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EoA: The Pastor Wraps Up

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 193-195 (Chapter Thirty-Four)

We continue with Josh Jordan marvelling at the new insight he’s been given into the state of world affairs. As much as this is supposed to be a shocking, portentous revelation for reader and character alike, the previous chapter and this segment of chapter 34 mostly feel kind of flat. I think this is because I’m not a member of the intended audience, for one thing. Also, having seen Left Behind get excoriated for its own defects in presentation, containing much of the same material as Pastor Campbell’s sermon, this isn’t really anything new; it’s more retreading of the kind of Biblical interpretation that LaHaye relies on to justify his Premillennial Dispensationalist doctrine.

Paul Campbell had captured Joshua’s attention. He was beginning to see the connecting points between the Bible prophecies that the pastor was describing and the issues that were consuming his Roundtable. The erosion of American sovereignty. The movement to force United States courts to embrace the international laws of the nations of the world. The mantra calling for a single global government.

Only in this bizarro world of LaHaye and Parshall’s could the idea of a world government be regarded with unspeakable horror. One thing I’d like to stop and note here is that Tim LaHaye has been asked about the USA in relation to Biblical prophecy and has had to admit that any possibility is pretty thin on the ground (not hard to understand why, as the writers of the texts that collectively make up the Bible did not know that North or South America existed; they may well have been aware of Asia all the way to China, and possibly the Scandinavian peoples, though).

LaHaye in fact has been quoted, as linked here (RTF file):

“Does the United States have a place in end time prophecy? My first response is no, there is nothing about the U.S. in prophecy. At least nothing that is specific. There is an allusion to a group of nations in Ezekiel 38:13 that could apply, but even that is not specific. The question is why? Why would the God of prophecy not refer to the supreme superpower nation in the end times in preparation for the one world government of the antichrist?” ~Dr. Tim LaHaye

So LaHaye and his coauthors have had to work pretty hard to try and fit the USA into such prophecies. After all, the RTC readership in the USA understandably would be a bit bored reading about End Times that entirely take place with no involvement of the USA at all. That said, I think LaHaye is also falling victim to the need to fit prophecy to American exceptionalism – the notion that just because the USA is a superpower it must be mentioned and heavily involved in such events to come, because the USA, that’s why.

The pandering to American exceptionalism and the hero-complex that LaHaye and Parshall want readers to identify with in Joshua Jordan is in full flower in the next paragraph:

For Joshua it was a little like being at Hawk’s Nest Ranch in the fall when the fog rolled in with a cold snap early in the morning. But when the sun broke through, the white blanket of fog would clear, and the imposing mountain peaks rising up all around would suddenly show themselves. Joshua wondered for just an instant whether his mission statement in founding the Roundtable might have been too small. So, I wanted to save America…but was that enough? What if all of this is bigger than just the United States?

(italics in the original text)

Oh, he wants to “save America”. His idea of “America”. God, what an incredible egotist this guy is.

Also, this business about him deciding only he, Joshua Jordan, knows the right way ahead for the USA, is uncomfortably reminiscent of the attitude embodied by James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. I have discussed before how this book seems to attempt to tap into attitudes of contempt for civilian oversight of the military, by means of Josh’s showboating during the Congressional committee meeting. A very similar attitude is at work in the actions and words of General James Mattoon Scott, as extracted here from Seven Days in May.

[Scott said,] “The public has no faith in you.  The Gallup Poll may not be exactly accurate, but it’s pretty close.  Unless the country is rallied by a voice of authority and discipline, it can be lost in a month.”

“And that voice is yours, General?” The way [President] Lyman said it, the question was almost a statement of fact.

(Additions in brackets are mine)

And from the film of the book, we have these lines spoken by the characters:

President Jordan Lyman: And that would be General James Mattoon Scott, would it? I don’t know whether to laugh at that kind of megalomania, or simply cry.
General James Mattoon Scott: James Mattoon Scott, as you put it, hasn’t the slightest interest in his own glorification. But he does have an abiding interest in the survival of this country.
President Jordan Lyman: Then, by God, run for office. You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country – why in the name of God don’t you have any faith in the system of government you’re so hell-bent to protect?

(bold is mine)

Luckily, in Seven Days in May, the people desperate to protect Constitutional government succeed in staving off the coup before it can get off the ground, but it’s a near thing.

In Edge of Apocalypse, given that the “good guys” are on the side of an organization full of wealthy, well-connected people who disapprove of the current government, I’m a little less sanguine. Notice, though, the same egotism at work in both General Scott and Colonel Jordan in their exaggerated estimates of themselves.

Getting back to the chapter I’m covering, Paul Campbell explains the three Babylons:

“So there will be a political Babylon, certainly. A unification of the powers of the nations of the planet.” (italics in the original)

The use of the word “Babylon” here is intended. from my understanding of Fred Clark’s deconstruction over on Slacktivist, to indicate the center of secular one-world power. Pastor Campbell apparently interprets that it is sufficent for there to be a one-world government in order to constitute the formation of Babylon.

Campbell then goes on to discuss the second Babylon:

“But there will also be a religious Babylon in the end times. Another leg of our three-legged stool. A merging of the religions of the world into one massive conglomerate of false spirituality.”

Discussions of the First Horseman of the Apocalypse (or see here, or here) tend to indicate that the First Horseman is “false religion”.

We then get LaHaye’s favorite hobby-horse, the Raptuuuuuuuuuuuuuure!

“When will that happen? Ultimately not until the Church…and by that I mean the sum total of all true believers in Jesus Christ…until the Church is ‘raptured’…taken up instantaneously to God…and when that happens, with the restraining power of the Church gone from the earth, there will be nothing to stop this massive global merger of the world’s religions.”

BY THE WAY I REVOKED YOUR LICENCE TO USE ELLIPSES, PARSHALL. YOU ARE HEREBY SENT TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO AND DO NOT COLLECT $200.

The next sentence employs an interesting turn of phrase:

And that is when there will be the hideous appearing…a false prophet will come and set in motion the blasphemous idol worship of the Antichrist exactly as predicted in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation.

(bold mine)

Given that one of the Left Behind books is titled “Glorious Appearing” and is intended to refer to Jesus and God returning to Earth, I find that choice of words on Parshall’s part to be curious. It’s as though he wants to set up the diametrical opposite: the appearance of the Antichrist (hopefully not a clone of Nicky Molehills) and his False Prophet (hopefully not as cartoonishly sycophantic as Leon Fortunato) as an appearing equal in magnitude to the “glorious” appearing later on.

We then get the third Babylon, which is another of LaHaye’s hobby-horses, and which he and Jenkins so clumsily shoved into Left Behind as a sideshow necessity, slowing down the major plot until they could get the monetary union out of the way.

But in addition to the political and religious aspects, there will also be an economic Babylon. The apostle John, in Revelation, describes this future global financial center: ‘…the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.’ (italics in the original)

He then goes on to illustrate what he means, though I highly suspect that the original text was meant to pillory Rome as an occupying power over Judea. Campbell. however, decides it means the present day or the near future:

“What are the signs of this coming global economic Babylon? We are warned in the Bible that there will be a future international system of buying, selling, trading, and investing. Revelation chapter thirteen (…)”

The chapter and verse is quoted in the book, but I will go to the Revised Standard Version and extract the quote from there, instead:

[16] Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead,
[17] so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.

This is part of the Book of Revelation that is hard to figure out. People who read it usually believe it means a literal mark on the forehead or the right hand; I don’t know what alternative interpretations exist. Given that John was trashing Rome when writing this, can anyone shed light on that?

Pastor Campbell then notes he’s been given some information from the blog “The Barn Door” before it got leaned on, and he discusses the CReDO monetary unit, which he ties into his just-concluded sermon:

“Jesus rebuked the Pharisees of His day for failing to recognize the signs of the times. Of course, some people will say that the Bible assures us that we can’t know the specific time that Christ will return to the earth. And that’s true. On the other hand, why would Jesus, as we are told in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, have given us an exhaustive list of the events that will precede His return if He didn’t want us to use that information? If He didn’t want us to watch the times and to discern them so we could recognize the signs of His coming soon?”

The discussion of the “specific time” that Christ will return has to do with the oft-quoted phrase “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” which is given in Matthew 25:13. Parshall wraps up with this:

“His Word says that the world is heading toward a global, unified economic system. And that, my friends, is something you can definitely bank on…”

The thing is, though, is that the only reason this sermon works is because of authorial fiat. Of course Campbell is correct that you can bank on his interpretation of the Bible – the authors wrote things that way! This is why the “End Times” literature I’ve read tend to normally be kind of pedestrian and boring (like Left Behind) unless the author tries to structure things so we honestly have no idea if maybe our entire view of things is wrong (hello, Christ Clone) until the Big Reveal.

I’m going to stop here and take up the remainder of this chapter later on. We’ll be revisiting the movers and shakers in Washington, DC at that time.

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17 thoughts on “EoA: The Pastor Wraps Up

  1. Seems to me that if you don’t already indulge in the full craziness you’re unlikely to be convinced by a book, and if you do you don’t need to be convinced. But as you point out this is fairly specific to the target audience, who need to believe that their craziness is compelling and that it really will give outsiders cause utterly to re-evaluate their lives.

    Obviously the US can’t be allowed to obey international law. That would cut down on the torturing.

    The bit about “why would it not refer to the USA” reminds me of my girlfriend’s not-entirely-serious assertion, when confronted with the excesses of modern literary criticism, that – I think it may have been Hopkins – must have been obsessed with the colour yellow because it does not appear in his poems. (And of course it assumes that the End Times are now, as a necessary component in proving that the End Times are now.)

    I suspect one could draw a fairly accurate Fundy World Map: USA rah rah rah, Canada (not sure about them), Brown People, European Satanists, More Brown People, A-rabs, Commies, Yellow People.

    What is the point of knowing the signs of the End? Serious question. It’s not as though you’re likely to have enough warning to do a last-minute conversion (a very Catholic approach), because you won’t believe that they are signs until you’ve converted anyway. Assuming you’re already among the elect, surely the smart thing to do is not to worry about the End but to live your life well and convert as many people as possible? Yet another case where the tribal psychology (bad times are coming, only we know the truth, stick together) overrides the nominal doctrine.

    As for the mark of the beast, I understand the non-loony view refers to imperial Roman coinage – all stamped with the head of Nero, the first emperor to proclaim himself a god. To use the coinage, for a Christian, was to participate in idolatry.

  2. Of course the US must have a role. I mean, it already has such a grand role in the signs of the End Times. Look at all the persecution RTCs are facing! I mean, sure, Christians in rural Pakistan get literally killed for that, but they probably aren’t even proper RTCs so who cares?

    But seriously, why would being a Superpower matter? The whole point is that Earth will be squashed between the supernatural war, lopsided as it is. LaHaye’s whole point is that there is nothing that any human agent or institution can do about the End Times, so why would it matter what the strongest human nation does any more than what the weakest one does? The answer is, it doesn’t, but LaHaye knows nationalist fanatics are his core audience.

    “So, I wanted to save America…but was that enough? What if all of this is bigger than just the United States?” Aww, he’s still not a proper RTC. Wanting to save America, or the world, how droll. Does he not yet realize that the only proper attitude is trying to hide your smirk and pretending to be saddned as the unrighteous drags of humanity are crushed beneath the heel of tyranny or the mircales of God. Woops, sorry for the repetition there, the heel of tyrrany covers both of those.

    “On the other hand, why would Jesus, as we are told in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, have given us an exhaustive list of the events that will precede His return if He didn’t want us to use that information?” Ehm, because according to LaHaya’s and notBruce’s preaching, it matters jack-shit if you can see it comming or not? It can’t be stopped, can’t be changed, and none of you will be there when it happens anyway.

  3. and his False Prophet (hopefully not as cartoonishly sycophantic as Leon Fortunato)

    It’s really to bad that it wouldn’t be Leon, as (IMHO) he is one of the few even partly likeable characters in the whole series.

  4. Discussions of the First Horseman of the Apocalypse (or see here, or here) tend to indicate that the First Horseman is “false religion”.

    I’ve always heard of the Four Horsemen as War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. I don’t know how you get “false religion” out of *any* of those…

      • So according to LaHaye, Antichrist is “false conqueror”, who is total opposite of TurboJesus. The latter is “true conqueror”, because he conquer with the use of superior firepower and that’s the only right way to do it. If you win through being cunning, then you are a cheating bastard. I wonder if LaHaye ever played “Diplomacy”. If he did, then it would explain (amongst other things) why he is so paranoid about many world’s nations doing something in unison.

    • Mostly because LaHaye is a-okay with War, especially when the US gets to decide when and where. Peace treaties and cooperation between religions he hates however, so his interpetation of War becomes ‘a diplomat who gets all the religions of the world to agree, i.e. follow him’. I remember the seremon of Original Flavour Bruce where he notes that the rider is described as carrying a bow, but no arrows are mentioned, so that must mean this conqueror bent on conquest will conquer the world via peace. I noted that the the Bible doesn’t mention he’s wearing pants either, so it must mean the Anti-Christ will focus on romantic conquests!

      • Well, the latter three Horsemen are usually called War, Famine and Death, which makes sense. The first one – I don’t see how war comes from that when War is the second one already.

        The Biblical phrase for the First Horseman is “[2] And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”

        The second is “[4] And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword.”

        (Aside: TurboJesus also has a bigass sword)

      • Huh. So when did Pestilence get into popular culture then?

        Aside note, I really liked the horsemen in Good Omens. Death was played pretty straight, war was okay (a redhaired women that all men were fighting over, but it wasn’t always defined how she was able to bring entire countries to war), but I really liked Famine (a diet guru who promoted lethal diets, and later branched out into a fast food franchise that surved incredibly fattening foods but with no other nutritional value so you get fat and starve at the same time) and Pollution (took over for Pestilence, who quit after Penecilin was invented).

      • Good Omens‘ War was fairly explicitly modelled on Kate Adie, who was pretty much omnipresent on British televised war reporting when the book was being written.

      • Huh. So when did Pestilence get into popular culture then?

        That was what I always wondered, too. I asked about “The Biblical Horsemen vs Popular Culture Horsemen” back in Slacktivist, when the subject came up in Left Behind‘s plot. I think the consensus was (or someone said the historical reason was) because of The Black Plague. Given that it wiped out a good percentage of the population of the entire Known World, it seemed to be an event of Apocalyptic proportions and affected the metaconsciousness from then on, appearing in illustrations of the subject. Thus, “War, Famine, Pestilence and Death” became the New Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

        Whereas the Biblical Horsemen seem to be The Antichrist, War, Famine, and Death (with Hell riding pillion behind him). “Hell in the ‘Bitch Seat'” (pardon the crassness) has been lost in the popular image, as well.

      • @Mau De Katt: Ah-ha, I see now.

        I imagine the four Horsemen are representative of what John wanted to happen to the Roman Empire, since they preached a “false religion” (non-Christianity) that was, as I understand it, fairly syncretist and so adopted customs from all over. Following from that, he thought war would happen, then famine would naturally come as a consequence of the disruption of war. and finally disease and death in its wake.

        Fun guy to be around.

      • I have read that the first horseman who goes out conquering with the bow represents war in the sense of conquest by an external power (John is probably thinking of the powerful Parthian Empire just to the east), while the second who takes peace from the earth represents war in the sense of internal strife and rebellion (of which there was a lot at the time).

  5. Y’know, I just realized there’s an excelent response to the ‘these current events have all been predicted by the Bible’: Get the other books (co)authored by Jenkins and LaHaye. So far I know (via these kinds of blogs) of Soon(Jenkins), Babylon rising (LaHaye), Left Behind (Both) and now this one. All of them take place in the ‘near future’ (Soon a bit less near), and all of them contain RTCs loudly proclaiming that these latest setbacks for them are just what was predicted in the Bible as the terrible things that trigger God to unleash the end times. And in each books, the events are different. We need no psychological discussion, these two writers admit, through their own works, that just about every vaguely bad thing happening (to RTCs) can be reconstructed as a fufillment of the prophecies leading up to the end times.

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