to be exploiting the popularity of the “Muslim Antichrist” theory, as expounded on Glenn Beck’s TV show by Joel Richardson (who occasionally stops by this blog to make a comment). LaHaye’s Antichrist, by contrast, reflects 1990s Christian Right anxieties: he’s an Eastern European, and the post-Rapture Secretary General of the United Nations. Christian Right arguments over the identity of the Antichrist can be bitter.
Very bitter indeed. Much as Christianity as a whole has suffered from a persecution complex for the past twenty centuries, the historical record proves that the biggest persecutor of Christians is other Christians. And when it comes to matters of doctrine, charges of heresy – and then Satan – are never far behind. Remember when Santorum said mainstream Protestants really weren’t Christians: ”mainline Protestantism” is now “gone from the world of Christianity.”
Right. So nobody has to be a fan of Saudi Arabia (I certainly am not) and it’s backwards-looking attitudes (it is already what America will become under the auspices of the born again GOP) to see that thinking of Saudi Arabia (or Iran) as the antichrist, is dangerous thinking.
Look to the example of former Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who was too extreme even for the crusading White House of George W. Bush, and who is on record as putting Satan squarely in the Muslim corner. Crazy William, now in the employ of the equally crazy FRC, said of the Iraq War that we were fighting not Sadam Hussein but Satan. He still thinks he is fighting Satan.
It’s one thing to fight a war against another nation, as we did when we attacked Sadam Hussein’s Iraq; it is quite another to portray that war in religious terms, as a crusade of one religion against another. Good and evil are already a part of any war’s thinking – demonizing the enemy is as old as war itself. But to announce that Satan himself is our enemy is not a factor that should be considered in policy decisions.
The rest of us understand that Satan is very real to apocalyptic-minded Christians, but these folks will have a hard time convincing the rest of us that Satan is somebody we need to worry about. Their obsession should not become the world’s obsession.
How much easier to drop a nuke on Satan than on what would otherwise be just a bunch of guys who want the same resources you do? A fascination for the end-times could very easily develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy. God says we gotta do it!
Who is it, after all, who so badly wants to attack Iran on behalf of best religious-buddy Israel? It isn’t Democrats – it’s the fundamentalist-driven Republicans, eyes squarely on the essential role Israel plays in their end-times mythology.
The frightening thing about this is that it’s all a very real danger – it’s not just speculative fiction but a reality we are faced with, and its not getting any better. The world’s no more likely to end on biblical grounds than Mayan, but the Mayans aren’t around anymore (nor did they actually believe the world would end in 2012). But we are literally awash with Parousia-fevered Christians.
The problem for the United States in the grip of Christian fanaticism and fantasy is that the rest of the world operates in real-world terms. Conservative Christians rail against the threat posed by Islam but most Muslim countries don’t have vast nuclear arsenals, and most Muslim countries aren’t controlled by religious fanatics who want to wage Jihad at the drop of a hat (whatever propaganda tells you to the contrary).
The rest of the world isn’t going to be thinking in the same language these fanatics think in. Mythology and religiously driven conspiracy theories don’t enter much into the thinking of other major powers, where cold pragmatism seems to be as much of a factor as whatever remains of Cold War ideology. A United States in the grip of people who think with their Bibles is quickly going to become a rogue nation and the missiles that should be dropped squarely on the Bible Belt fanatics will land on all of our heads.
Honestly, if we were going to be victimized by fanboys and girls, why did it have to be Bible fanboys and girls and not a bunch of would-be Jedi? At least they have a worldview free of divine beings throwing destructive tantrums and demanding the death of all unbelievers. A Jedi I could get behind because honestly, while a lot of people think they are kooky, if you compare their beliefs with those of fundamentalist Christianity, they begin to look pretty sane.