Here’s a disturbing article by Frank Schaeffer on the extreme apocalyptic ideology that drives groups like the “Hutaree” militia; keep in mind as you read that Schaeffer was once part of the inner circle of the religious right, and knew many of these people personally: The Evangelical ‘Mainstream’ Insanity Behind the Michigan ‘End Times’ Militia.
A time-out for disclosure is in order.
I knew Jerry Jenkins quite well many years ago, and we worked on a baseball book project together, with me trying — and failing — to get his book made into a movie. I also have known Tim LaHaye for years, and some thirty years ago we shared the platform at several fundamentalist far right events. I’m betting that they mean well. It seems to me that they also have no idea what they have helped unleash. You can be very decent and very blind.
That said, the evangelical/fundamentalists — and hence, from the early 1980s until the election of President Obama in 2008, the Religious Right as it informed U.S. policy through the then dominant Republican Party — are in the grip of an apocalyptic Rapture cult centered on revenge and vindication. This End Times death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
Given that Revelation is now being hyped as the literal — even desired — roadmap to Armageddon, it’s worth pausing to note that it’s nothing more than a bizarre pastoral letter that was addressed to seven specific churches in Asia at the end of the first century by someone (maybe John or maybe not) who appears to have been far from well when he wrote it. In any case, the letter was not intended for use outside of its liturgical context, not to mention that it reads like Jesus on acid.
The Left Behind series is really just recycled evangelical/fundamentalist profit taking from scraps of “prophecy” left over from an earlier commercial effort to mine the vein of fearsome End Times gold. A book called The Late Great Planet Earth was the 1970s incarnation of this nonsense. It was written by Hal Lindsey, a “writer” who dropped by my parents’ ministry several times.
Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth interpreted Revelation for a generation of paranoid evangelicals who were terrified of the Soviet Union and communism and were convinced that the existence of the modern State of Israel was the sign that Jesus was on the way in our lifetimes, as Lindsey claimed.
After everything predicted in the book came to nothing, Lindsey rewrote and “updated” his “interpretations” in many sequels.
According to Jenkins and LaHaye, who have taken over the Hal Lindsey franchise of apocalypse-for-fun-and-profit and expanded it into a vast industry, the “chosen” will soon be airlifted to safety. The focus on the “signs” leading up to this hoped-for aeronautical excursion is understandably no longer the defunct U.S.S.R. but the ripped-from-the-headlines gift that keeps on giving: the Middle East. Check out the accused cop killer’s website and you’ll find a preoccupation with the Middle East. …
Jenkins and LaHaye provide the ultimate revenge fantasy for the culturally left behind against the “elite.” They do theologically what Sarah Palin does politically: divide the world and America into “Them” and Us.”
The Left Behind franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that at last everyone will know “we” were right and “they” were wrong. They’ll know because Spaceship Jesus will come back and whisk us away, leaving everyone else to ponder just how very lost they are because they refused to say the words, “I accept Jesus as my personal savior” and join our side while there was still time! Even better: Jesus will kill all those smart-ass, Democrat-voting, overeducated people who have been mocking us!
All the folks in Michigan did was decide to start the killing a little early.