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by Chip Berlet - Political Research Associates


Betrayal by Immoral Leaders as a Theme in Christian Biblical Prophesy


Betrayal by Immoral Leaders as a Theme in Christian Biblical Prophesy

One segment of the Jeremiah Films series "Pagan Invasion," is titled "Preview of the Antichrist." It is described in an online Christian right catalog with the following blurb:

"According to Ancient Hebrew scriptures, in the last days mankind will urgently seek the security of a one - world government. This global desire for a super leader, who will bring peace and safety to a world in chaos, will ultimately leave the human race vulnerable to the beguiling charm and the most intelligent, powerful, and charismatic person of all history. The Bible calls this man the "anti-christ." Ironically, he will dominate the globe and orchestrate society's ultimate destruction. Chuck Smith and Caryl Matrisciana host this blueprint of apocalyptic events. Interviews with prophecy experts Chuck Missler, Hal Lindsey, and Peter Lalond explain "why" the world will follow this man into perdition. Must viewing for all who desire a glimpse of the future."67

In western culture the tendency to frame political, social, religious, or cultural conflict as a battle between good and evil is distinctively shaped by the apocalyptic prophesies in the Bible's Book of Revelation, which describes a battle between faithful Christians and deceptive Satanic agents that precedes a millennium of peace and godly rule. Apocalyptic traditions also exist in Judaism, Islam, and other religions.68 The word apocalypse comes from a Greek root suggesting unveiling hidden information or revealing secret knowledge about unfolding human events.69 Over time the term has come to mean an approaching confrontation or cataclysmic event about which a select few have forewarning.70

A specific type of demonizing conspiracism is contained in the apocalyptic worldview, which in the US is greatly influenced by religious and secular interpretations of Christian expectations that the end of time is preceded by a cataclysmic millennial battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The roots of a remarkable number of myths, metaphors, images, symbols, phrases, and icons in Western culture flow from this Biblical prophesy from the Book of Revelation.71

Apocalyptic millennialism influences diverse right-wing movements, such as sectors of the new Christian electoral right, Protestant and Catholic theocratic groups, the patriot and armed militia movement, Christian patriot constitutionalists, and the Christian Identity religion.72 Popular culture, including films such as Rambo, Mad Max, the Terminator series, and Red Dawn reinterpret the vision while obscuring its origins.73 The survivalist movement is a secularized response on the margins of society. The film Apocalypse Now and the TV series "Millennium" name the myth while mainstreaming the paradigm. Law enforcement abuse of power against the Branch Davidian's in Waco, TX has created cascading echoes of apocalypse throughout the society.74

There are three related and overlapping tendencies. The view of many Christian fundamentalists that we are in the apocalyptic millennial end times prophesied in Revelation; a more generic and often secularized apocalyptic worldview of impending doom (reflected in diverse movements ranging from the armed militias to the New Age); and the sense of expectation, both religious and secular, generated by the approaching calendar millennium. Claims of demonic conspiracies have flourished during periods of millennial expectation or apocalyptic fervor, and are doing so again as the calendar creeps toward the year 2000. So to fully comprehend the subtext of those US movements that utilize demonization and conspiracist scapegoating, we need to study demonization and the idea of evil. In studying the phenomena, we make several assumptions:

· Demonization often leads to scapegoating
·
· Conspiracism is a form of scapegoating
·
· Apocalyptic scapegoating is a subset of conspiracist scapegoating.
·
· Apocalyptic and Millennialist metaphors can be religious, secular, or a blend.
·

The process of demonization is central to all forms of conspiracist thinking.75 Author and activist Leonard Zeskind considers all conspiracy theories "essentially theologically constructed views of events. Conspiracy theories are renderings of a metaphysical devil which is trans-historical, omnipotent, and destructive of God's will on earth. This is true even for conspiracy theories in which there is not an explicit religious target."76 As Zeskind has observed, it is impossible to analyze the contemporary right, without understanding the "all-powerful cosmology of diabolical evil."77

One imporant distinction is that "While conspiracy strives to provide a spatial self-definition of the true community as set apart from the evils" as seen in the scapegoated "Other," according to Stephen O'Leary, "apocalypse locates the problem of evil in time and looks forward to its imminent resolution" while warning that "evil must grow in power until the appointed time."78 Millennialist movements in the US generally reflect a manichaean framework--global history as a clockwork orange all wound up and dispensing history in preset order. As Jeffrey Kaplan notes:

"A manichaean framework requires the adherent to see the world as the devil's domain, in which the tiny, helpless "righteous remnant" perseveres through the protection of God in the hope that, soon, God will see fit to intervene once and for all in the life of this world."79

There is a deep division within modern Christianity between those Christians who identify evil with specific groups--gays and lesbians, feminists, liberals, Jews--and those Christians who see evil as the will to dominate and oppress. Within mainstream denominations, independent evangelical churches, progressive Christian communities, and followers of liberation theology, are many Christians who are painfully aware of those historic periods when some Christian leaders sided with oppression and used demonization as a tool to protect and extend power and privilege. This discussion seeks to honestly explore that historic dynamic, but not to stereotype all Christians as continuing the heritage of apocalyptic demonization. 80

The US Christian fundamentalist movement grew during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as a backlash against the principles of the Enlightenment, modernism, and liberalism.81 Since fundamentalists expect the literal return of Christ in the millennialist end times, they are watchful for the "signs of the times." They scan contemporary and historical events attempting to match them to Biblical prophesies, looking for evidence that the end times have arrived. They are especially concerned with false prophets: political, religious, or business leaders who are subverting God's will and betraying the faithful by urging them to abandon their righteous conduct, especially in terms of sinful sexuality or crass materialism.

Leo Ribuffo's study The Old Christian Right, demonstrated the influence of apocalyptic Biblical prophecy on Protestant far right conspiracist movements in the interwar period, especially on the major figures Ribuffo profiles: William Dudley Pelley, Gerald B. Winrod, and Gerald L. K. Smith.82 Barkun has studied apocalyptic millennialism in the Christian Identity movement, and its influence on major racist and anti-Semitic ideologues such as Wesley Swift, William Potter Gale, Richard Butler, Sheldon Emry, and Pete Peters.83 Robert Fuller notes that "Over the last two hundred years, the Antichrist has been repeatedly identified with such 'threats' as modernism, Roman Catholicism, Jews, socialism, and the Soviet Union."84

Apocalyptic and millennialist aspects to Christian conspiracism appear in works by such authors as Texe Marrs, whose book Big Sister Is Watching You: Hillary Clinton And The White House Feminists Who Now Control America-And Tell The President What To Do, is about the plot by "FemiNazis" and their allies in "subversive organizations whose goal is to end American sovereignty and bring about a global Marxist paradise."85

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