Bad predictions, false prophecies and the nostalgia factor

Fred Clark has a post up today in which he notes that the pop-cultural flotsam and jetsam produced by Hal Lindsey, Larry Norman and other end-times enthusiasts back in the 1970s continues to have its fans, even though the dire warnings of imminent doom made by those people never came true. Noting that a Southern Gospel band called The Hoppers recently covered ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready’ — a song that Norman first recorded way, way back in 1969 — Clark writes:

Shouldn’t the fact that it’s now more than 40 years later cause us to question that message a bit? It reminds me of the book-store customer in about 1994 who wanted to special-order a copy of Hal Lindsey’s The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. She was terribly disappointed when I told her it was out of print.

This reminds me of my surprise when, in the early days of DVD, I was flipping through the discs at a local store and discovered that someone had actually re-issued the movie version of The Late Great Planet Earth (1978) in that format. The film, narrated by Orson Welles and based on a best-selling book by Lindsey, makes a number of ominous predictions about the 1980s, none of which came true — and yet, here was the movie, over two decades later, still “in print”, as it were.

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Almighty dollars

Many of the books, films, music and TV shows that make up the parallel universe of the Christian entertainment industry are keyed to the idea of Judgment Day. Odd, writes Peter T. Chattaway — the Rapture is a modern concept with virtually no basis in the Bible

Until it was released in theatres in the United States three weeks ago, Left Behind — an apocalyptic thriller filmed in Ontario and based on a best-selling series of novels by evangelical authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins — was heavily promoted as the breakthrough film that Christian movie buffs had long been waiting for. The eight books in the series to date have sold over 30 million copies, and the film, which stars former teen idol Kirk Cameron as a TV journalist and Flight of the Intruder star Brad Johnson as an airline pilot, reportedly cost $17.4 million to make — though how much of that was spent on promoting the film, and not on the actual production, is a matter of some debate.

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The Late Great Planet Earth as a document of its own time and of events that have not yet happened

FILM 432
February 27, 1996

Robert Amram’s film The Late Great Planet Earth, a 1979 documentary based on the 1970 book of the same name by Hal Lindsey, tries to act as a bridge of sorts between time periods. It purports to predict the future based on writings from the past, and it relies on an eclectic array of stock footage, dramatic recreations, interviews with “experts”, and “voice of God” narration to establish a link between the unseen future and the obscured past. Simultaneously, it is very much a product of its own time, and it acts as a record of sorts of the paranoias and social movements that typified the 1970s. It also represents, in some tangential way, a key aspect of the rise of Christian pop culture.

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