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.”

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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….

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

  • 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.

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

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

  • VMink

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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://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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Tricksterson

    What’s with the nostril obssession?

  • 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.

  • 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

    It’s hilarious. XD Sidesplittingly hilarious. XD

  • 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.

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

     Occupy Vancouver

    *wavewave* Hi!

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

  • 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.

  • 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://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.  

  • 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.”

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 


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