Bad predictions, false prophecies and the nostalgia factor

Bad predictions, false prophecies and the nostalgia factor July 12, 2013

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

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

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

Not that I’m complaining, mind. As a student of the past, I’m always glad when some of the seemingly more obscure products of the past (and what could be more obscure than the independent-movie equivalent of a religious tract?) turn out to be relatively easy to find. Heck, you can even watch the film on YouTube, now.

I have written about The Late Great Planet Earth a few times in the past. Click here for an essay I wrote in film school back in 1996, where I explored the question of whether The Late Great Planet Earth counted as a “documentary” if it was documenting things that have not actually happened (yet). Click here for a blog post I wrote in 2010, where I talk about the context in which I wrote that essay. And click here for a blog post I wrote in 2005 on Christian film criticism in the 1970s — in which I refer to a review of this film that appeared in Christianity Today in 1978.

Oh, and about that Hoppers cover of ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready’? As a friend of mine noted on Facebook, one thing that’s kind of weird about the music video posted by Clark is that the singers actually smile from time to time, which is kind of unnerving for a song that begins with the words “Life was filled with guns and war / And everyone got trampled on the floor…” Norman wrote the song as both a warning and an elegy, but now it’s almost another piece of feel-good nostalgia.

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