A Thief in the Night: Rise of the Antichrist Movie

Today at Religion & Politics, Amy Frykholm considers “The 40th Anniversary of A Thief in the Night.”

Donald W. Thompson’s low-budget premillennial dispensationalist horror movie is a haunting classic for many of us who grew up in evangelical and fundamentalist churches. It’s also a direct ancestor of the Left Behind novels, which took their title from the Larry Norman song sung by a groovy combo in the opening credits of A Thief in the Night.

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Life was filled with guns and war,
And everyone got trampled on the floor,
I wish we’d all been ready
Children died, the days grew cold,
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold,
I wish we’d all been ready,
There’s no time to change your mind,
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

(Here’s Larry Norman’s version of the song. The full movie of A Thief in the Night is also on YouTube.)

I’m a bit too brain-fried and bone-weary at the end of a long week to spend time today with the likes of Rayford Steele and Buck Williams, so instead let’s revisit this related classic with Frykholm. She knows this world, having immersed herself in PMD prophecy-mania while writing Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America, which takes an empathetic and generous look at some of the tens of millions of fans of the World’s Worst Books.

It’s jarring to realize this movie is 40 years old — another reminder that I’m getting older myself. But it must be particularly strange for the filmmakers themselves. They were absolutely certain, back when they made this movie, that the world was going to end long before 40 years had gone by. (Specifically, their splicing and twisting of several disparate verses in the Bible had them convinced the world had only a single “generation” after 1948.)

Here’s Frykholm on A Thief in the Night at 40:

A Thief in the Night is a cult classic, where the word “cult” has more than one resonance. If you have seen it, the setting was likely a church basement, a church camp, or some other quasi-authoritative space where the film’s sermonizing might have been accompanied by an earnest youth pastor worried for your soul. The film was released in 1972 and marks its 40th anniversary this year. It has influenced a generation of Christians reared in the 1970s and ’80s. To date, the movie has been seen by perhaps more than 50 million people worldwide; others estimate as high as 300 million. (Because viewing and distribution has largely been through alternative mechanisms, an accurate accounting is impossible.) “Today, many teen evangelicals have not seen A Thief in the Night, but virtually every evangelical over 30 I’ve talked to is familiar with it, and most have seen it,” writes Heather Hendershot in her book Shaking the World for Jesus.

… The film had an enormous impact on evangelical culture and shaped its attempts to influence American popular culture more directly through music, film, and books. … This film inspired people from across the political and social spectrum. Marilyn Manson, who like so many saw the film at church as a child, wrote in his autobiography The Long Road Out of Hell, “I was thoroughly terrified by the idea of the end of the world and the Antichrist. So I became obsessed with it, watching movies like … A Thief in the Night, which described very graphically people getting their heads cut off because they hadn’t received 666 tattoos on their forehead.”

… All of this might just be a low-budget, poorly-acted, B-grade movie long since constrained to the dust bin of film history. But when the film came out in 1972, the evangelical establishment was in the midst of an extraordinary expansion that included inroads into mainstream radio, publishing, and television. According to film historian Terry Lindvall, the makers of A Thief in the Night were helped by the fact that after World War II, the U.S. Army donated film projector equipment to churches and schools. The capacity to show the film through this network was already in place. Lindvall points out that A Thief in the Night was one of the only films available to young people coming from fundamentalist backgrounds who “were not allowed to go to movies to even see The Sound of Music.” When an organization called the Christian Film Distributors Association started in 1974, they stocked copies of the film and saw bookings of 1500 showings a month, mostly at Baptist churches and schools and youth retreats. Halloween, Lindvall notes, was a popular time for viewing. “It was the filmmakers’ goal to ‘literally scare the hell out of kids.’”

Religious historian Randall Balmer grew up in Thompson’s church and profiled him fondly in a chapter of Balmer’s book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. Balmer also highlights this “literally scare the hell out of kids” aspect of these movies:

If the plot is a bit obvious in places, it’s also quite compelling, especially when shown in an evangelical setting to people reared to take the apocalyptic passages of the Bible literally. …

The success of any movie invites sequels, and Thompson has obliged. A Distant Thunder, Image of the Beast, and Prodigal Planet all depict life on earth after the rapture, after true Christians, the born-again believers, have ascended into heaven. The producers tout these films as a kind of pre-history — “a true story that is yet to happen” — portraying the brutality of existence during the tribulation prophesied in Revelation. Indeed, much of this is gruesome, replete with radiation sickness, blood-curdling screams, increased repression by UNITE [Thompson’s version of the Antichrist’s OWG], and stainless steel guillotines. The events of the book of Revelation “could become a reality in your lifetime,” the films warn. “Avoid these events by coming to Christ now.”

The guillotines I remember. I remember watching the guillotine scene (in A Distant Thunder) in the youth room of our church. I knew I was already born-again and saved by my personal savior Jesus Christ, but I still “went forward” at the altar call afterward to re-re-re-dedicate my life to Christ, just to be sure. And then I still had nightmares, plus the occasional moment of panic when it seemed I was suddenly alone in my house or at church.

Balmer examines this scare-’em-into-heaven approach of the movie:

Doesn’t all this have the effect of frightening people into the kingdom of heaven? In the midst of her miseries in A Distant Thunder, Patty [the protagonist, played by amateur actress Patty Dunning] answers for the producers: “I would rather have been scared into heaven than have to go through this.” I put the question to [producer Russell] Doughten. … His initial response was that “if they get into the kingdom through being scared, that’s better than not making it at all.” He continued: “… All we’ve tried to do in the films is to put these things revealed in the Scripture into a dramatic setting. We’re just trying to illustrate what’s there. If it frightens you, then maybe it’s your problem, because from our point of view that’s what the Lord is telling you.”

Here we encounter another theological chicken-and-egg question: Does this dismally stunted soteriology stem from the warped eschatology of PMD prophecy nonsense, or vice versa?

I’ve often contrasted this urgent proselytizing with the triumphalism of the Left Behind series. I was looking back at some of the places where we’ve discussed A Thief in the Night previously, and it seems I’ve repeated that point enough times not to repeat it too much here again. Some examples:

On this point, I think Frykholm’s emphasis on Thief as a horror movie is insightful. Thompson wrote horror. LaHaye and Jenkins think of themselves as writing thrillers.

Anyway, back to Amy Frykholm:

A Thief in the Night emerged at a moment when American evangelicalism was ripe to receive it. Its effective play on cultural and psychological fears paradoxically helped set the stage for conservative evangelicalism to imagine itself as a more significant part of American culture. [Religion scholar John] Walliss notes that the film diagnosed evangelicals’ concerns about the direction of American culture: the technological, social, and political ills that they believed signified the beginning of the end times. That diagnosis did not create an isolating inward turn, but instead became part of a movement toward greater political engagement. We can see that shift even in the Mark IV films themselves. In the first film, the emphasis is very much on personal and individual salvation, but by the fourth film, political engagement and fighting with the Antichrist is more central. This is true in the Left Behind series as well, as the Tribulation Force draws on ever-more sophisticated means to battle for Christianity even in the End Times. This movement mirrored the political direction of Christian evangelicalism, which entered the 1970s as largely nonpolitical and exited as an energized voting bloc that had begun to claim the label “Moral Majority.” We feel the resonances of this politicization of conservative evangelicals to this day.

… In Paula Booke’s view, Christian evangelical political engagement is an actual outgrowth of the earlier apocalypticism. Images like UNITE — a reflection of the era’s concerns about communism—were effective in creating a “common script” that evangelicals could share. The film offered a subtle narrative critique of the political world that the viewers inhabited and then shaped both the faith they claimed and their political views. The apocalyptic narrative has proved itself “malleable to the political contexts of the present moment,” Booke says. “I have a suspicion, and I am trying to think how to demonstrate it, that most Americans are latent premillennialists and that it shapes their political views in subtle ways.”

Booke, Frykholm says, is a political scientist “who wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago on the influence of premillennial eschatology on American politics.” I suspect she is onto something with that idea of “latent” premillennialism. The exotic mythology of these weird eschatologies pervade our popular culture, so that even people who don’t embrace Tim LaHaye’s theology have ingested the broad outlines of his ideology. Even people who have never set foot in a prophecy-obsessed church will make jokes about the rapture or the Antichrist.

The premillennial influence on American politics was most evident in the early 20th century, when evangelicals began withdrawing from public life — from politics, culture, academia, everything — at the same time that Scofield’s footnotes were making PMD eschatology ever-more popular. The logic of that seems clear. Premillennialism says that the world is getting worse and worse, and will keep on getting worse and worse until Jesus comes back. And there’s nothing any of us can do to change that. That pessimism or fatalism makes political engagement seem futile.

And yet many premillennialist prophecy types do get engaged in politics — think of Tim LaHaye himself, or of one-time Secretary of the Interior James Watt, who said, regarding environmental management, “I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.” Or more recently, right-wing blogger Erick Erickson inadvertently created a meme last month when he reacted to an Obama campaign ad by tweeting, “We do live in a fallen, depraved world destined for the fire.”

I suspect the main way that premillennial pessimism influences American politics is in the way it portrays human history as an inexorably downward slope, a widening gyre spiraling ever downwards from the Golden Age of the past to the inevitable chaos and lawlessness of the End Times. A progressive vision of politics isn’t likely for those who view progress as a theological impossibility. It’s not surprising that Erickson didn’t like Obama’s campaign. A candidate who speaks of hope and change isn’t going to appeal to someone whose eschatology insists that hope and change are nothing more than illusions “in a fallen, depraved world destined for the fire.”

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  • SkyknightXi

    Note: The attract mode on the main page has “brain-friend” rather than “brain-fried”. Or was this your way of saying you’d rather give your sanity a boon this week?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I managed to get my mitts on that movie and I wish to anything someone made subtitles for it. :(

  • LL

    It does seem to call for a Mystery Science Theater 3000-type treatment. Or Pop-Up Video (the VH1 show), which is kinda hilarious. 

  • aunursa

    The guillotines I remember. I remember watching the guillotine scene (in A Distant Thunder) in the youth room of our church.

    Guillotines play a big role in the last half of the Left Behind series — especially Books #8-11.  The Global Community calls them “loyalty enforcement facilitators,” and Nicky, now possessed by Satan himself, delights in their use against anyone who refuses to accept the Mark.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    What is it with guillotines? 
    The hilarious Chick tract “The Beast” features what I remember describing as a “golf-cart guillotine” as well…

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Golf-cart guillotine… Wow.  That’s… wow. (>.<)

  • Turcano

    The Apocalypse Quadrilogy also went into gloriously insane territory with their guillotines: they were inside a VR program that sent you into the Matrix powered by Satan-magic and injuries would be transferred to your real-life body.  It was strongly implied that, from an external perspective, the victim’s VR-helmeted head would just fall off their body for no reason, but this sadly never happened onscreen (“Aww, I wanted Jeff Fahey Pez Dispenser Head!”).

    Also, fun fact: the Thief in the Night series uses the same stock music as The Mind’s Eye radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

  • SororAyin

    Now I can’t wait for Fred to start on Book #8.  Decapitations are a nasty business, but at least they’ll make for a more interesting story than the endless phone-tag and travel logistics we’ve been getting.  Oh, wait, this is L&J we’re talking about.  No doubt they’ll find a way to make even execution scenes seem boring.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    THE PIG. YOU HAVE TO STICK AROUND FOR THAT. XD

  • Magic_Cracker

    Decapitations are a nasty business, but at least they’ll make for a more interesting story than the endless phone-tag…

    Ideally, they’ll have Buck attaching wires from the guillotine to his cell phone to boost reception and then complaining to the executioner about how he gets static every time the blade falls.

    Plus they’ll have a scene where a guillotine is malfunctioning, so Capt. Steele will alpha male his way into the situation to show those stupid pencil neck geeks how it’s done, but don’t worry,  he won’t enjoy a second of it and all those people were gonna die anyway and what’s he supposed to do, be a martyr for Christ or something?

  • Ken

     So a lawyer, a doctor, and an engineer are sentenced to be executed by guillotine.  The lawyer is put into it, the rope is pulled – and nothing happens.  “Oh,” says the executioner, “you are fortunate. The law says we can only try once, so you are freed.”  The doctor is put into the guillotine and the same thing happens, and he walks away.  As the engineer is being led to the guillotine, he says, “I think I’ve spotted the problem…”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Cule/100001621659800 Michael Cule

    Unfortunately, the way I heard the joke is as “An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman get involved in the French Revolution…” Guess which one gets to say: “Oh and by the way, I think I can see whats jamming the blade up there….”

    I am really, really grateful that I never encountered such terror tactics from churches in the UK. Admittedly I am now an agnostic and if God does exist and does turn out to be a paranoid, rules-loving dick then I am screwed for all eternity…

  • EllieMurasaki

    Is the bit after the punch line supposed to be the death of whichever one France likes least or the death of whichever one the joker likes least?

  • Mark Z.

    Well, we’ve already seen step 1: slather the whole process in bland bureaucratic verbage.

    L&J seem vaguely aware of the technique of making horrible things even creepier by describing them as if you don’t know that they’re horrible. The description can instead be effusively positive*, or coldly technical**. But there’s an art to this, and as always, they get it wrong.

    “Loyalty Enforcement Facilitator” crosses the line from coldly technical to boring. It doesn’t carry menacing hints of the true nature of the device. It doesn’t reek of some bureaucrat’s guilty conscience, like Einsatzgruppen or enhanced interrogation. It just flops its immense bulk onto the page and sits there.

    In fact it’s not clear why Nicolae would bother calling it anything but a guillotine. He doesn’t need to hide what he’s doing from the higher-ups, because there aren’t any, and he doesn’t need to soothe his conscience, because he doesn’t have one. When your villain has absolute power and revels in being a villain, the right direction to go is “effusively positive”. He ought to call it a Happy Fun Head Chopper.

    * The ur-example of this is a certain novel by Nabokov which I won’t name here in case someone has a really harsh web content filter.

    ** Some pretty good examples in Dr. Strangelove.

  • Magic_Cracker

    The ur-example of this is a certain novel by Nabokov which I won’t name here in case someone has a really harsh web content filter.

    Laughter In The Dark? Bend Sinister? ;-)

  • Mark Z.

    No, actually it’s Pale Fire. There, I said it, are you happy?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Said what? My work filter blocked your comment.

  • Mark Z.

    Fnord.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    “Nothing can grow / in the ashes of desire”…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55DEPTrMtjY 

  • AnonymousSam

    Fates Warning! Rare to find another fan nowadays. I was actually listening to Guardian and Disconnected Part 2 on the night of the election.

  • rikalous

    It certainly isn’t very good euphemism (enforcement is far too overtly menacing, for instance), but at this point I’m willing to give Ellenjay a shiny gold star for approaching mediocrity.

     

    “If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?”: Didn’t
    that one start a
    small meme on YouTube with a scene showing the Commies trying to get
    children to turn away from religion by having them pray to Jesus
    for candy?  Then, when the miraculous candy didn’t appear the soldiers
    gave them some, saying, “Your Jesus can’t do it!” So
    the children prayed for candy and then soon after got candy. Clearly
    their prayers were answered In Mysterious Ways™ and they should keep on
    praying.

    being a hangman really was something
    of a skill; too short a drop and
    the condemned either suffocates or strangles, too long a drop and you
    tear off the head, and the distance of the drop was a function of the
    weight of the condemned…

    And if you’re really good,
    you can hang them to within half an inch of their life so that Vetinari
    can offer them a job. 

  • aunursa

    Here is the first execution scene, which takes place at a prison in Greece…

    Buck [in disguise as a GC peacekeeper] stood paralyzed* as Mrs. Miklos was led to the ugly machine. “Has that been tested?” Athenas shouted. “I want no malfunctions.”
    “Affirmative!” answered the assistant, who would trade roles with the executioner with each victim.
    “Carry on!”
    From thirty feet away Buck read the lips of the executioner. “Last chance, ma’am.”
    Laslos’s wife knelt and the assistant positioned her….The room fell tomb silent. In the stillness Buck heard Mrs. Miklos’s delicate voice.
    “Affirmative!” answered the assistant, who would trade roles with the executioner with each victim.
    “Carry on!”
    From thirty feet away Buck read the lips of the executioner. “Last chance, ma’am.”
    Laslos’s wife knelt and the assistant positioned her….The room fell tomb silent. In the stillness Buck heard Mrs. Miklos’s delicate voice.
    “My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine.”
    A sob attacked his throat. Seemingly all in one motion, the assistant fastened the
    clamp and stood quickly with both hands raised to indicate he was clear of the blade
    path while the other yanked the short cord. The heavy blade raced to the bottom of the shaft. Buck pushed past the others and out into the night air, disgusted at the cheer that met the sickening thud.
    He was glad for the vomit that gushed from him, allowing him to sob openly. Tears cascaded as he thought of the cold workmanlike crews that would remove heads and bodies and make room for the next and the next and the next. As he stood in the cool grass, convulsing now in dry heaves, he covered his ears in a vain attempt to muffle the thuds and cheers, thuds and cheers.From The Mark

    * It’s almost as if Jenkins intentionally includes at least one scene in each book in which Brave Sir Rayford or Brave Sir Cameron has an opportunity to save lives, but instead is paralyzed with fear.

  • hidden_urchin

    Yeah, and they get a fast pass to heaven. Doesn’t Chloe surpass them on the saving souls for Jesus point later?

  • aunursa

    All RTCs who die during the Tribulation go immediately to heaven.  All of them are honored by Jesus, but the martyrs receive a “special crown.”

    After Rayford witnessed the honoring of [Bruce and many other] old friends and acquaintances and loved ones, finally there was Chloe, and right behind her Buck and Tsion.Of Chloe, Jesus said, “You too suffered the guillotine for My name’s sake, speaking boldly for Me to the end. Wear this for eternity.”
    Of Buck he said, “You and your wife gave up a son for My sake, but he shall be returned to you, and you shall be recompensed a hundredfold. You will enjoy the love of the children of others during the millennial kingdom.” *Jesus took extra time with Tsion Ben-Judah, praising him for “your bold worldwide proclamation of Me as the Messiah your people had for so long sought, the loss of your family—which shall be restored to you—your faithful preaching of My gospel to millions around the world, and your defense of Jerusalem until the moment of your death. Untold millions joined Me in the kingdom because of your witness to the end.”From Book #12: Glorious Appearing

    * In other words: Welcome to Cam & Chloe’s Millenium Day Care Center.  Let’s not think about the fact that your parents are burning in hell for all eternity.

    After Rayford witnessed the honoring of [Bruce and many other] old friends and acquaintances and loved ones, finally there was Chloe, and right behind her Buck and Tsion.Of Chloe, Jesus said, “You too suffered the guillotine for My name’s sake, speaking boldly for Me to the end. Wear this for eternity.”
    Of Buck he said, “You and your wife gave up a son for My sake, but he shall be returned to you, and you shall be recompensed a hundredfold. You will enjoy the love of the children of others during the millennial kingdom.” *Jesus took extra time with Tsion Ben-Judah, praising him for “your bold worldwide proclamation of Me as the Messiah your people had for so long sought, the loss of your family—which shall be restored to you—your faithful preaching of My gospel to millions around the world, and your defense of Jerusalem until the moment of your death. Untold millions joined Me in the kingdom because of your witness to the end.”From Book #12: Glorious Appearing

    * In other words: Welcome to Cam & Chloe’s Millenium Day Care Center.  Let’s not think about the fact that your parents are burning in hell for all eternity.
    Of Chloe, Jesus said, “You too suffered the guillotine for My name’s sake, speaking boldly for Me to the end. Wear this for eternity.”
    Of Buck he said, “You and your wife gave up a son for My sake, but he shall be returned to you, and you shall be recompensed a hundredfold. You will enjoy the love of the children of others during the millennial kingdom.” *Jesus took extra time with Tsion Ben-Judah, praising him for “your bold worldwide proclamation of Me as the Messiah your people had for so long sought, the loss of your family—which shall be restored to you—your faithful preaching of My gospel to millions around the world, and your defense of Jerusalem until the moment of your death. Untold millions joined Me in the kingdom because of your witness to the end.”From Book #12: Glorious Appearing* In other words: Welcome to Cam & Chloe’s Millenium Day Care Center.  Let’s not think about the fact that your parents are burning in hell for all eternity.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Of Chloe, Jesus said, “You too suffered the guillotine for My name’s
    sake, speaking boldly for Me to the end. Wear this for eternity.”

    “It has fasteners to hold your head on.”

  • Zippy

    Of Buck he said, “You and your wife gave up a son for My sake, but he shall be returned to you, and you shall be recompensed a hundredfold

    *blinks* Buck and Chloe gave up their lives but not their kid. It was the kid who lost his mommy and daddy, not the other way around. And the kid is the one who gets his parents back when they come back from the dead.They can’t give him any little brothers & sisters, but still.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    A sob attacked his throat…. while the other yanked the short cord. The heavy blade raced to the bottom of the shaft.

    Even when they’re not trying to write slash-fic, they’re writing slash-fic…

    He was glad for the vomit that gushed from him, allowing him to sob openly.
    Yes, because “sobbing” is so much like “retching”. 

    Seemingly all in one motion, the assistant fastened the clamp and stood quickly with both hands raised to indicate he was clear of the blade path…
    How do you fasten a clamp, then quickly stand and raise both hands as “seemingly all one motion”? If you were kneeling or bent over to start, then after your hands moved to fasten a clamp, moving your body upright while raising your hands could be part of a single motion, but that only happens after you’ve fastened the clamp. “fastening the clamp” sounds like something that requires at least one hand and some effort;  closing a latch, turning a lock, or fastening a hinge all sound more like fluid motion. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    He was glad for the vomit that gushed from him, allowing him to sob openly. Tears cascaded as he thought of the cold workmanlike crews that would remove heads and bodies and make room for the next and the next and the next. As he stood in the cool grass, convulsing now in dry heaves, he covered his ears in a vain attempt to muffle the thuds and cheers, thuds and cheers.

    Well, I have to give some props here, with Buck experiencing an actual human emotion that is expressed in a very visceral way.  Makes a nice change of pace from his dismissive attitude for other’s concerns most of the rest of the time.  Sympathizing with the condemned?  Being disgusted at the blood lust of an angry crowd?  Horrified by mass executions to the point that your stomach convulses and involuntarily voids its contents?  Congratulations, Buck, you have achieved a level of humanity hitherto unknown to you.  

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Is there any scene in any book in which Buck is not shown to be a wuss???  I mean sure, he could attempt to save dozens of people from the fiery torments of hell, but instead…he pukes.  Also, he feels really sad on the inside.

    What a heroic prince.

  • Tybult

    He was glad for the vomit that gushed from him, allowing him to sob openly.

     Reading this, I get an image of Buck crying and vomiting at the same time. It’s very… South Park-esque:

    “Uh Hurghblurghblurghblurgh! Uh Hurghblurghblurghblurgh!”

    I’m probably a bad person for enjoying that so much.

  • mirele

    I remember reading that scene and just being FURIOUS at the authors. Their characters were chickensh*ts! Not only could they not rescue people, they couldn’t even bring themselves to confess their own faith. 

  • Zippy

    Now I can’t wait for Fred to start on Book #8. Decapitations are a nasty business, but at least they’ll make for a more interesting story than the endless phone-tag and travel logistics we’ve been getting. Oh, wait, this is L&J we’re talking about. No doubt they’ll find a way to make even execution scenes seem boring.

    In #9 Chloe watches TV and someone dies horribly. Chloe calls the TV feed “boring.” Maybe she went to the john during the death and missed it?

  • VMink

    It sounds like LeHaye was inspired by Thief in the Night and decided to do his own little shout-out.

  • Tricksterson

    I know the guillotine wasn’t invented until the 18th century but there must be something about them that strikes a chord in PMDs because they’re the favored method of execution by the Anti-Christ in The Christ Clone Trilogy as well.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Also:

    One of the stranger things about LB is the way the authors seem to think that their novel, their work of fiction, serves as “proof” of their claims. (From Faith vs Reason)

    You know, this kind of habit of assuming the conclusion in a circular-reasoning form may be a reason why some fundamentalists enjoy the LB books; they’re already primed to accept the way the books present a possible future world.

  • DwightBlackduck

    If I’m remembering things correctly, Randy Balmer’s father Clarence actually has a bit part in the movie. Mustard Seed was based in Des Moines and shot the movie in and around the city. They used many locals as extras. Clarence Balmer was pastor of the Westchester Evangelical Free Church at the time. 

  • Kadh2000

    OMG, I’ve seen this movie and I’m not evangelical at all.

  • CoolHandLNC

    Wow, what an amazing bit of 70’s-ness. I had forgotten how awful that decade could be. I kind of miss disco, though. I never thought that would happen, but there was at least a sort of optimism to it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Honestly, the 70s wasn’t the worst, considering in that era we still at least paid lip service to the idea that rich people had to pay a fairly hefty chunk in taxes and mass vaccination was taken as a given, and we still thought we might see moon colonies by 2000.

  • CoolHandLNC

    Hey, all I meant was that the culture was pretty cheesy. 

  • Danielle Custer

    “…we still thought we might see moon colonies by 2000.”

    Oh to be young and hopeful again.(Disclaimer: I’m 26)

  • P J Evans

     I was hoping for L-5s by 2050, and moon colonies somewhere along there.

  • Martin Pennington

    Now at 50 I can still remember the negativism of the pre-millennialism but even at 18 I was convinced they were wrong and the world was getting better. The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone and a mountain to fill the whole earth. On another point don’t forget the disaster moves of that era, Poseidon adventure, Towering inferno and earth quake to name a few were all very negative. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    A candidate who speaks of hope and change isn’t going to appeal to someone whose eschatology insists that hope and change are nothing more than illusions “in a fallen, depraved world destined for the fire.”

    Based on that criteria, what kind of candidate would they actually like?  George W. Bush was really popular with Evangelicals in general, is it because he was one of their tribe?  Or did something in his policies speak to the expectation that things will never get better?  

    I find it kind of difficult to imagine someone being appealing as an authority on the basis of “the world sucks and I can’t do anything about it.”  Even if everything is going to hell, I find that there is some existential comfort in attempting to fight back against that destiny and trying to improve despite any such attempts doomed to failure.  For example, we will all inevitably die, but that is no reason to give up trying to live.  

  • Twig

     “Or did something in his policies speak to the expectation that things will never get better?”

    I…. I…. no, it’s too easy.

  • Ben English

    W.’s support among evangelicals on the social side is really only related to the Big Two things that Fred often emphasizes dominate evangelical politics: abortion and marriage. Of course Bush wasn’t really a crusader on either of those issues, but between that and the fact that he was open about his faith, it was enough for ‘values voters’ to get behind him.

    I think a much bigger and darker reason is related to the wars in the middle east. Evangelicals, especially those obsessed with the apocalypse, love to attack Islamic terrorists and dictators. They hold them up as paragons of evil because, I think, it helps distract from the broad Evangelical failure to address less overt evil here at home.

    Combine that with the fact that many evangelicals find conflict in the middle east inherently exciting (because the more it escalates, the closer we get to the attack on Israel that requires God to intervene supernaturally, as witnessed by our friend Buck Williams)

    tl;dr
    Evangelicals loved Bush because they thought he might bring about the Apocalypse and are now disenchanted with him because hit didn’t.

  • Tricksterson

    Also because he was remarkably reticent to attack Obama in either election, his support for McCain was lukewarm at best and he seemed to stay completely neutral in this election, I can’t recall him making a single statement in support of Romney.

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    LOLlercoaster!  I actually have that same version of “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” on my iPod this very moment!  I had ripped an mp3 of old cassettes I recorded in my teens 25 years ago, and came across this song, but paused it to take calls at work.  Now, I pull up this article, and it’s almost like I was subconsciously (or supernaturally) anticipating it when I did this!

    Man, memories…  I remember going to a (Christian) bookstore and having a clerk try to track down any recordings of that song by that band.  If I recall, they were called “the Fishmarket Combo”…

    Oh, well.  I’m going to have to replay this now as a backdrop for reading my favorite literary deconsstruction series on favorite blog.  This makes an incredible 40th birthday present!

  • PandaRosa

    If you want real grade-Z schlock, look for “If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?” which by all standards should have been a triple X-rated film (and I’m so mad it is not!). As it stands, it features unintelligible preaching, a Commie take-over of the US and the worse special effects in the entire history of cinema. 

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    @35c765fb1a7e4124f5d82ad0382d684b:disqus

    “If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?”: Didn’t that one start a small meme on YouTube with a scene showing the Commies trying to get children to turn away from religion by having them pray to Jesus for candy?  Then, when the miraculous candy didn’t appear the soldiers gave them some, saying, “Your Jesus can’t do it!”

  • PandaRosa

    Something like that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I saw that. It’s from “Europa, Europa.” The POV character had joined Russian communists when he escaped the Nazi invasion of Poland; relatively speaking the Soviets were a tad less hostile to Jews.

    He later managed to actually get away with pretending to be a Volksdeutsche in the Wehrmacht or Hitlerjugend, as I recall.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    I have seen the back of a VHS of one of these films – this one possibly. I remember passing ot back to the Christian Union member who showed it to me and saying – paraphrase – “How do you intend to persuade people who don’t already believe this that’s it’s true is they think the bible if just literature”? (They’d invited the  muslims and hindu bods that came to the multi faith centre to the viewing). Surprisingly they got the point and showed the video as their view of the end of history and then asked to peeps from other religions to share their religion’s view of the end times. One of them – a lovely girl who was an ex-sikh even said that ‘this way we all know what to look out for if we’re the wrong ones”. (I wasn’t there bit my muslim peeps were impressed by the attemps to provide food acceptible to them and found it fun. The hindus just thought it was fun.”

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     sorry for  typos. Bad cold = drunk

  • PandaRosa

    Oop, nearly forgot the innumerable dead bodies in every other scene. 

  • flat

    Interesting, this kind of evangelism isn’t something I had to endure in my youth.
    and it is fascinating how it shaped American evangelism.

    In the end I think the difference between Fred’s evangelism and their “evangelism” can be explained by two quotes:

    Fred evangelism:
    No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
    Matthew 24:36-37:36

    a thief in the night evangelism:
    In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war. For there is no peace among the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.
    warhammer 40.000 tagline

  • Magic_Cracker

    How many points does RoboJesus give you in a typical battle?

  • Lliira

    This kind of thinking is nothing new or unusual. Ancient Greeks lamented how the young people were so much worse than they were when they were young. Believing the world will end — or at least just keep getting worse and worse and worse, because things were so much better when we were young and we were so much better when we were young, so there’s a reckoning for those bad young people who keep CHANGING things — is a belief that’s as old as human culture. As is the fact that we move inexorably forward. Jealousy of youth, and fear of the people who possess it, is something that seems ingrained in many people.

    It’s not an inherently American thing, an inherently Christian thing, or an inherently Evangelical thing. Trying to claim this fact of human history is ours, all ours! is pure vanity. Studying this tendency across time and cultures and seeing how it relates to today would be worthwhile. But no one’s gonna make a better wheel if their starting point is to pretend they invented the concept of a wheel.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     There’s a book of Cornish folklore that deals with this. I can possibly find the book bit the person reciting the myth said something like “she didn’t listen to her parents as young people never do.”

  • fraser

     What Lliira said. Even back in ancient Rome, the poet Horace grumbled about people obsessed with the good old days when they were young and everything was better.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Like they say, youth is wasted on the young, and wisdom on the old.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The famous pig thing starts in The Mark, see the image link.

    http://picturepush.com/public/11368024

  • Tricksterson

    What’s with the nostril obssession?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s hilarious. XD Sidesplittingly hilarious. XD

  • histrogeek

    What is it with the guillotines any way?
    I imagine Thompson wanted something visually impressive but cheap. Electrocutions need competent makeup people and some special effects, poisonings (gas, injection) are boring looking, and shootings require extras (plus guns don’t kill people ya know).  Still doesn’t explain why L&J would revive it decades later in a book. I guess it combines something exotic and well-associated with an antichristian campaign, albeit a really old one. And good, death penalty loving, RTC Americans never used a guillotine so less association. Burning have a strong Christian association (even if not RTC American variant) and hangings, well, a few of the Southern pastors buying his movie probably had seen those up-close.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I imagine Thompson wanted something visually impressive but cheap. 

    What’s wrong with the classic “two boards, three nails”? 
    The Mel Gibson pre-Jesus torture pr0n “Braveheart” showed that tying someone to a pole and cutting their throat was pretty dramatic. 

    I just don’t understand the infatuation with the guillotine for the end-times. Especially not the “mobile-via-moped” version that keeps showing up.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Me neither. Did that punishment technique even exist in the time of Revelation?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Beheading existed as a punishment the the guillotine wasn’t invented till 1791 or so, by Dr. Joseph Ignace-Guillotin, who later became one of its victims.

  • aunursa

    FWIW: According to Wikipedia, that’s not accurate.  He wasn’t the inventor, and a different person named Guillotin was beheaded.

  • Magic_Cracker

    WHAT?!?! MY 10TH WORLD HISTORY TEACHER LIED TO ME?!?! HOW COULD YOU, MS. KINZLER?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Er… “…10th *grade* world history teacher…” Looks like Ms. Smith failed me too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    As Sir Terry Pratchett notes, speaking of the recurring urban legends of men dying at the end of their own inventions:  “Colonel Shrapnel wasn’t blown up, M. Guillotin died with his head on, Colonel Gatling wasn’t shot. If it hadn’t been for Sir William Blunt-Instrument, the rumour would never have got started.”

  • Twig

     I do believe the man who owned the Segway company was, in fact, killed by a Segway at the time of owning the company.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    It wasn’t the owner, but the European distributor, IIRC. 

  • Mrs Grimble

     No he was the company owner at the time.  And yes, he really did fall from a Segway – although it was landing at the bottom of a  200-foot cliff that actually killed him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    What does Sir Pratchett say about General Hooker?  Or John Crapper?

  • Magic_Cracker

    I just don’t understand the infatuation with the guillotine for the end-times. Especially not the “mobile-via-moped” version that keeps showing up.

    Agreed, especially when  this would be so much more badass — and well within any stop-motion animator’s budget.

  • Magic_Cracker

    You don’t even need two boards and three nails. You just need a tree. Of woe.

  • Andy

    What is it with the guillotines any way?

    I think it has to do with Revelation 20:4:

    And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands.

    So beheading is specifically mentioned in Revelation, although of course not guillotines (which didn’t exist yet). Therefore, the Antichrist must literally behead his enemies, just as his soldiers must literally be horsemen. (That’s also in Revelation somewhere, although I don’t know the verse.) 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    So beheading is specifically mentioned in Revelation, 

    Excellent! Thank you for looking that up! 

    Again, we see that the author failed to do his research. There are so many great ways to behead someone that the guillotine just seems bland and uninspired.

    Heavy axes and large swords worked well historically. Hanging with a noose actually decapitates folks pretty well if that’s what you’re going for. (being a hangman really was something of a skill; too short a drop and the condemned either suffocates or strangles, too long a drop and you tear off the head, and the distance of the drop was a function of the weight of the condemned…)

    For a more high-tech decapitation… does anyone else remember the stories around 1st generation passenger airbags? The ones that were designed around a passenger being 6′ tall, and that when deployed on children and short women actually caused decapitation? I could see Nicky Fire-On-The designing a pneumatic guillotine, and boasting how it was derived from air-bag technology. 

  • aunursa

    From the Wikipedia article on Joseph-Ignace Guillotin:

    At that time, beheading in France was typically done by axe or sword, which did not always cause immediate death. Additionally, beheading was reserved for the nobility, while commoners were typically hanged… Despite this proposal, Guillotin was opposed to the death penalty and hoped that a more humane and less painful method of execution would be the first step toward a total abolition of the death penalty.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     As I understand it, before the Guillotine, it was customary to tip the axeman before they blindfolded you, that he might be inspired to get the job done properly on the first stroke.

  • Twig

     I heard that too, which was why Anne Bolyn asked for a swordsman to behead her, because he would do it in one strike, I guess?

    Which leads to my most painfully painful nitpick of all time in that old animated Sinbad movie from Dreamworks, which is really far better than it got credit for, and the Eris animation is spectacular I’ll shut up now.

  • P J Evans

     And stainless steel isn’t what you  want for a blade; it’s too soft. You need something more like axes and swords.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Most swords are absolutely terrible beheading devices. Hollywood and fantasy novels like to have people swiping their enemies’ heads off with one blow, but swords are not for that. The vast majority of swords are gonna take more than one blow, and it’s a lot easier (and safer for yourself) to kill or injure them in other ways. Melee weapons were not made with beheading in mind. An executioner’s ax would probably not make a good weapon in the heat of battle.

  • veejayem

    Using a sword or an axe would almost certainly take more than one blow and there are plenty of reports of botched executions, such as that of Mary, Queen of Scots. The usual practice was for the headsman to just keep hacking away until the condemned man or woman was dead. And Heaven help you if your executioner was nervous or inexperienced, had sweaty hands or had primed himself with alcohol beforehand. 

  • Hth

    What it is with guillotines is that the right views the French Revolution as their template for all fear-of-the-left.   You know what happens if you don’t love your betters enough?  GUILLOTINES HAPPEN.  Ever since it was actually happening, the French Revolution has absolutely terrified authoritarians, and whether they know it or not, authoritarian Evangelicals are saturated in that bone-deep belief that all further attempts at liberte, egalite, and fraternite will inevitably end with Robespierre.  Honestly, “because guillotines” is the subtext of practically everything the far right says.  It’s the equivalent of the insistence that without devotion to (their particular) God, everyone will be a Randian selfish sociopath — the insistence that without obedience to temporal authority, the streets will run red with blood at the command of power-mad progressives screaming about inequality. 

  • arcseconds

     I’m with Hth on the guillotines thing.   It’s the fear of the French Revolution.

    Hth emphasizes the authoritarian dimension here.  That probably needs a little clarification because Robespierre was also an authoritarian.   What I’d want to draw attention to is that the Revolution was fundamentally a radical, intellectual, rationalist assault on tradition and  ‘superstition’.

    While I’m sure Hth is right in thinking evangelicals who use guillotines as scary things in books are really uncomfortable with égalité and fear that this talk of egalitarianism might mean they lose their beach house and their blue chips and their privilege, I think it’s the rationalistic intellecualism and assault on religion (along with the totilitarianism and violence, of course) that they really dread.

  • Matt Mikalatos

    I saw “Thief in the Night” as a kid (age seven or so) and it scared the crap out of me. That scene where the little girl comes home from school and there’s a teapot boiling over and she thinks that her family has been raptured always made me afraid when the house was quiet….

  • MaryKaye

    There is a horrid discontinuity between the (actually somewhat moving) martyrdom scene, and the idea which drove these books to be written in the first place, namely that you should worship God because otherwise *he will torture you, kill you, and torture you some more.*

    Standing up to the torturers and murders is a virtue in this scene, but overall it’s a vice, the worst possible vice.  I don’t see any way to reconcile that emotionally.  If your sympathies are with the victim here, they should be with the victims in _Glorious Appearing_ too.

    I imagine the Jesus of the Gospels welcoming a newly dead soul.  She says to him, now that there is nothing left but truth, “I never loved you, but I served you because otherwise you would hurt me.  I tried to love you.  Please, please don’t hurt me.”  And Jesus weeps.  If there is anything clear about his personality in the Gospels it’s that he wouldn’t be pleased by this.

     

  • Ima Pseudonym

     I figure that this scene would play out different in Ellenjay World.  One of two things would happen:

    (1) TurboJesus smiles and hands her her very own crown.  Then he erases everything that was her and replaces it with happy sunshine and flowers!
    (2) She never reaches Heaven anyway, since she was incapable of making the final leap and actually coming to love her torturer.  She’s one of the damned who gets to spend eternity screaming in pain as she incinerates while endlessly proclaiming him Lord.

    (K, dunno if this part here needs a warning, but…consider yourself warned, since it’s a bit more gruesome and deals with the topic of executions and missed opportunities.  I’ll ROT13 it so no one has to read it if they don’t want to… )

    Nf sbe gur orurnqvat guvat…V erzrzore gur cebcntnaqn gur sne evtug jnf guebjvat nebhaq qhevat gur 90f qhevat gur svefg Thys Jne.  Pbzcnerq gb jung gurl fnvq Fnqqnz naq uvf fbaf bs qbvat jvgu jbbqpuvccref naq vaqhfgevny znaardhva fuerqqref,  n thvyybgvar jbhyq or cbfvgviryl zrepvshy.  V’ir gubhtug fvapr gura gung vs gurl ernyyl jnagrq gb cynl hc gur ubeebe bs orurnqvat, gurl’q fgneg sebz gur BGURE raq naq unir fbzr fbeg bs zrpunavfz gb fnir gur urnq nsgre gur obql unq orra erqhprq gb chyc.  Gurl pbhyq rira cynl vg hc yvxr vg’f n jnl bs erqhpvat hfryrff qvffvqragf gb hfrshy pbzcbfg sbe tebjvat sbbq gb srrq gur uhatel znffrf bs fheivibef, be navzny srrq be fbzrguvat, znxvat vg zber raivebazragnyyl fbhaq (lbh xabj, na nqqvgvbany qvt ng raivebazragnyvfz naq pbafreingvbavfgf).  Rira orggre, vs gur fuerqqref unq inevnoyr fcrrq frggvatf, gurl pbhyq ubyq bhg gur cebzvfr bs hfvat gur UVTU frggvat sbe n dhvpxre, yrff ntbavmvat qrngu sbe crbcyr vs gurl tnir hfrshy vasbezngvba ohg qvqa’g gnxr gur znex, be  hfr gur fybjre barf vs gurl ernyyl jnagrq gb tvir gur pebjq n tbbq fubj.  Gurl pbhyq rira hfr vg nf n jnl bs fubjvat ubj qrtrarengr naq oybbqguvefgl gur Nagvpuevfg’f pvgvmraf ernyyl ner, jvgu crbcyr purrevat nf ivpgvzf ner fybjyl fuerqqrq be znxvat orgf ba ubj ybat nal tvira ivpgvz jvyy gnxr gb fgbc fpernzvat, jvgu znlor fbzrguvat guebja nobhg yrggvat gur pebjq qrpvqr jurgure be abg pregnva ivpgvzf ner rkrphgrq (URNQ RKRPHGVBARE:  “Naq Zvfgre Fzvgu urer frrf gur jvfqbz bs Bhe Tybevbhf Yrnqre’f beqre, naq nsgre zhpu fbhy-frnepuvat, ur unf svanyyl gnxra Uvf Znex bs Yblnygl.  Naq gur Gehgu bs Uvf Jvfqbz unf fnirq uvf fbhy.  Ohg…uvf qrfcvpnoyr npgvbaf unir gnxra gur yvirf bs  fb znal bs lbhe sryybj Pvgvmraf, naq gubfr zra naq jbzra ner fgvyy qrnq, naq gur cnva naq fhssrevat ur urycrq urnc ba nyy bs lbh, gurve sevraqf, gurve arvtuobef, gurve snzvyl, lrg erznvaf.  Fb gbavtug V yrnir uvf sngr va lbhe unaqf, zl sevraqf…fubhyq jr nyybj Zvfgre Fzvgu gb yvir, xabjvat jung ur’f qbar gb fb znal?  Be fubhyq jr qrny uvz gur whfgvpr ur fb evtugyl qrfreirf?  Jung fnl lbh?”  PEBJQ (punagvat):  “XVYY UVZ! XVYY UVZ!  XVYY UVZ…!”  Okay, I think I suck at dialogue, but hopefully you get the idea…

  • GDwarf

    I think there’s also something…visceral about a guillotine. It’s a device that can only have on purpose. What’s more, unlike weapons, it can only be used on someone who is helpless. It is strictly and solely a device of execution.

    It’s also recent enough that it hasn’t been romanticized much, while still being old enough that it doesn’t have…I don’t know, it’s something that attaches to the new. Electric chairs are terrible things, but they seem almost ridiculous next to a guillotine.

  • Carstonio

    I wonder how many of the rape apologists pictured in the Election 2012 Losers entry saw A Thief in the Night in their formative years.

  • Will Hennessy

    Fred, your Yeats reference was far more subtle than Stephen King’s in The Stand. But I love it just the same.

    And if anyone here hasn’t read THAT book, go now. I’m about 40% done and it is far more than simply fantastic.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That part where Starkey recites the poem? Holy smokes, that scene was bleak. I think it’s probably about time I re-read that book. Even if that shifting-antigen disease gives me  the massive heebie-jeebies. :O

  • Will Hennessy

     It was INCREDIBLY bleak. Though so well-written! His characters, they’re so real! I don’t have (too much) of the heebie-jeebies throughout my reading (though yes, both Flagg and Captain Trips are terrible thoughts to think about), but it’s just such a real world, with such real people in it. You almost feel like you could attend a Larry Underwood concert, or that you might see Frannie Goldsmith sitting next to you in English class.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh yeah. And the numerous HOLYFUCKSHITBALLSTHISISSCARY scenes where people had to walk through tunnels in the dead of night?

    Gaaaaaaaaaah. I never made the mistake of reading that book too close to bedtime, I don’t think.

  • Garageman_mike

    According to Stephen Clarke, in his book, “1000 Years of Annoying the French”, the guillotine was not even a French invention. It’s first recorded use was in Halifax in the north of England in 1286. There is a modern replica of it in Gibbet Street in Halifax today.

    There are limited historical references to guillotine use in Halifax in the intermittent 500 years, but apparently as many as 25 people were beheaded with it during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was last used in 1650.

    The crime for which you could be beheaded was generally theft of farm animals such as cows, horses, sheep, etc. The beast that was stolen would be made responsible for pulling a rope that pulled out the pin that released the blade. A rough kind of justice there, I suppose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    On a vaguely LB-related note, I don’t know if it’s the result of my years of reading Fred’s dissections and having the excerpts from the actual text invading my subconscious, or if it’s somehow an inevitable consequence of writing about the end of the world, but I’m finding that as I work on my NaNWriMo novel, which deals, in part, with the impending extinction of humanity, I keep putting a lot of focus on two things:

    1.  Traffic/travel logistics
    2.  Phone calls

    Granted, I’m not reaching the levels of fetishizing the two things that Jenkins soars beyond, but I can’t help but find it somewhat distressing.
    Then again, maybe I’m just too sensitized to it.
    Okay, back to trying not to devote too many of my 50,000 words to travel and telecommunication.
    Carry on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior at the age of 9 after being made to see this film. The kids in our church were required to watch it on the first night of revival. The next day, I came home from church and saw that my dads truck was in the drive way but he was nowhere to be found (he had ridden with a cousin on some errand) and I freaked out. I walked the aisle that night.

    I attribute the hostility I have for organized religion to this very day to this movie and my subsequent realization in high school that I had become a Christian solely due to an act of psychological terrorism perpetrated against me when I was just a child, and that, moreover, nearly everyone I knew who was a professing Christian had themselves joined the church before puberty as a result of some similar iteration of the same terrorist meme. I did not then nor do I know now a single person who made the considered, reasoned decision to become an evangelical Christian as an adult. Everyone I know personally who is an evangelical joined before the age of ten after a mixture of societal conditioning and Rapture propaganda.

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    Let’s see… Youth minister had us watch “thief in the night”.  Yes, it’s cheap looking and has poor acting but the fact that this piece of film has terrified people in numbers that Wes Craven would be jealous of.  Say what you will, but that one shot where they lead that girl off, and she runs back in screaming to take the mark.  And then the the other girl enters the room and sees that bloody guillotine… Still remember it vividly, even though it was 20+ years ago. 

    Sorry, but if you have to threaten people to get them to convert, then the conversion is meaningless.  It’s just as if some psycho kidnapped a woman, pointed a gun and demanded that she declare love for him.

    @Alan Alexander – I’ve known adults who converted, but they all did so when they were at the very bottom.  They turned to Jesus to get off drugs, or to stop drinking, or they were severely depressed.

  • Ian needs a nickname

    I think there’s such a thing as premillenial optimism.

    I’m coming at this from an Occupy Vancouver background.  There’s such a thing as having too much hope that a better world is just around the corner.  It makes you frantic and it sets you up for disappointment.  Done wrong, postmillenialism is exhausting.

    What you need to turn premillenialism into something optimistic is a serious belief that Jesus was right when he said that “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”  Allow that we don’t live in a perfectible world, and acknowledge that “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made,” but keep your eyes open and sometimes you will catch a glimpse of how things ought to be.  Peace, forgiveness and unity where there has always been strife, openhearted discourse where you’d expect the blindness of privilege,  justice where there’s always been oppression.  

    It won’t last.  People will screw up any good thing that people know how to build.  Good things fall apart.  However, the Kingdom will still be there, half-visible even in the rubble and the ashes.  A mustard seed that’s going to grow, a little yeast that will make the whole loaf rise.

    That’s why optimistic premillenialism doesn’t lead to passivity.  Do you really want to wait until the end of the world to know what a community based on love and respect would look like?  Never stop clearing away the rubble humans are making of the world, because the Kingdom’s down there somewhere, and just a glimpse of it would be worth a lot of digging.     

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

     Occupy Vancouver

    *wavewave* Hi!

    There was even an “Occupy Kelowna”, by the way :)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I like this.  I think that, from an existential perspective, that is an ideal way to think about it.  

    Just because you know you can never win does not mean you do not try.  Try, and take pride in what you do accomplish in service to the ideal, even if the ideal is fundamentally unreachable.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Cole/623541265 Roger Cole

    Exactly, it doesn’t matter if you succeed in making the world a better place as much if you try. Like Fred frequently quotes Martin Luther as saying, “If I knew the world was going to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.”

  • Rebecca

     “You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.”

  • P J Evans

     I met one very similar:
    “Thee is not required to attain perfection, but neither is thee free to abstain from the effort’.

  • http://schweinsty.livejournal.com schweinsty

    Man, I kind of have a soft spot for A Thief in the Night (in much the same way I have a spot for The Day of the Triffids and The Onslaught from Rigel), and I think – well, one time it got me out of what would surely have been another dull, pointed sermon from my youth pastor (who thought my sister and I were evil because we wore wide-strap tank tops and talked with boys occasionally one-one-one), and it was maybe preachy, but it didn’t really take the bloodthirsty enjoyment in the plight of the lost the way Left Behind and others did, but mostly for that one teeny little bit, when everyone’s just disappeared and Patty hears the lawn mower going…and she looks outside, and the lawn mower is trundling down the verge with no one pushing it… – yeah, that little bit has stuck with me since; shoestring budget and inexperienced actors, but those couple of seconds encapsulated the wrongness of  the Rapture better than LaHaye  and Jenkins managed in over a dozen bloated books.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    “This is true in the Left Behind series as well, as the Tribulation Force draws on ever-more sophisticated means to battle for Christianity even in the End Times. ”
    …No offence, but are we really letting Frykholm get away with saying this? ‘Battle’ and ‘Tribulation Force’  doesn’t exactly belong in the same sentence, does it?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    “Ever-more sophisticated” doesn’t really belong there, either.  At one point (one!), they use Big Giant Guns, but other than that, it’s just different planes and helicopters.

    And, as you point out, they’re not using them to battle anything.  They’re using them so they can have the “unspeakable privilege” of witnessing God’s wrath against those who would dare not believe.

  • Kiba

    ever-more sophisticated means to battle for Christianity even in the End Times.

    The thought that ran through my head is that they finally uncovered the secret of how to kill the Antichrist through passive aggressiveness.  Which, in turn, made me think of this: http://www.lfgcomic.com/page/612

  • http://www.facebook.com/thatjeffcarter Jeff Carter

    I linked to this post in my blog : http://thatjeffcarterwashere.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-40-year-old-thief-in-night.html

  • Parisienne

    I think the guillotine is being used to get a visceral “ugh how barbaric” reaction from the core audience. The poor wickle RTCs are getting killed in a way that involves blood and mess.* Many of said core audience are not necessarily opposed to capital punishment per se  so they steer clear of the execution methods that are currently popular in the US – it causes too much cognitive dissonance.

    The irony is that Guillotin invented his contraption as a supposedly more humane way of lopping someone’s head off than the other execution methods that were in use at the time (because death is instant).

    *Actually death by firing squad also involves blood and mess, as Camus points out with revulsion in La Peste. But somehow people often manage to not think about that one too much. And man, I’m getting morbid.

  • aunursa

    I think the guillotine is being used to get a visceral “ugh how barbaric” reaction from the core audience. The poor wickle RTCs are getting killed in a way that involves blood and mess.

    It’s not just RTCs.  In the Left Behind series they use the guillotine on anyone who refuses to accept the Mark.  That includes Jews, Muslims, and others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    So it only took them 8 books to realize Muslims exists?

  • aunursa

    Two of the RTCs are former Muslims: Abdulah “Smith” Ababneh (nickname Smitty, 1st appears in Book #5), a Jordanian air force pilot, and Albie (real name unknown, 1st appears in Book #4), a Middle Eastern black market arms dealer.

    Other than a Book #2 mention of an agreement in which the Muslims will move the Dome of the Rock so that the Temple can be rebuilt, the Muslim religion is not discussed until Book #10.  There is an extended scene where an underground group of four dozen Muslims in China is discovered by the GC and led to the guillotines.  But not before a trio of angels proselytizes the Muslims, so that the Tribulation Force spy, Ming Toy, doesn’t have to put her own neck on the line.

    The speaker seemed to quickly assess the situation and began to close his remarks. But often looking directly at his captors, he was devout and defiant to the end. “And so,” he said, “we view god as more than the creator of all things, but also all knowing, full of justice, loving and forgiving, and all powerful. We believe he revealed the Koran to our prophet so he could guide us to justice and truth. We are his highest creation, but we are weak and selfish and too easily tempted by Satan to forget our purpose in life.”

    He paused to gaze at the GC once again. “We know that the very word Islam means to submit. And those of us who submit to god, repenting of our sins, gain paradise in the end. Those who do not will suffer in hell.”

    The Muslims then bowed toward Mecca and began to pray — all but three.

    From Book #10: The Remnant

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    We honour the brave sacrifice of your soul. You must have read through the series more than once to acquire the encyclopedic knowledge you have, and I doubt anyone could make it through that without some scars. [Inset either a bash on your political beliefs or a joke about paper cuts here. Either works].
    Also, the name Ming Toy? That hurts a million times more than Nicolae Blackrock Mountain’s ever will.

  • aunursa

    You like Ming Toy?  Her brother is Chang Wong.  Their parents are Mr. and Mrs. Wong (we never learn the parents’ first names.)  Eventually Ming marries Ree Woo, a Korean.  So her surname changes from Chang to Toy to Woo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    You hear that sound? That’s the sound of my inner author crying. Ow >.<

  • Turcano

    I kind of hoped they would name an Asian charactger Ching Chong, because if you’re going to go racist, you’d might as well go really racist.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You should see what they did with Chang Wong’s dad. He speaks in the typically stereotyped “bad Asian English” when he’s demanding Chang be the first to get his Mark.

  • aunursa

    “Missah Akbar, you speak Chinese? … Pakistani? Me no. English OK, OK? … Yes, Wong! Question for you. New worker get loyalty mark first, yah? . . . OK! How soon? … Not till then? … Maybe sooner, OK! Mrs. Wong and me get too? OK? Son, Chang Wong, want be first to get mark.”
    The boy cried out in Chinese, and it sounded as if Mr. Wong covered the phone before screaming at him. Someone left the room, David assumed Chang, and slammed a door.
    “Missah Akbar, you do mark on boy, mother, father? …. You no do? Who? … Moon? Walter Moon? . . . Not Moon himself? . . .Moon people, OK! Son first! Picture! Take picture son! . . . When? . . . Yes. I talk to Moon people. Bye-bye.”From Book #8: The Mark

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Holy crap. That’s so racist they should get Christopher Lee to play him in the movie.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And then there’s Hannah Palemoon, and Mac McCullum giving Abdullah Smith the radio call sign, “camel jockey”. (-_-)

  • Persia

    Wow, just when you thought you’d hit the apex of racism, they surprise you.

  • Carstonio

    Has anyone calculated when Fred might get to those later books? Sounds as if they get worse with each volume.

  • Jmu

     They do. In my opinion, book 1 was by far the best of the series. It was the only one that qualified as a complete novel (with introduction, rising and falling action, and a climax). The remaining books fall into the trap that a lot of long series become; they turn from being complete books in and of themselves to little mini-episodes, with very little forward momentum (in plot, character development or even in the time elapsed from beginning to end).

    They end up like soap operas, which (if you know they work) tend to have 50 minutes of padding and recaps and 10 minutes of actual forward motion ending in a cliffhanger). That’s pretty much Left Behind in a nutshell.

  • aunursa

    The remaining books introduce new characters, some of whom last for a few books, others of whom are killed off after a chapter or two.  They also introduce a number of tangential plots that are never resolved or even advanced further.

  • Jmu

     Yeah, soap operas. Very little forward motion, but a lot of padding. There was no need to introduce three or four different tech guys (Hassid, Chang Wong, Donny Moore, whoever else) if they were all going to have the same role and be functionally interchangeable. It was just straight padding.

  • aunursa

    Tim LaHaye wanted to emphasize that the vast majority of people will not survive the Tribulation.

    Bruce’s message was that Jesus was coming again in what the Bible called “the glorious appearing” seven years after the beginning of the Tribulation. By then, he said, three-fourths of the world’s remaining population would be wiped out, and probably a larger percentage of believers in Christ.

    Tribulation Force, p 60

    Thus no character can be assured of survival to the next chapter or book*, and every character is placed in danger throughout the series.

    * Except for the “safe” characters: Rayford, Buck, and Chloe — all of whom survive until Book #11.

    Moderator: Let’s take our first question from Holly—Jerry, since none of the main 3 characters died in The Remnant, I’m wondering if you have feelings towards these characters and also hate to find them dead?
    Jerry Jenkins: I’d hate to find any of them dead, but soon two of them will be.

    hattielover: are buck and chloe going to make it all the way to the glorious appering?
    Jerry Jenkins: Only one of the original Trib Force members (Bruce, Rayford, Buck, Chloe) will survive till the GA. And one of them is already gone

    YoungTribForce2003: Please say Buck will make to the G.A.
    kgreen20: I don’t want Rayford, Chloe, or Buck to die! Couldn’t they all survive to see Jesus return?
    Jerry Jenkins: They could but it wouldn’t. Wouldn’t be realistic… Fiction, ironically, has to be believable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    *groans* In light of…that thing…I direct your attention to the Guant’s Ghosts novels. This too is not afraid to kill off main characters (after all, it takes place in the Warhammer 40k universe), but only does it just often enough for it to keep having an impact. Doesn’t hurt that the characters are so rich and well written we still find ourselves missing their unique voices 10 books after their death.
    Think G.R.R. Martin is a sadist? He’s got nothing on Dan Abnett.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    *groans* In light of…that thing…I direct your attention to the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels. This too is not afraid to kill off main characters (after all, it takes place in the Warhammer 40k universe), but only does it just often enough for it to keep having an impact. Doesn’t hurt that the characters are so rich and well written we still find ourselves missing their unique voices 10 books after their death.
    Think G.R.R. Martin is a sadist? He’s got nothing on Dan Abnett.

    Yeah, but Abnett waits a few novels before he starts that.  It goes for almost five total books, where the only people who die are redshirts giving names an little else, while the reader has grown attached to the core cast.  Then… Wham!  After that, characters who have been with the reader for several books start dying off at a rate of one every book and a half.  

    “Men of Tanith!  Do you want to live forever!?”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Jerry Jenkins:They could but it wouldn’t. Wouldn’t be realistic… Fiction, ironically, has to be believable.

    No, the ironic thing is that Jenkins actually said that.  Assuming he is completely truthful when he wrote that and he does consider his scenario believable, then that says, as Fred has often pointed out, very odd things about his conception of the world.  

  • aunursa

    Sounds as if they get worse with each volume.

    Several weeks ago I rewrote a quote from Herb Brooks, the 1980 U.S. Olympic team’s hockey coach:  “Each book is worse than the one before.  And this chapter reads as if it’s in the middle of Book #6.”

  • Tricksterson

    We’ll all be dead of old age.

  • veejayem

    Hold on ~ one of the LB books actually has a scene in which Muslims bravely proclaim their faith in the face of death?!

  • aunursa

    Only half of the Muslims stay true to their faith.  The other half accept Jesus based on the superior arguments from the angels threat of eternal damnation.

  • http://nobleexperiments.blogspot.com/ NobleExperiments

    Does anyone remember another shown-in-church movie from that same era that was supposed to be a bad dream of what hell was like?  Seems like the protagonist had a dream about hell, then woke up to “real life” which started out like the dream.  I thought it was “A Thief in the Night” because the set-up – dream then not-dream – was the same, but apparently not.  I didn’t have nightmares about ATITN, but I certainly did about the hell one.  One scene has the protagonist laying on his back, having something that looked like a demon stabbing him in the stomach with a pike.  {shudders}

    I saw these in a small Southern Baptist church back in the 1970s, and my parents wondered why it was so easy for me to walk away from The Church when I left home.  Everything about “scare ’em into heaven” completely negates “God is Love”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    Someone else might have gotten to your question first, but just in case:I think you’re remembering a movie called “The Burning Hell”; It’s a Ron Ormond movie about a person who scoffs at (the movie’s take on) Christianity, dies in a motorcycle wreck, is stabbed in the stomach with a pike in Hell, and then wakes up to find it was all a dream and goes to an altar call.

    If I’m remembering my Christsploitation directors correctly, Ron Ormond made movies with titles like “The Monster and the Stripper” until he survived a plane crash and decided to dedicate his filmmaking career to Christ without changing his approach to the material at all since his “Untamed Mistress” days. He’s probably best known as the director of “If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?” now.

  • http://nobleexperiments.blogspot.com/ NobleExperiments

    Thanks. That sounds like it; the title doesn’t ring a bell, but your synopsis does.  Sheesh… just thinking about it will make the nightmares come back.  How people thought these movies would result in heartfelt, long-lasting conversions is beyond. me.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know, RubyTea reviewed a bunch of obscure Christian movies – check her blog. :)

  • Jeff

    If Fred is branching out from LB, might I suggest dealing with an awful book worthy of the LB treatment? Atlast f*cking Shrugged. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Fred’s got enough wretched prose on his  plate without adding more.

    Besides, one of our regulars is already going over Atlas Shrugged here.

  • Tricksterson

    there’s a site that alrady does that

  • http://anonymouslefty.wordpress.com/ Jeremy

    I love all the excitement and drama of the telephone box in the chase scene. Clearly the highlight for L&J.

    PS The helicopter chasing the ambulance is very The Fugitive (Harrison Ford’s version).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Beheading could be done with modern guns and the kind of ammunition available now, no?

  • P J Evans

    If Ellanjay’s impersonal inserts are going to be doing wholesale executions with a guillotine, they’re going to need a much better sanitation system, including air filtration if they’re doing it indoors. And biohazard suits.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    I just don’t understand the infatuation with the guillotine for the end-times. Especially not the “mobile-via-moped” version that keeps showing up.

    It might be reference to China and their Mobile Execution Unit, an honest-to-god Death Bus, because apparently they can’t be arsed to move the prisoner to the execution site.
    Or the Nazis.  They did the same thing.

     I do believe the man who owned the Segway company was, in fact, killed by a Segway at the time of owning the company.

    An experimental off-road four-wheel Segway at that, IIRC.

  • rizzo

    I don’t know about most Americans being PM’s, but I can say for certain that everyone up to the end of GenX is pretty screwed up from the threat of the world being blown up in a nuke war at any moment.

  • jedgeco

    “The guillotines I remember.”

    God, who could forget them?  Say what you will, that was at least a cinematically skillful sequence.  I clicked the YouTube link and skipped to the end and it played out exactly the way I remember from seeing it 20 years ago. 

  • jedgeco

    “The guillotines I remember.”

    God, who could forget them?  Say what you will, that was at least a cinematically skillful sequence.  I clicked the YouTube link and skipped to the end and it played out exactly the way I remember from seeing it 20 years ago. 

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    @rraszewski:disqus , @aunursa:disqus
    Nah, he would probably cost too much. Other white actors could work, though, as long as they jut their upper teeth out and slant the outer corners of their eyes upward with their fingers.

    Damn, I would buy an Evangelical book or movie if it portrayed WASPy straight Americans with the same level of clueless stereotyping. I mean, it blows the mind to see such lazy racism out there in writing done in the last 15 years.

    I mean, I strongly doubt this is an attempt to self-sabotage their evangelism
    by offending non-whites so as to not save as many of their souls. So what makes them think it’s acceptable?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The fact that LaHaye and Jenkins inhabit a cultural milieu that is so strongly straight white male Protestant that they don’t grasp that they need to do more than just rely on a captive audience and some quickie-mix characters to drive a good plot.

    for the n millionth time, omfg Christ Clone.

  • Tricksterson

    It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t, AFAIK written anything since.  I wonder why that is?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    I mean, I strongly doubt this is an attempt to self-sabotage their evangelism
    by offending non-whites so as to not save as many of their souls. So what makes them think it’s acceptable?

    Remember, for a lot of evangelicals, saving souls  is not the real point of evangelism. The real point is to strengthen the tribe. A key element of that is to make it so that other tribes won’t have you.

  • aunursa

    Left Behind – Chinese Edition

    “To say that Jerry Jenkins was a good writer, Cameron Williams had written, was like saying the Great Wall of China was long.”

  • Randall Balmer

    Yes, my father played the “good” minister in “A Thief in the Night.”  Donald Thompson was my Sunday-schol teacher.

    Randall Balmer