NRA: Like there’s no tomorrow

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 126-127

In real life, the problem with most energy and environmental policy is that it’s too short-sighted. Here in the world of Left Behind, Nicolae Carpathia has the opposite problem. His energy and environmental policies are not short-sighted enough.

The Antichrist’s first mention of his new policies for oil and energy is a bit silly, but at least it’s something we can comprehend:

“I am also initiating a one-dollar-per-barrel tax on oil at the well, plus a ten-cents-per-gallon tax at the pump on gasoline.”

This is another of Nicolae’s many “Dr. Evil” moments — “One million dollars!” This new tax on oil and gas is meant to be evidence of Carpathia’s tyrannical nature, but it’s unlikely most people will really notice, since both costs are well within the range of normal volatility. He’s supposed to be the epitome of cruelty and evil. Seems like that ought to involve a bit more than prices at the pump rising from $3.67 to $3.77 a gallon.

But the Antichrist’s next little bit about oil really gets confusing. This will take a bit of work to unpack:

“As you know, the second largest pool of oil, second only to the one in Saudi Arabia, was discovered above the Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. … The Global Community will appropriate the vast oil fields in Alaska, including that huge pool. Years ago it was capped off to satisfy environmentalists; however, I have ordered teams of laborers into the region to install a series of sixteen-inch pipelines that would route that oil through Canada and to waterways where it could be barged to international trade centers. We already own the rights to oil in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, and the rest of the Middle East. That gives us control of two-thirds of the world’s oil supply.

“We will gradually but steadily raise the price of oil, which will further finance our plans to inject social services into underprivileged countries and make the world playing field equal for everyone. From oil alone, we should be able to profit at a rate of about one trillion dollars per year.”

Some parts of that are impossible and baffling. Other parts of it are infuriating. In places it’s both. It seems that Nicolae’s grand plan is to raise the price of oil by rushing more of it to market so that his one-world government Global Community won’t be dependent on foreign oil. Once again I’m deeply confused, but not quite as confused as the authors and their characters seem to be.

Let’s start with the notion that Nicolae Carpathia’s totalitarian one-world government controls only “two-thirds of the world’s oil supply.” Who could possibly control the other third of it? Is it multinational oil companies like Exxon/Mobil? How are they still around under the evil reign of the Antichrist?

Apparently, just like Pan-Continental Airlines, those multinationals continue to operate as powerful, independent, private enterprises. It seems that after abolishing all national sovereignty, instituting global disarmament, a single world government, single currency, single language, single religion, and single, state-controlled media monopoly, the Antichrist chose not to interfere with Wall Street and the other “international trade centers.” One would think that all three words of that phrase — international trade centers — would be meaningless here, but it seems that the Great Tribulation is not a market holiday.

This is a strange surprise in an apocalypse created by long-time John Birch Society member Tim LaHaye. It was there, among the Birchers, that LaHaye learned to view the United Nations through the lens of paranoid conspiracy theories he then turned around and imposed onto the book of Revelation. But the whole point of that conspiracy was that the UN was the first step toward a socialist one-world government. LaHaye’s Antichrist-led OWG is, by contrast, remarkably capitalist.

I can’t figure out quite what to make of the sneering at “environmentalists” here either. I thought that environmentalists — like the UN, and pacifists, and every other kind of liberal — were supposed to be part of the conspiracy paving the way for the eventual reign of the Antichrist. Yet here the Antichrist himself seems to regard them with the same contempt he expressed for evangelists and real, true Christians. If the Antichrist hates environmentalists, doesn’t that make them the Good Guys? Here is the Antichrist undoing the environmental agenda of conservation, so doesn’t that mean Christians today ought to be fighting for conservation as part of our “Tribulation Force” agenda of opposing the coming Antichrist?

That general principle is clearly at work in the following paragraph, where Nicolae reiterates his support for “social services [in] underprivileged countries.” It seems there that his enthusiasm for such efforts is meant as a warning to Christian readers not to support such an agenda.

The weird phrasing there reflects the authors’ incurious ignorance about what aid and development really look like. Their only idea of any effort to assist poor people is through some vague sort of “social services” — some dependency-inducing bureaucratic program wasting our tax-dollars on handouts for the undeserving poor. That’s what that phrase “social services” connotes here — an international version of their mythological caricature of anti-poverty efforts as food stamps that strapping young bucks and welfare queens can spend on alcohol, color TVs and Cadillacs. (I said color TVs and not flat-screen TVs because I’m guessing Tim LaHaye hasn’t bothered to update the technology in this right-wing fantasy since the Reagan Era.)

I suppose Nicolae’s betrayal of environmentalism here is meant to parallel his betrayal of pacifism earlier in the book — meaning that it’s not a betrayal at all, but an unmasking of the true nature of all supposed environmentalists and pacifists. LaHaye believes that one day soon the real Antichrist will rise, just like Nicolae in these books, by preaching a message of pacifism and disarmament. And then, having lulled everyone into a false sense of security, he will turn around and make war on a world no longer able to defend itself.

But LaHaye is not suggesting that the Antichrist will be a counterfeit pacifist. He believes, rather, that pacifism is always counterfeit — that all pacifists are like this, deviously pretending to be peace-loving and nonviolent until the world lets its guard down and they can strike. This is another place where LaHaye’s Bircher roots can be seen — another remnant of the Cold War paranoia that sees all talk of peace and diplomacy as appeasement by dupes, fellow-travelers and fifth-column spies.

But the biggest problem with the plans that Nicolae outlines above is that he is, in fact, the Antichrist, and he’s now more than half-way through the second year of his reign. And that means that human history has just under five and a half years remaining.

Consider what that fact means for Nicolae’s proposed oil and energy policies.

Among other things, it makes his whole Prudhoe Bay project a waste of precious time. He’s correct in no longer caring about the conservation of natural resources or wilderness habitats. Conservation is pointless here. But so is drill, baby, drill. By the time his new pipeline gets built and this oil is ready for transport, Killer Jesus will already have landed on the Mount of Olives to close the curtain on human history.

This vast new pool of oil isn’t necessary in Nicolae’s world. Energy scarcity is no longer a problem. Time scarcity has replaced it. If the world has 30 years’ worth of oil left, but only five years’ worth of years left, then for all intents and purposes, the world now has an infinite supply of oil.

The Antichrist doesn’t seem to realize that this changes everything. Think of all the current limits and drawbacks of our dependence on fossil fuels here in the real world. They present huge problems regarding both wells and sinks. The wells are running dry and the sinks are filling up. We can’t go on burning oil like there’s no tomorrow because tomorrow we might run out of the stuff and because future generations will be saddled with a poisoned environment and an altered climate.

But Nicolae doesn’t have to worry about tomorrow or about future generations. He’s only got about 2,000 tomorrows left, and he doesn’t have to care about future generations because: A) he’s evil, and B) there won’t be any. He doesn’t need to go around singing, “I believe the children are our future” because the future evaporated in this story right about the same time all the children did.

There’s a sense in which I find it encouraging that the authors don’t seem to have given much thought to any of this. It would have made for a better story if they had bothered to work out all the implications of the constrained future facing Nicolae’s government, but it’s probably much better for us here in the real world that they haven’t.

Tim LaHaye says that our remaining time is short. The Rapture, he insists, could occur at any moment. Like most premillennial dispensationalist “Bible prophecy scholars,” LaHaye believes that the Rapture and the consequent End of the World is prophesied to come within one “generation” of the restoration of the nation of Israel — a prophecy they insist was fulfilled with the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. In the 1970s, Hal Lindsey and many other popularizers of these prophecy schemes said that a biblical generation was 40 years — a number repeated with great enthusiasm up until 1988 had come and gone. It’s been almost 65 years since the modern state of Israel gained its independence, but that PMD belief in “one generation” persists, and in the minds of people like Tim LaHaye, the clock is ticking ever closer.

That has an influence on Tim LaHaye’s politics — and on the politics of the millions of people who read his books. It encourages them to disregard long-term thinking and to dismiss long-term concerns — particularly with regard to the very kinds of energy and environmental matters discussed in this section of Nicolae. But this influence has mostly been vague and general — as hazy and hasty as the plans of LaHaye’s fictional Antichrist described above.

And I suppose that’s good. Or, at least, that it’s better than if they had given this more thought and really begun to plan a detailed agenda for using up the last of the Earth’s resources during what they insist are the final decades before the Rapture and the end of time.

So we’ve seen that Tim LaHaye’s ideology and mythology provide him two reasons to oppose environmentalism and the conservation of resources. First because it’s pointless and wasteful to conserve resources for future generations when an imminent Rapture means there won’t be such generations or such a future. And second because he suspects environmentalism is part of the UN conspiracy to gradually usher in the one-world government which will one day be ruled by the Antichrist.

LaHaye’s anti-environmentalism is ironic, considering that Revelation is his favorite book of the Bible. It’s there, in Revelation, that we read this:

The nations raged,
but your wrath has come,
and the time for judging the dead,
for rewarding your servants, the prophets
and saints and all who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.

If I believed that the book of Revelation must be read “literally,” then I’d be a little more careful about siding with “those who destroy the earth.”

 

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