March 15, 2015

The Late Great Planet Arf


I admit I didn’t bother watching Benjamin Netanyahu’s address before Congress earlier this month. I gave up watching political speeches in the eighties. Didn’t see much point to it. What use was there in listening to another power-mad cretin spouting a litany of left-handed, self-serving sputum as if he (as the masses seemed to believe) had any real power or influence in the world? It was a long time back that I relegated political speechifying, like the news and religion, to the category of comic relief.

            That evening, however, Morgan (who had watched the speech) filled me in on a few highlights. As funny and stupefying as I generally find them, gotta say I still get a little disturbed when I hear politicians of whatever stripe or from whatever nation talking about “destiny” and citing religious scripture to back themselves up. That’s never a good thing. Or maybe it is, depending on my mood.

            When I was a kid I maintained a perhaps unhealthy obsession with the apocalypse and the Book of Revelation. It had nothing to do with the promise of Christ’s ultimate return and the eternal salvation awaiting all True Believers. My own morbid fascination with the fiery End of the World was more nihilistic, more akin to Saint John’s original motivation. Like Dante a few centuries later, at heart he’d jotted down his grandiose fever dream as a form of revenge against the political enemies who’d exiled him to the island of Patmos. But it was all so confusing and cryptic, and poetic enough that the damned melonheads took the fucking thing seriously, right? And more than that, as they would with that rambling, incoherent, three-quarters mad Nostradamus, they’ve been interpreting, re-interpreting, and over-interpreting just what the fuck he was babbling about ever since. I didn’t give a hoot in hell about God or Jesus or salvation. I was more interested in that Antichrist and seeing the whole fucking world go kablooey, and that Saint John sure could conjure up some wild and wooly imagery toward that end, I’ll tell you.

            As part of my obsession, I collected and read all the books I could get my hands on by that zany paranoid zealot Hal Lindsey. Calling himself a biblical scholar, he published book after book in the early seventies attempting to line up biblical prophecy with historical events in order to prove beyond a doubt we were living in the End Times. Of course people have been doing this for centuries—as Morgan has noted, every generation wants desperately to believe theirs would be the last. Unlike most of the others, however, Lindsey was able to morph this wishful thinking into a string of bestsellers, the most notable being 1970’s The Late Great Planet Earth, which was turned into a quasi-documentary in 1979. Somehow Lindsey’s apocalyptics tapped right into a national zeitgeist increasingly obsessed with UFOs, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, reincarnation, ancient astronauts, the Bermuda Triangle, and other bits of unexplained spookiness.

            Lindsey was absolutely convinced the Battle of Armageddon and the apocalypse would arrive by the mid-eighties, assuming a few more necessary pieces of the prophetic puzzle, as he interpreted it, fell into place. So as long as a political leader is named King of the World following his resurrection after receiving a mortal wound, and Israel signs a pact with the Soviet Union, and a tenth nation is added to the European Common Market, watch out there, son, because here we go. We won’t even get into the simple logical problem of interpreting vague, poetic “prophecy” through hindsight, and we won’t consider the possibility that some of these so-called “prophecies” were “fulfilled” because someone knew they were prophecies and set out deliberately to make them come true. He sure did get a lot of people believing him, though. Guess I got suckered in, too, but again for all the wrong reasons.

            Well, the 1980s came and went and then some, and here we all sit. Even poor, apocalypse-less Hal Lindsey is still among us, out there online someplace, trying to use contemporary wire stories to convince anyone who might be listening that yes indeed, this time around we really, really, really are living in the End Times.

            Being older and at least a shade wiser now, I understand the apocalypse has come and gone already, and it was more an annoyance than anything else. But not everyone seems to believe that.

            Now, I don’t give a good goddamn about right wings or left wings, finding them both stupid, repulsive, and hilarious. That being said, from his early seventies writing to the present, Lindsey has made no bones about his ultraconservative political beliefs.

            This is why after hearing a few choice doozies about the Book of Esther and our nations’ intertwining singular Destiny from Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, I went back and watched (well, listened to anyway) that 1979 film version of The Late Great Planet Earth again.

            See, after all the silly partisan jumping about regarding the address, I got to wondering why it was American political conservatives, never really known much for their great and abiding love for the Jewish people, were such rabid defenders of the state of Israel, no matter what it did. Yes, there’s the issue of oil and the importance of having a solid ally in the Middle East to protect the flow of that oil, but it always felt like there was something deeper afoot. Then it finally dawned on me.

            Maybe this is old news and maybe I’m just the slow-witted type, but Christian conservatives will defend Israel to their last breath (even as they consider Jews themselves a bunch of Christ-killers) simply because of the central role it plays in End Times theology. Israel is the single most important piece of the prophetic puzzle, and according to the mythology the very trigger that will set off the final battle of Armageddon. Well, as soon as they finally rebuild that temple a third time where the Dome of the Rock now stands, anyway. See? Wacky dumb Christians need Israel there and healthy in order to bring about the end of the world. Oh, how they ache for that end of the world!. Without Israel, and without Israel stirring up some shit in the Middle East, you get no Antichrist, no apocalyptic war, no rain of nuclear missiles, no destruction of the planet, no Jesus, and no salvation. So it’s no wonder they were so gaga about the Prime Minister pushing for the annihilation of Iran—it fits right into their crazy scheme.

            Well, so be it, I guess. I don’t really have any strong feelings about it one way or another, just thought it was interesting is all. And if they’re right, then my own nihilistic childhood dreams may yet still come true.


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