This week in End Times mania: Confusing ‘Left Behind’ with reality

Some people have a hard time telling the difference between the Bible and the biblical fan-fiction concocted by John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Scofield, Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, et. al. And it seems those same people have an even harder time telling the difference between this fiction and reality.

And these folks have been busy this week.

Here’s a round-up of LaHaye-ish End Times mania in the news.

1. Arizona state senator introduces anti-Agenda 21 bill.

Susie Cagle of Grist reports on the latest eruption of official right-wing paranoia over this decades-old, voluntary collection of best-practices for sustainable cities:

Last May, less insane heads managed to prevail in the Grand Canyon State, shooting down a bill that would have prohibited state and local governments from adopting anything even a little bit related to sustainability and Agenda 21. But the idea has crawled out of the grave in the form of SB 1403, a new bill that would prohibit any local government in Arizona from implementing any “creed, doctrine, principles or any tenet” of Agenda 21.

“Any way you want to describe it, Agenda 21 is a direct attack on the middle class and the working poor,” the bill’s sponsor Sen. Judy Burges said during a hearing on it in 2012. “The primary goal of Agenda 21 is to create social engineering of our citizens and it will impact every aspect of our daily lives.”

David Frum pleads with his fellow Republicans to “Ditch the Agenda 21 Tinfoil Hat Brigade” and taps Rob Sisson of ConservAmerica, the former mayor of a small city, to respond. Sisson writes:

Have we entered some parallel universe where saving tax dollars and conserving natural resources has become a UN plot against American liberties?

Apparently so.

In 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed the U.S. onto a non-binding United Nations agreement called Agenda 21. The agreement is hardly more than a list of ways that local communities can better conserve natural resources. The general header for such practices is “sustainability.”

Sisson outlines several ideas from Agenda 21 that he implemented as mayor of Sturgis, Mich., “saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Yet Glenn Beck, the John Birch Society, and various tea party groups have condemned “Agenda 21″ as a globalist conspiracy to destroy America. And state legislators are listening.

… Lowering costs and conserving resources is always a good idea – even if the UN agrees. Can we all please get real?

Nope. Getting real is not an option when it comes to the United Nations because 60 million fans of the Left Behind series “know” that the UN exists only to pave the way for the Antichrist and his one-world government. And unfortunately for reasonable conservatives like Sisson and Frum, those 60 million Left Behind fans are also Republicans, having been taught that the Democratic Party is, like the UN, just another precursor to the imminent OWG.

2. Tennessee man quits job over three-digit sequence on tax form.

Thanks to Kevin S. and Benjamin C. for alerting me to this one. Bob Smietana has the story for The Tennessean:

Walter Slonopas, 52, resigned as a maintenance worker at Contech Casting LLC in Clarksville (Tenn.) after his W-2 tax form was stamped with the number 666.

The Bible calls 666 the “number of the beast,” and it’s often used as a symbol of the devil. Slonopas said that after getting the W-2, he could either go to work or go to hell.

“If you accept that number, you sell your soul to the devil,” he said.

Math can be confusing. Even simple arithmetic can be tricky. But this isn’t math or arithmetic — this is just counting. Every time we count from 1 to 1,000 we will use the number 666. Not because of Satan, but because of our base-10 number system.

Walter Slonopas just quit his job because he works for a company with more than 665 employees and because he does not know how to count to 1,000.

And also because he’s been fed a stream of paranoid, self-righteous, contra-biblical lies by someone masquerading as a Christian pastor. That’s where the blame for this lies. The jackwagon in the pulpit of Slonopas’ church has a millstone reserved with his name on it.

Smietana is a terrific religion reporter, but he horribly bungles one aspect of this story.

For believers such as Slonopas, who take the book of Revelation literally, any tie to 666 is a betrayal of their faith.

No. No, no, no, 666 times no. Believers like Slonopas do not “take the book of Revelation literally” — they take the book of Revelation and cut it up into a thousand tiny pieces, placing those pieces into a hat along with a thousand more tiny pieces taken from Daniel, Ezekiel, parts of Matthew, the screenplay for The Omen, folklore, blood-libels, and urban legends. And then they take those pieces out of the hat one by one, stringing them into sentences to which they accord all the authority of holy scripture.

They take those fabricated sentences “literally,” but not the book of Revelation.

3. Apocalyptic Christianists influence Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings.

CUFI lobbies against Hagel appointment,” the Jerusalem Post reports. They describe Christians United for Israel as “a Christian pro-Israel group.”

And that’s true up to a point. CUFI is an expression of televangelist John Hagee’s “Bible prophecy” beliefs. So it’s “pro-Israel” in the sense that they want the nation of Israel to thrive long enough to rebuild the Temple and sign a peace treaty with the Antichrist, after which everyone in Israel must either be converted to Christianity or be slaughtered en masse.

I suppose “pro-Israel” is one way to describe that, but I think Frank Schaeffer’s description of the CUFI crowd is more accurate. He calls them “Jesus on Acid.”

4. Microchip lies recycle through Facebook.

This popped up on the Slacktivixen’s Facebook page this week, “Micro Chip Implant Coming March 23, 2013″:

This evil plan is being launched by America. its a micro chip injected in your hand. it will contain all your personal data heath and bank accounts etc. its also a GPS device being monitored. they can deactivate it at any time if they find you suspicious or not loyal to their government or go against them or their system and you will lose everything you ever had. soon this device will be made common just like they did credit cards, turning paper money into digital money. means nothing is physically in your hand. it will be made a must for every citizen with time according to their plan and then they will spread it outside America so they can monitor and control as many people as they can and turn them into slaves with their digital technologies.

The heroic folks at Snopes do a great job of debunking this, as well as of tracing how this lie (it’s too intentionally crafted to call it a legend) was assembled.

Bookmark that Snopes link. You may need it as we get closer to this imaginary March 23 deadline.

Oh, and the high-school classmate of the ‘vixen’s who passed along this lie? He’s a state trooper. So be careful out there on Pennsylvania’s highways — there’s at least one paranoid idiot out there patrolling in uniform.

5. Christianist Islamophobia now reshaping “Bible prophecy” fantasies.

Daniel Burke has a good piece for Religion News Service on “How the ‘Islamic Antichrist’ reflects our era’s anxieties“:

Protestant Reformers picked the papacy as their embodiment of evil. American colonists chose King George III and some Cold War Christians suspected the Soviet Union was satanically led.

Now, amid threats of Islamic terrorism, a nuclear-armed Iran and tumult across the Middle East, a growing group of American evangelicals say the Antichrist will be Muslim. …

Scholars say the arrival of Islamic Antichrist prophecies was, well, predictable. …

Apocalyptic Christianity always needs an enemy, scholars say, and the Antichrist is nothing if not adaptable.

“The Antichrist idea is very responsive to changes in current events,” said Robert Fuller, a professor of religious studies at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. “It’s a symbol for what is most unsettling or troubling.”

Kudos to Burke for showing, throughout his piece, how the “Bible prophecy” of End Times preachers is a cultural creation projected onto the Bible and not at all anything that could be derived from a desire to “take the book of Revelation literally.”

Burke also has a sidebar piece on “Muslim views of the Apocalypse,” which is also helpful (apart from that headline, which confuses the genre of Revelation with the events attributed to it). If you’re interested in that subject, let me again recommend Gershom Gorenberg’s excellent The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, which examines the role that site plays in apocalyptic “prophecies” of various Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups.

My favorite bit from Burke’s main article is this:

If bad theology, the Antichrist often makes for good reading, as attested by the more than 60 million copies of “Left Behind” books sold.

Prophecy may not be the best career option, however. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University closed its Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy just one year after it opened in 2002.

“It never did attract hardly any students, so we shut it down,” said Ronald Godwin, Liberty’s provost. “The students were looking for a major that would land them a career.”

I don’t think those 60 million copies sold can be attributed to “good reading” as much as to “tribally sanctioned reading” and the relative paucity thereof, but I do love the unintentionally hilarious candor of Liberty’s provost.

It seems even Liberty students agree that there’s not much of a future in believing there’s not much of a future.

  • Amanda

    The last three digits of my zip code are 666. I really wonder if some people refuse to move here because they don’t want to live in The Zip Code of the Beast.

    I’m ok with that.

    When I worked in retail, I did have a couple of incidents where a customer freaked out over their total coming out to $6.66, and would immediate add a pack of gum or something to change it. Maybe the Antichrist is in cahoots with the retail industry to get people to buy more stuff.

    I know a lot of buildings don’t have a 13th floor. Maybe in some situations that can be done with 666. Just skip it and pretend that doesn’t mean that 667 is the real 666, or the 14th floor is really the 13th floor.

    My cat is sitting here watching me type. He has a microchip. The vets said it’s in case he gets lost, but should I really believe them? They tried to pass a mandatory pet mircrochipping law here and people freaked out, and it didn’t pass. They might know something that I don’t know.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if my cat was a Satanist.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Check out the Satanic Bible and see if it isn’t describing cats!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Wait, if the Pope is the Antichrist, does that make the Antipope the anti-antichrist?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    A friend of mine was Agent 666 at her government job because the badge
    number went to a gentleman who didn’t want it for ‘religious’ reasons.
    He asked if he could trade off, and my friend begged for it, so everyone
    was happy. He got to go to heaven, and she got the best badge ever.

    good sure, but best? I mean, there’s still 86, 69, and 007

  • Magic_Cracker

    Not quite, Antipopes (there have been many) are classified as Pseudoantichrists. 

  • snowmentality

    In Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, one character advances the hypothesis that the number of the beast is actually (6^6)^6, or 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,949,056.

    The book is pretty much fan fiction anyway (I didn’t think it was possible for an author to write their own fan fiction, but Heinlein manages it in Number of the Beast) — so that all fits together nicely with the End Times fan-fiction theme.

    (I love that book, in a total guilty-pleasure sort of way.)

  • Worthless Beast

    Aw, Hell.  I’m still loosely-Christian and, at present, I’m hoping Heaven is Hyrule.

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

    Surely sending the wrong kind of signals is exactly what demons would want to do though, right? <_<

  • connorboone

    I’ve always held those who ship X/666 in contempt;  X is clearly dealing with unrequited love for the Captain, and 666 is just too legalistic to even consider dating within the workplace.   I strongly prefer X/Captain and 666/Gabriel.

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

    [18] This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon
    the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six
    hundred and sixty-six.

    Revised Standard Version.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FRDTPMBW7IBKWIU3763AI6FYOM Steve

    Yeah, that was my thought.  great, if it would work.
    Believe me, if this was technologically possible, my company would already be selling them to you for lots of money.
    And they employ lobbyists.

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

    I disagree. Battlefield Earth is the most racist, misogynist, vilest work of fiction I have ever seen. If it were merely Jonnie running around being the biggest Gary Stu who ever existed, it could be amusing. But it’s not; it’s a seething mass of hatred. Genocide is peachy keen when the good guy does it. Women are objects who solely think about whatever man they’re attached to (who is not attached to them), and nothing else whatsoever. Scots are awesome warriors, the French are cowards, Africans are rapist-cannibals, and if you oppose the Gary Stu, it is only right and just that your entire race is enslaved for eternity. Psychologists, journalists, bankers, doctors, and government are all evil, and like being evil because they’re evil.

    It’s just gross. Hate and hate and some more hate. No sense of joy or fun, and most definitely no sense of affection or caring. Added to horrible science, atrocious writing, and huge stretches of incredible boredom punctuated by the very occasional extremely short, impossible action scene.

  • Magic_Cracker

    666/Gabriel = HAWT!

    Even with Gabe’s smooth groin. The things that boy can do with his horn!

  • Foelhe

    “DAMN YOU! THE UNIVERSE WAS ONLY ONE! DAY! FROM RETIREMENT!

  • Foelhe

    (Crap, of course I’d forget the endquote there.)

  • Magic_Cracker

    “JEHOVAAAAAAAH!!!!!”

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

    Oh, and also…

    Disney is implanting visitors with the Mark of the Beast!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWMIW0A1Mfk

    Not really.

  • Madhabmatics

     I’m glad that entrance into heaven is not a text adventure because my first response to a text adventure is to start typing profanity to see what the developers hid in the parser

  • Amaryllis

     Well, it was funny until you got to the last one.

    I’ve also heard –

    Form 10666 – IRS Form of the Beast ( but then, they’re all hellish anyway)

    Lotus 6-6-6 – spreadsheet of the Beast (but then, if it’s Lotus, it’s hellish anyway)

    666F – oven temperature for Roast Beast

  • Amaryllis

     20 children and 7 adults who were murdered

    Thanks you for remembering the seventh adult (which most people don’t, and it always bothers me).

  • aunursa

    Cmment left today on the Facebook page for the Left Behind reboot…

    I am so PSYCHED to see this movie done with the caliber of performers such as Nicholas Cage :) The first two were enjoyable, and I am not belittling the actors involved in those films; however, imho Nicholas Cage is in a different class – a step above – and logic tells me that the script and the costars will follow.

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

    Hey y’all–

    Off-topic, but hopefully useful–this scam is making the rounds:

    http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/ups.asp

    Do NOT trust such a message.

  • Adamlangfelder

    This case of the guy who quit because of 666 on his tax form reminds me of when I used to work in a supermarket. When the customers’ total was $6.66 they wouldn’t take the receipt. I used to collect them and post them on my fridge.

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

    So, wait…because the stars are good, the script must, by “logic,” be tight?

    I guess she’s never seen Titanic.

  • aunursa

    It’s typical of the anticipation and enthusiasm for the film among LB fans.

  • Water_Bear

    Not to imply that Titanic is good, because it’s not really, but it’s certainly well put together and extremely effective. Even though it’s unoriginal and manipulative it does both of those things well; the cliches are used to maximum effect and the movie does actually lead you through the expected emotional motions, if a little forcefully. It shouldn’t be a surprise it made ludicrous amounts of money, because it took a fairly timeless formula and executed it precisely.

    Of course, that has nothing to do with it’s star power. Otherwise we’d never have [insert blockbuster flop here].

  • Kadh2000

     665… missed being the beast by that much [Maxwell Smart voice]

  • MaryKaye

    It seems like, if one is a Christian and cares to quote Scripture, that this is the quote for people who are afraid of their grocery-store receipt:

    Romans 8:38-39New International Version (NIV)

    For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    I’m not even a Christian and I like that one.  Because really, living in constant fear that some trivial slip will cost you God’s love–that’s a terrible, diminishing way to live.  Not at all worthy of any God worth worshiping.  Better by far to hold your head up high and say, “I am a child of the Most High and these things do not threaten me.”

  • Carstonio

    As Rob Halford once observed on a solo album, the road to hell is Route 666. US Route 491 used to bear that number, and any road with 666 should have a crossroads where blues guitarists can sell their souls.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Wait, I thought it was well-established that the stars in Titanic were actually only visible from the southern hemisphere. Those stars were TOTALLY WRONG.

    (James Cameron, I hear, copped to this, and lamented, “Just think how much more money Titanic would have made if I’d got that right!”)

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

    Oh, I agree that Titanic is effective and well put-together.  But the commenter’s point was that with a good cast, the script had to be good.  And Titanic’s script was pretty abysmal.  Casting talented actors like DiCaprio and Winslet was not enough.

    To give another example, it’s kinda like saying that Jaws 4 had to have a great script, what with the casting of a terrific actor like Michael Caine.

  • Alethea

     They’re sending him a new form, but he said that he still doesn’t want the job back. It’s sad that he’s such an idiot, but I suppose someone else will be grateful to have his job in this economy!

    He’s going to have fun explaining that to his next employer: “Reason for leaving my previous job? Uh…my employer was Satan…no, no, I don’t want to give him as a reference.”

  • Jellybeans

    Every time I hear people getting worried about microchips, I think of a roleplay setting I do a lot in which is ruled by the United International Government, an organisation that keeps control with technology gifted by alien AIs and which works off a rank point system, with each person having a certain amount of rank and losing it for crimes. It makes sure that every single person has an ID chip installed in their hand, which has all of your personal data stored and can be scanned by anyone, and if you go below -5 rank points, you are no longer legally a person and can have anything done to you.

    And yet at least they aren’t the resident Megacorps of the setting, where the police state which is ruled by the biggest weapon manufacturer on the planet is one of the nicer ones…

    So yeah, every time I hear people talk about the chips, I think “Could be worse. At least Eurasian Incorporated isn’t involved” which I don’t think is the correct reaction.

  • AnonymousSam

    “Oh my god, Heaven is just like I imagined it!”

    #pray
    You begin praying to Yahweh. You finish your prayer. –More–
    The voice of Yahweh booms: “Thou hast angered me.” –More–
    Suddenly, a bolt of lightning strikes you! You fry to a crisp. –More–
    Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq]

  • stardreamer42

     In the article, he’s quoted as saying that would be like “selling out his faith for money”. I play the world’s tiniest violin for him, and I’ll bet there are a minimum of 500 people in Clarksville who would love to be hired as his replacement and couldn’t care less about the serial number on their W-2 form.

  • Ken

    And the region codes assigned to each of the ten regions are based on arithmetic equations that involve three 6′s.

    Reminds me of the “four fours” puzzle, see Wikipedia, where you find formulas using four 4′s and common operations.  It’s possible to do all the numbers from 1 through 100 at least.   I don’t know if anyone’s tried “three sixes”, but it might be possible to find ways to do 1 to 10 – I’ve found 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10, so only 4 and 8 are left.

    (I just found a reference that Donald Knuth found ways to do all numbers from 1 to 208 with just one 4, square root, factorial, and brackets – Mathematics Magazine, Nov-Dec 1964, pp. 308-310.)

  • banancat

     I do the exact same thing with East/West.  I have absolutely no trouble with North vs South, but something about East vs West gets me every time.  I have to actually envision a map and thing about which coast is East and which is West and then determine my current location and my destination in relation to the coasts.  It’s a split-second process because I’ve done it so many times, but I never have to do anything like that to figure out North vs South.

  • Lori

     

    The code for the United Indian States is 42  

    Now I believe Niki is the Antichrist. Who else would assign 42  to someplace other than England?

  • banancat

     My first response to a text adventure is to find all the answers online.  Google will be available for the one to get into Heaven, right?  Or can I install a Greasemonkey script to just do the whole thing for me?

  • Madhabmatics

     Have you tried Frog Fractions?

    http://twinbeard.com/frog-fractions

    It has a text-adventure parody, I was dyin’ laughing. Educational game of the year imo

    I’ll just spoil something (if you want to get to the rest of the game, when you unlock the dragon swim down)

  • Baby_Raptor

    Christians bemoaning social engineering would be laughable if it weren’t such hypocrisy. They’re the loudest group out there trying to force people to live certain ways. And then there’s that recent survey that said a majority of Christians polled agreed that the country’s laws should be based on the bible.

    Apparently it’s only social engineering (and thus bad) when it doesn’t advance the Religious Right’s agenda. 

  • Rae

    I love how the comment threads here end up whenever the topic is the “End Times” :-D

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

    Getting back on the -real- topic of this thread…Please, please, please write that X and 666 book? I see a lot of potential in it, but my writing is horrible.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    In octal it’s still 666, hence ‘chmod 666′ – the Permissions of the Beast.

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

     Frog Fractions is one of the trippiest games I’ve ever played I will spoil nothing for those who haven’t tried it, just… let me say this:  don’t feel constrained

  • christopher_y

    66/6. The soccer team of the Beast (Arsenal).

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

     Er, that’s only ’cause the individual bits that set the permissions are only three bits wide. (<_<)

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

     Someone has probably beaten me to it, but this comes from the prophecies of St. Malachy, who wrote a “prophetic” verse for each of the future popes back in the 11th century. “Prophetic” in the same sense as Nostradamus, who had a few prophecies that look accurate if you squint and look at them sideways. For example, the current pope was prophesied to have something to do with olives, and Ratzinger picked Benedict as his papal name and the Benedictine monks are associated with olives or something like that. Anyway, the creepy bit is that, per Malachy, the pope to follow Ratzinger is simply identified as “the last pope.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    For a minute I thought you said “where every TAX firm had ’666′ in its telephone number.” Now THAT might have been a more interesting coincidence, or would it just be a coincidence? (insert demonic laughter here, heh-heh-heh-heh…”


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