Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is "The End of Days" Rattling Public Policy?

An artist's rendering of the Tea Party at the Rapture.

The other night I met an elderly couple at a party, where I had a chance to meet people that don't ordinarily run in my circles. Since I live in a blue-blue area (SF North Bay town of Sonoma) in a blue state (CA), I don't run into many people who believe that Obama is going to put microchips in our heads and then round us up into FEMA camps located all around the country.

Yet this is what this elderly couple believed. They were fiercely evangelical Christians who reminded me that my admiration for the New Testament -- I feel there's a compelling argument that we humanists could use Christ and his teachings of tolerance, humility, empathy, and charity as a moral model -- might be a little misplaced: Until they reminded me, I had forgotten that Revelation is one of the books of the New Testament. Some parts, say the Gospels, are cool enough, but Revelation is pretty whackadoodle stuff indeed.

To the End of Days crowd, Barack Obama is a close approximation of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, when the Kenyan Socialist Muslim is not determined outright to be the Anti-Christ.

I mean, Obamacare. Right? Total apocalyptic stuff, you know.

So, it got me thinking. How much does a belief that the Last Judgment is just around the corner affect public policy? I don't mean that evangelical Christian conservatives gather together at think tanks in Washington DC and apply "the world is ending next Thursday" to the policy statements they issue. Wait. Maybe I mean just that.

Seriously, though, have you thought much of the composition of that far-right portion of the Republican Party base? Aren't they largely southern, white, undereducated Christian males along with their wives that respect paternal authority? Don't they get a decent dose of the Grand Theory of the Apocalypse every Sunday from the pulpit?

What would be the policy implications for the Republican Party as a whole?
  • If I thought Barack Obama's policies were ushering in the End of Days, I'd fight fiercely to prevent him from any policy victories, even when he's leaning more right than most Democrats are comfortable with. After all, Obamacare is socialized, government-controlling medicine. If you actually believed that, it's not a stretch to believe Obama wants everyone to get health insurance so he can expedite getting those microchips in everybody's head. Especially those pesky millennials, better bug 'em while they're young.
  • No wonder the fringe are crazy about the 2nd Amendment. If you thought the war to end the world was going to break out soon, even if you knew Jesus Christ was going to be the Allied Commander-in-Chief of all evangelical we're-saved-you're-so-screwed-you-Jesus-hating-liberal-retards, wouldn't you tend to believe "who needs guns Jesus is gonna kill them all except us anyway" I mean wouldn't you think? No, to really be on General Jesus' side, you need a massive arsenal -- and be ready to use it -- to prove which army you're part of.
  • Wouldn't you hate the poor, too, because they're the losers God didn't pick to be his Christian soldiers? (The wife-part of the evangelical pair said that the possibility of war, pestilence, misery, and Hell itself are the price we pay for free will. If we couldn't do something stupid that would mean we'd end up in Hell for all eternity, what would be the purpose of the whole exercise anyway? I pointed out that I didn't want any part of a God that would devise such a  horrid scheme, but I digress.) Being part of the blessed saved in a free-will contest requires winners and losers. The blessed saved have the guns and money, so the poor are obviously already on the way to Hell. Why not hurry up the process, by, for instance, cutting Social Security and Medicare?
  • Climate change? You betcha, only it's God's will and part of his End-of-Days script. Why resist it? You'll be in Heaven with Him after the Rapture anyway. So, until then, drill, baby, drill!
  • Support immigration reform? Hell no, it's just a scheme to get the undocumented out of the shadows so Obama can turn them into his bot army to go up against the Christian soldiers in battle before the Last Judgment. I mean, the blessed saved are going to triumph, but why give 'em an inch? They always take a mile anyway, so screw 'em. That's what Jesus would do.
You get my drift. Remember that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a member of a Islamic cult that believed in an "end of days" scenario? Notice how he was talking about wiping Israel off the face of the map and how he worked so hard to refine uranium and build a bomb and develop long-range missiles? Well, Muslims were headed to paradise just around the corner, so why not blow up the Jews before it's too late? When he left the presidency, that kind of talk dried up (a rival of his won the election). Now they're making nice. Go figure.

Holy crap, I just did some googling and found this recent article from The Daily Beast confirming that I'm onto something here, something possibly widespread. From the article:
They believe America teeters on the brink of destruction, and hold as an article of faith that liberals, gays, Democrats, atheists and the United Nations are to blame. This “end-times” world-view is a foundational precept of the evangelical movement, from which many of the so-called Tea Party favorites spring. Scholars call it apocalypticism.
Of course, the Tea Party is not just composed of members of the Christian right. Many are genuine libertarians. Some nurse an unreconstructed Confederate grudge, while others harbor a thinly disguised racism. However, the real energy, the animating force for the movement comes from evangelicals, of whom Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are the most strident. These are the modern-day ”apocalyptic prophets.”
Although the issues are secular, the prophets’ anti-Obamacare rhetoric rings with religious, end-times cadences. So to understand why they invoke chaos, we need to know where their ideas about an “apocalypse” came from.
Most theologians, including the revered Albert Schweitzer, believe John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth were Jewish apocalypticists. Simply put, these first-century prophets believed they were living in the “end times” before God would send his representative, the “Son of Man” (taken from a rather obscure passage in the Book of Daniel), to overthrow the forces of evil and establish God’s justice on earth. Apocalypse literally translates as “the revealing” of God’s will. For these early prophets the Kingdom of God was not to be a church, but a military and political kingdom on earth.
 Read the whole article, though I have to throw this little nugget out to you, as well:
“. . . I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s End Times history. Rather than seeing this as a negative . . . we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand. And so what we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this, that these days would be as the days of Noah. We are seeing that in our time.” - Michelle Bachmann, Oct. 5, 2013
Game, set, match. The far-right evangelical apocalypticists are wagging the dog. We are so screwed until they stop.

Which sooner or later they will. So says Jonathan Capehart in a WaPo article called "The GOP might as well be dead."

Which they will be if Michelle Bachmann gets her way. But they shall rise again, at the End of Days...

According to a Tea Party source, this is a picture of
what liberals will look like after the Apocalypse.

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