Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 8, 2010

Waiting for Armageddon

Filed under: Christian fundamentalism,Film — louisproyect @ 7:59 pm

“Waiting for Armageddon” joins two other documentaries, “Jesus Camp” and “Unborn in the USA”, in lifting up the rock and showing the creepy, crawly things that have begun to play a larger and larger role in American politics since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Indeed, there are grounds for dating the fundamentalist turn back to Jimmy Carter who was the country’s first “born again” President. After all, he was the first as well to open up an attack on the working class and poor at the time of his “malaise” speech, considered by some to be the opening salvo in a thirty year war on the welfare state.

Directed by Kate Davis, Franco Sacchi and David Heilbroner, this movie allows its bible-thumping principals to hoist themselves on their own petards. By simply sticking a microphone in front of their mouths and a camera on their universally Caucasian faces, the directors are spared the job of commenting on the madness, by any definition an exercise in superfluity.

We first meet James and Laura Begg, a Connecticut couple who are convinced that the “rapture” might come at any day and are doing everything they can to prepare for it, which mostly means sticking your nose in the bible rather than stocking canned goods. Mr. Bagg is an aeronautics engineer and his wife a software developer at the same military aircraft company. Their belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth and lead an army of archangels against the minions of Satan near Mount Megiddo in Israel, which will result in the death of all except the saved (Bill Maher, watch out—me too, I guess) is totally at odds with their professional training based to one extent or another on the laws of physics. Listening to them reminded me of Trotsky’s observations on the rise of Nazism:

Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet, fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the psychology of National Socialism.

In addition to people like the Baggs, who hold down day jobs, we meet a gaggle of full-time professional sky pilots going from conference to conference at places that look like a Ramada Inn to lecture the faithful looking for clues about the return of Jesus Christ and how to get set to be lifted into the air with the rest of the saved. Looking at the girth on some of these believers, you wonder if they will ever be able to get off the ground.

One of the best known believers in rapture is John Hagee who is seen preaching to his followers:

There is a war between Islamofascism and freedom. There is a war between the culture of death and those who love life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a war WE MUST WIN. The Bible says that you, ladies and gentlemen, are the light of the world. May God anoint each of you and there can be a spiritual awakening in this country. That Christ will be seen as the answer. For there is no other name given among men whereby we might be saved.

Key to winning this war is support for the state of Israel, which in the twisted theology of more than 50 million Americans who believe in this stuff is a precondition for the return of Christ. Rightwing fundamentalists have raised 75 million dollars on behalf of Israel and tour the country all the time in the same way that people like me used to go to Nicaragua. They have tour guides showing them all the key sites where Jesus will lead his troops against Satan, while our tour guides used to take us to coffee farms or clinics. In the past, there were some who used to label me and other Marxists as millenarian but in our defense I can say that our beliefs were rooted in world history rather than fantasy.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that the Revelations of St. John, which is the foundation for the Rapture movement, would be harmless if Christianity remained a powerless sect just as it was at the time of its birth. It is only when you combine such beliefs with the reality of Cruise missiles, F-16’s and hydrogen bombs that things get dicey. The same thing is true of Judaism as well. Nobody felt particularly bothered by the book of Exodus with its savage narrative of death and destruction of Egyptians as long as Jews lived powerlessly in the shtetl.

Drawing upon critics of what amounts to a Christian Zionist movement like Chip Berlet and Mel White, a gay clergyman who once wrote speeches for Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham, we learn about its role in shoring up support for Zionist expansionism in the Middle East. Indeed, one might even make the case that this is much more of a factor than outfits like the American Jewish Congress since it uses the authority of the Christianity that is the religion of the nation’s most powerful policy-makers. Israel’s support from the evangelicals also represents the height of cynicism since it is well understood that people like Hagee believe that most Jews will not be on the winning side in the coming battle. One evangelical is cited as believing that only 144,000 Jews will be lifted up during Rapture. The rest will go to hell. Considering the personalities and psychology of the people featured in this movie, that’s fine by me.

Don’t miss “Waiting for Armageddon”, now playing at the Cinema Village in New York.


  1. Wow! the thought of those mothers suddenly being snatched up into the clouds is really exciting! Bring it on!

    The Trotsky quote was wonderful. It reminded me how powerful a writer he was.

    In all this display of the continuing power of the irrational, one needs to factor in the core irrationality of capitalism.



    Comment by Gary MacLennan — January 8, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

  2. These are the worst fanatics going. Others want only to kill SOME of the people – these psychos want to kill all of us.

    Comment by Larry Gambone — January 9, 2010 @ 2:26 am

  3. Like B. Dylan said, “…if my thought dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine…”

    I’d say the worst fanatics are those who actually can and do carry out their murderous fantasies – see Obama, et al.

    Comment by jp — January 9, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  4. I agree with jp that the danger is heightened by the Obamians, who continue to lend credibility to the folks seen in films like this through their refusal to take on Hagee and other folks who are steeped in “undigested bits of barbarism”. And, as Trotsky noted elsewhere in his observations on fascism, the “democrats” are more afraid of what might happen through an actual independent leadership of the working class masses than they are of fascism. No politician in recent U.S. history ever had more (undeserved) credibility with the working poor, and no politician in recent U.S. history has done more to stamp out whatever tiny sparks of mobilization at one time existed on his behalf. Obama and his followers, as some of the homies of my youth used to put it, could “fuck up a wet dream”. Their leadership has been an absolute disaster for whatever cutting edge consituency might have one time rallied, for whatever reasons, to their banner, believing it to be a rebirth of working class resurgence. We will be feeling the social effects of the discouragement generated by Obamania for the forseeable future.

    And in the wings waits the silly bastards documented in films like this one, largely because the “progressive” wing of late capital is so doggedly refusing to take these clowns on. The sad truth is that Obama and his followers will gladly work with the Hagees and the Franklin Grahams of this world before they’ll ever give the working class a political break. They are, in the words of the punk rocker Jello Biafra, the “suede denim secret police”. And they’re coming for your uncool niece.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — January 9, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  5. Where have you people been? This end of the world stuff has been a keystone of Protestant Fundamentalism since the late 19th century, it’s only gotten a lot crazier since the late 1970s (thanks to Tim LaHaye and tractmaker Jack Chick.) There is a Fundamentalist counter-culture out there that not only mimics pop culture but also has its own cadres of private grade and high schools where the textbooks are written by fundamentalist authors (A Beka Books from Pensacola Christian College and the Bob Jones University Press are two examples.) After high school, young Fundamentalists can go off to the (usually unaccredited) Christian college of their choice and from there either go on to being pastors or missionaries, though some of them wind up in Fundamentalist-owned corporations. There are generations that have believed that they were living in the “end times”, hoping that “the Rapture” would happen. It won’t, but these bozos are here to stay.

    Comment by mr. mike — January 14, 2010 @ 7:16 am

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