Not your average family movie
September 14, 2010 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Before the Left Behind series, there was A Thief In The Night, a 70's B-Movie that scared countless young church-goers witless.

The acting is described as "wooden" and the production quality was poor, but the film is remembered by many chidren of the 70's and 80's as "that movie from church that scared me to death."

The film opens with a young woman waking up to find that people all over the world have suddenly disappeared, and she soon learns that she was left behind after the Rapture. It follows her through the resulting End of Times, including the introduction of the mark of the beast as a replacement for currency, and the world coming under the power of the Antichrist and his U.N.I.T.E. (United Nations Imperium for Total Emergency) organisation.

The film had three sequels which extended into the 1980's, all released by Mark IV Pictures, now Russ Doughton, who also sell a Prophecy Survival Guide.

The film is available in its entirety on YouTube, in seven parts.
posted by ukdanae (162 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh hooray, I get to re-watch this movie for free!
There was a movie theater one town over from where I grew up that showed all of those corny religious movies that were being pumped out in the '70s. Our church went to see them all and I do remember this one quite vividly. Another one that I remember was a documentary about the search for Noah's Ark.
This same movie theater was chosen by Michael Moore as the US premiere for Capitalism: A Love Story.
posted by NoMich at 5:37 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah, dispensational premillennialism. Pretribulational at that.

The view espoused by this movie and the execrable Left Behind series falls into those categories. They represent a very recent, i.e. nineteenth century, hermeneutic with absolutely no historical precedent. The whole thing basically sprung full grown from John Darby's forehead around 1830.

Which is weird, because it's somehow gone on to be the dominant eschatological perspective in the US. This despite the fact that no Christian tradition believed this ever, and most of the confessional traditions--Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox--still don't. Indeed, you'll find that this sort of thing is almost exclusively the province of Baptists, various rather nondescript evangelical denominations (Nazarene, EFCA, etc.), and nondenominational types, especially the latter, i.e. those traditions which are the most acutely ignorant of church history, both in general and their own.

This is just another reason why I'm pretty comfortable asserting that the majority of the American church is completely out of touch with historic Christianity. It isn't because I'm taking some unorthodox view that the church has gotten Jesus' teachings wrong from the beginning or because there's some intrinsic conflict between Jesus and Paul. No, it's because even by Christianity's own standards, this stuff is deeply bizarre.
posted by valkyryn at 5:39 AM on September 14, 2010 [125 favorites]


Or was it Sicko?
posted by NoMich at 5:39 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, I totally remember this movie and it scared the living bejesus out of me as a kid. Which, I guess was kind of the point.

It was like the greatest horror movie ever in that I watched it a bazillion times and knew all the words to that creepy "I wish we'd all been ready" song. Of course, it also inspired me to go to youth group every week and try to make Jesus like me (which was really a stand-in for my crazy Evangelical father's lack of affection), which most horror movies don't.

I was the only 12 year old whose greatest fear was that Jesus would come back and I'd be left behind. I'm really grateful that I grew out of this. Watching the YouTube clips now, this feels so ridiculous, but as a kid... man, that was some powerful shit.

(Though TBH, it wouldn't have had the same impact without the "book of Revelations reading crazy Evangelical father" providing the context in which I saw the movie in the first place.)
posted by sonika at 5:42 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, as a kid, I didn't think the sequels were "as good." I guess this movie was like my own middle school Star Wars. Man, what an effed up childhood.
posted by sonika at 5:45 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I had a friend in junior high that made me watch this one afternoon at her house. That stupid song STILL gets stuck in my head from time to time.

But I'm still not a Christian!
posted by elsietheeel at 5:46 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


P.S. The song is actually stuck in my head right now. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:47 AM on September 14, 2010


Is this the one that has the beheading scene? Or is that in a sequel? Or in another movie altogether (the fact that I might have watched a DIFFERENT 70s/80s era scary religious Rapture movie as a kid kind of fills me with...something).

That scene, plus something about driving across a bridge and to a farm, is all I remember. But that movie alone probably extended my lip-service to religion by several years.

Damn do I hate brainwashing.
posted by DU at 5:50 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


DU, i think the beheading scene was in one of the sequels. That's one of the many parts i remember all-too-vividly.
posted by ukdanae at 5:52 AM on September 14, 2010


Ah, the beheading seems to be part of A Distant Thunder. So appropriate for a church to show to young kids. Would a real, powerful and loving deity need to scare children into belief?
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I never saw this (I don't think my Catholic CCD was big on these type of movies) so I tried to watch the first 20 minutes. I don't...get it? Did the Rapture happen, and then the kids decided to go to a carnival? If you were left behind, isn't that it? Or does Jesus come back and do clean-up?

It's all very confusing. Also confusing: Was every actress in the 1970s trained to use a Jan Brady voice?
posted by xingcat at 6:00 AM on September 14, 2010


Beheading at the end
posted by DU at 6:04 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


WTF was wrong with our parents?
posted by Optamystic at 6:08 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think my Catholic CCD was big on these type of movies

Catholics aren't big on this particular theological debacle at all. Which is good, because it's a deeply silly way of reading the Bible.
posted by valkyryn at 6:11 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is this the one that has the beheading scene?

Sweet Holy Moses, that scared the pants off of me for years. That and the scorpion things that they never really showed on screen.

Oddly enough, after that, I developed a morbid fascination with historical beheadings that is infamously joked about within my family ("There's nothing sonika loves more than a good beheading!"). I think it was a way to rationalize the fear that these scenes put into my head (which were way more plausible than other horror movies with blobs and such), to understand the historical context of beheadings and kind of dull myself to them by overfamiliarization.

Again, weird kid. Messed up childhood. Since the only remnants of this phase in my life seem to be an aversion to evangelism in all forms and a fascination with Anne Boleyn, I think I did pretty ok.
posted by sonika at 6:11 AM on September 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was the only 12 year old whose greatest fear was that Jesus would come back and I'd be left behind. I'm really grateful that I grew out of this. Watching the YouTube clips now, this feels so ridiculous, but as a kid... man, that was some powerful shit.

It wasn't always easy growing up in a liberal, social justice denomination. I mean, there was always that thought, "man, if they are right and there is a second coming, Jesus is going to be seriously pissed about how bad we've screwed everything up!"
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:11 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


That and the scorpion things that they never really showed on screen.

That would have required a budget.
posted by valkyryn at 6:13 AM on September 14, 2010


WTF was wrong with our parents?

Can't speak to yours, but my own is actually deeply mentally ill and uses his religious devotion as a cover for it. Honestly, the man believes that G-d speaks to him on the phone. So, for him to try and "save" his young daughter by showing her these movies when she was going through a phase of watching Night of the Living Dead and such was completely in character for him. And it worked.

The only part of the scheme that didn't pan out is that I felt like if I became pals with Jesus, my dad would like me more. Turns out crazy doesn't roll that way. I suppose it's for the best, if I had developed a closer relationship with him, I might not ever have found my way out of "the church." (I use the term loosely - this is evangelical wackism we're talking here, not an established denomination or anything.)
posted by sonika at 6:18 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was the only 12 year old whose greatest fear was that Jesus would come back and I'd be left behind. I'm really grateful that I grew out of this. Watching the YouTube clips now, this feels so ridiculous, but as a kid... man, that was some powerful shit.

sonika, I had the same greatest fear and remember having a 100% flip-out session once as a teenager when the moon turned red, since i thought it was the end of time starting. I also used to enter incredibly dark poetry into Bible competitions about the Armageddon, until they finally wrote back and asked me to stop submitting. I was ten when i saw the films. It was an all-night lock in at our church, and that whole night is probably the most vivid set of memories I have from my childhood. I feel like we should start a support group or something.
posted by ukdanae at 6:19 AM on September 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wow, saw this as a kid in St. Petersburg, Florida in the 70s and now the internet brings it back to me in the 10s.

Life can be strange but I've never believed in Jesus.
posted by PHINC at 6:19 AM on September 14, 2010


I feel like we should start a support group or something.

Srsly.

Life can be strange but I've never believed in Jesus.

I think a lot of it has to do with context. Without the crazy father spouting off about Revelation all the time, this would have simply been one in a pantheon of cheesy 70s horror movies. As it was, it felt real. I can see how if you just see the movie without the family (or community or whatever) pressure to accept it as, well, gospel, it wouldn't necessarily push you into the waiting arms of Jebus. If you saw it in a youth group when you weren't some one who regularly attended church and weren't pressured by your parents/peers to take it seriously, it's just another B-grade movie.
posted by sonika at 6:23 AM on September 14, 2010


Damn. All we got in England was Jesus Christ Superstar and our vicar didn't like that because it didn't show the resurrection. And that made me listen to the words more closely and realise that JCS is a pretty straight-on demystification of the Jesus story and therefore a somewhat subversive thing to play to young Christians. But this rapture stuff is so flat-out bonkers it leaves me breathless. As valkyryn points out, even the more reputable branches of Christianity are embarrassed by it. I'm still going to check out this movie though.
posted by Decani at 6:25 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a kid I read some ten-year-old issues of a Christian teenagers magazine, I think it was called Young Ambassador, that had originally belonged to my older foster sisters and had been stacked in a cupboard in the family room, along with back issues of Reader's Digest (which I also read).

There was one story in there that bemused me. A girl and her best friend get on a roller coaster ride. The girl hates and fears roller coasters but is coaxed by her friend. So the ride starts, and the girl shuts her eyes tightly. The ride goes on and on and she finally gets up the courage to open her eyes, only to discover that her friend is no longer in their caged-in car. Then the car goes by the ride attendant's booth, and the attendant isn't there. The implication of course was that the friend and the attendant had been raptured, and the poor girl was stuck in this roller coaster ride which just kept going on and on. I actually had never heard of the Rapture at that point (my parents, though Christians, don't believe in it) and couldn't figure out what had happened. I thought the story was pretty freaky though, and just as good in terms of suspense and eeriness as anything Stephen King ever wrote. Most Christian music and fiction is crap (it's so easy to sell that publishers aren't too picky about what they take) but you do occasionally find something that really stands up.
posted by orange swan at 6:39 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


KEEP A SHARP LOOKOUT! FOR
YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN I WILL
COME, AT EVENING, AT MIDNIGHT,
EARLY DAWN OR LATE DAYBREAK.
DON'T LET ME FIND YOU SLEEPING!
That Jesus was one scary fucker. It's coming from inside the house!
posted by pracowity at 6:42 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is blood in that beheading scene, btw, but only from previous uses of the device. They don't actually show a head coming off.

And it wasn't the blood that got me at the time. It was the inexorable YOU ARE NEXTness combined with the concept of beheading.
posted by DU at 6:43 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


This series of movies is the source of an unbelievable amount of childhood trauma for me.

Given the poor choice of public schooling where I grew up, my parents sent me to a private school run by an Assembly of God church. We had chapel twice a week. One day instead of the usual chapel service, they decided to show us "A Distant Thunder." I was maybe twelve years old at the time, and spent much of the rest of my childhood worried about various apocalyptic rapture scenarios. Of course, I had done the sensible sheeple thing and accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal Lord and Savior, but what about my parents and my family and my baby brother? Also, have you ever read the book of Revelation? There is some seriously frightening stuff in there, especially to a kid with an active imagination; needless to say, it was pretty much nightmare fodder for the remainder of my youth. I'd be in bed at night, listening to the cacophany of weird noises outside for the sound of a shofar that would signal the rapture. I'd worry constantly about the spiritual condition of my non-churchgoing parents. What if they were left behind? Worse, what if, they took the mark of the beast to survive, and were doomed to hell? What if they didn't, and were sent to the guillotine?

Of course, my parents called and complained to the school. But as non-churchgoing people - as the "unsaved" - they hardly had the credibility to challenge evangelicals who claimed an ongoing personal relationship with God.

To make things worse, there would be class discussions. One day in our classroom, some of the kids talked about how cool they thought the movie was and asked why they couldn't see it again? The teacher made a pointed remark about certain parent complaints that I felt certain was aimed a kids like me.

I still get pretty angry to this day thinking about it. Thank God for college.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:45 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


This was made into a comic book that I was given in 4th grade. I remember the beheading scene and how transfixed I became at the notion that one set of people had the power to remove the heads of another set of people.

Horrifying.

I think shit like this comes from a sublimated need to see the same dreck that all the rest of humanity watches--just "baptized" and made "acceptable."

I'd much rather watch Nightmare on Elm Street, thankyouverymuch.

posted by jefficator at 6:46 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, I didn't realize the evangelical movement in the US had so completely submerged its religion into Republican right-wing politics so long ago. I really thought it was a more recent phenomenon.
posted by Naberius at 6:47 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Worse, what if, they took the mark of the beast to survive, and were doomed to hell?

Watching (part of) the movie now, this really makes no sense. The freaking RAPTURE just happened and you STILL don't believe in God? How would that happen exactly?

Of course at the time, it all made sense. "They are Evil/Deceived By Satan, duh!" Yet another way in which these religious organizations can subtly portray the "overculture" as bad ("of the world") and portray themselves as the only right-thinking minority ("in the world").
posted by DU at 6:48 AM on September 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Remember kids, God is such an emotionally fragile god that he'll give you eternal salvation, if only you'll love him enough.

Sort of like dating someone with bipolar disorder.
posted by gjc at 6:50 AM on September 14, 2010 [28 favorites]


There is blood in that beheading scene, btw, but only from previous uses of the device. They don't actually show a head coming off.

It's really the screaming on the witness' face that horrified me.

I was maybe twelve years old at the time, and spent much of the rest of my childhood worried about various apocalyptic rapture scenarios. Of course, I had done the sensible sheeple thing and accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal Lord and Savior, but what about my parents and my family and my baby brother?

My mom was a Buddhist at the time (it's how I was raised until I went all Jesus in middle school... and I reverted back later on. You can kind of see why my biological parents divorced.) and I kept "preaching" to her because I was scared as hell that she would be left behind. This went over really, really well. Not.

Also: my father was somewhat absent minded and anytime he didn't answer his phone or I couldn't find him or anything I would go and start praying because I was dead sure that the Rapture had come and I'd been left behind.

Thanks, Mark IV Productions!
posted by sonika at 6:50 AM on September 14, 2010


By the way, notice all the coded messages here.

The gorgeous blond Aryans are beheaded by the bearded, dark-haired global force that has usurped power. The darker haired "friends" eventually succumb and go over to the side of evil.

There is paranoia about more than just the rapture at play in this film.
posted by jefficator at 6:57 AM on September 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


Holy shit, I totally remember this movie and it scared the living bejesus out of me as a kid. Which, I guess was kind of the point.

I never saw this movie, having been raised vaguely Congregationalist, but I would think that scaring the bejesus into kids would be the point - otherwise, they're doing it wrong!
posted by rtha at 7:01 AM on September 14, 2010


Oh baby Jesus my eyeballs are bleeding.

I'm no expert on this nonsense, but note very carefully that this movie was made in 1971 (?) yet it makes the antichrist a UN-like global government. I would have predicted it would have been the Catholics or Jews, or some other religious group, but they went Glen Beck even before Glen Beck went Glen Beck.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 7:02 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had heard other people talk about them, without their remembering the name. The beheading bit was apparently memorable.

I am so getting these movies. A friend and I have devil worship movie nights, for films usually foreign and from around the seventies, although we do dip into the eighties with movies like Midnight Offerings. Some Tribulation would go nicely interleaved with all of the Satanic bits. Can't have sausage without some cheese.
posted by adipocere at 7:05 AM on September 14, 2010


When my private baptist school showed us this, they followed it up not too long after with Testament. You know, just in case we didn't become neurotic and fearful enough the first time.
posted by Noah at 7:24 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Obligatory Slacktivist link to his massive Left Behind (and now Tribulation Force) page-by-page deconstruction started in 2003.

First entry here. Lots to read, but he does an excellent job of explaining what makes these the World's Worst Books, both as literature and in terms of Christianity.

I saw all these movies, but for some reason they didn't horrify me, maybe because none of it was new to me (and I was already in jr. high, so a bit more cynical).

That damn song did get in my head though.
posted by emjaybee at 7:26 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm no expert on this nonsense, but note very carefully that this movie was made in 1971 (?) yet it makes the antichrist a UN-like global government

This is not at all new - fears of a global government taking over the United States have been in play among conservatives as far back as the 1880s, and accelerated during the early 20th century with the growth of international institutions (The League of Nations and later the United Nations, the various post-war economic agreements like Bretton Woods) and of the international communist conspiracy as the premier source of anxiety among the Right. It didn't help that even non-socialist progressives and Leftists back then were still enarmoured enough of governmental power and central planning to start up a world federalist movement.

Incidentally, you don't need the rapture to freak kids out about the End Times. My church always taught that even if you are saved you'll be stuck down here (being tortured and executed by the evil Satan-worshipping world state) during the End Times, and it has heavily implied that the better a Christian you were, the more torment you would be put through. For the greater glory of God, of course.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:27 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think I was maybe seven or eight when I saw this. Our hellfire-and-brimstone evangelical preacher showed it to the whole congregation and it did scare the living shit out of me. The part where she wakes up and it's all a dream, but then she hears the electric razor buzzing in the sink gives me chills to this day. (I can't see video at work, going off memory here...)

Anyway, they did an "altar call" right after that, and I went up even though I'd been "saved" since I was barely old enough to mumble the words "dear Jesus please come into my heart." So I did the altar call, and got re-saved with the help of some church lady who met me at the altar and took me into the back room to help me pray "um, dear Jesus please come into my heart. Again. In case you left or something after that time I hit my brother. Thanks."

But I was so terrified of being left behind after the Rapture, that I started going up to get re-saved every time they had an altar call for months afterward. To this day I get itchy feet any time I hear the song "Just As I Am".

Thank... uh, God, I guess, that I never saw the sequels. I'm going to have to show this to my husband, who, having been brought up mildly Methodist, is gratifying horrified whenever I tell him tales of my Evangelical upbringing.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:33 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mormons just get The Man from Snowy River.
posted by Artw at 7:33 AM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, I didn't realize the evangelical movement in the US had so completely submerged its religion into Republican right-wing politics so long ago. I really thought it was a more recent phenomenon.

1964, specifically.

(Five-part series, juicy stuff is in part 2 but the whole thing is more than worth a read.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:38 AM on September 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd like to make an end-times tribulation/rapture movie of my own. Except in this one, the main character left behind is a special collections librarian at Harvard, who, while not a Christian herself, has nonetheless read all of the Left Behind books and has seen all the movies, so she's prepared.

She wakes to discover everyone she loves gone, but this brings he some joy. Finally, the endless banal chatter is silenced. By it an apocalypse of Man's makin or God's, she does not care. Because she had read her books, and she is ready. As the anti-christ goes about the pedestrian business of dominating the world through the UN, and preparing the world for Satan's war with God, she readies herself for what comes next.

But what comes next is not foretold in the Book of Revelations. See plans to interrupt the narrative of the world with a book of her own.
And she has an ace up her sleeve, because as well all know from "The Dunwich Horror," The Widener Library at Harvard also contains one of the few extant copies of the Necronomicon. This is her book now, and she alone knows that this is the true book of the world. It is this book that hold within it the horror of truth. The rest of creation is but a footnote in this book.

She begins her incantations. She continues chanting and murmuring ceaselessly for months at a time, unaware that at some point she has died and her body turned to dust. But she continues to whisper and chant. Her whispers haunt the dreams of everyone left behind, including the antichrist herself. It is the anomaly in the world, the deviation from the prophecy, that over time grows louder until at it can be heard even in the darkest depths of sleep. Then suddenly it ends with a final "Cthulhu fthagn!". And the antichrist falls to his knees and weeps. With her last words, she has awakened He Who Shall Not Be Named.

The Antichrist weeps openly, and all the world follows suit. Jesus Christ and the chorus of angels descend from heaven, but instead of blowing their trumpets in jubilation, they too begin to weep. And their tears become pitch and blood. All the Bibles in the world, every holy book of any kind, erupt with fungi. Every instance of the printed word "hope" smolders and burns and the very concept itself is redacted from the universe.

As the eyes of all living people bleed at the beauty of the lumbering monstrosity, Mankind spontaneously aborts itself.

God himself descends from heaven to battle the Antichrist as told in the Book of Revelations, but finds His books decayed and rotten, the prophecy moot. All possible philosophies are rendered decadent and corrupt. The Antichrist kills himself on God's sword, baiting Him one last time "At least I get to go to Hell".

God is left alone to watch the unending. The sun turns an impossible black, a black so blinding that it deluminates everything. The darkness is an impossible purple, a darkness that passes beyond sight and into sound, a sound which blankets the earth in a skittering cacophony of carrion feasting their way through the flesh of the earth. Through the blinding deadlight, God sees his creation choked by fruiting bodies, plump with ichor - the afterbirth of creation. This perversion of Creation plunges God into madness, and cackling He runs into the waiting arms of He Who Did Not Sleep But Eternal Lay.

Cthulhu eats God, and the latter gives His thanks.

He then shambles across the face of the earth until finally coming to rest at the bottom of the blood ocean. An eternity passes, and eventually the fruits of rotten morels and ripened mushrooms births God anew. God who in an act of great violence and hubris creates man in his own image. And the wheel turns. Man will again refuse to leave lie that which is encased in the dirt. Man will again learn to read what is written in the pages of what is unearthed and what will unearth. Cycles repeat. Cycles within epicycles, eternities within eternities.

And beneath the impossible depths of sleep, it will lie. Hungry, until He hears his song.


That's the end-times movie I'd like to make.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:40 AM on September 14, 2010 [93 favorites]


The last two were halfway-competent B-movies, if I remember correctly. They also starred William Wellman, Jr., son of legendary director William A. Wellman, who directed the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture (Wings) as well as two more Best Picture nominees, A Star Is Born and The Ox-Bow Incident. They were still pretty schlocky, but represented a huge step up in production values from the first two.
posted by EarBucket at 7:52 AM on September 14, 2010


My new nickname is He Who Does Not Proofread.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:54 AM on September 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


I started going up to get re-saved every time they had an altar call for months afterward

Oh my gosh, I thought that was just me. What if it didn't take the first time????
posted by muddgirl at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


valkyryn's comment is chock full of background that I'm going to defer to because I'm no expert on Biblical hermeneutics or church history. But, speaking as an atheist who nevertheless intends absolutely no snarkiness, I find the claim that what makes millenarian types wacky is their divergence from traditional, big tent Christian practices to be silly. It's hard to dismiss a given religious practice as obviously false from within another given religious perspective, even if the latter is older, more widespread, and has an internal hermeneutic and historical coherence that seems lacking in the former. (Put more glibly: burning bushes and golden plates from Moroni seem exactly and equally unlikely to me.) It's nevertheless fascinating, as valkyryn points out, that a textually and liturgically ungrounded eschatological view is so widespread in the U.S. today. Do any Mefites -- Bible scholars, religious sociologists, whomever -- know why?

I'd hazard a guess that relying on more recent and local prophecies or revelations provides a way of "owning" one's faith -- it makes it seem more immediate, more relevant, and most importantly, flatters the believer that NOW is the most important moment in history, when big things are about to happen and your own beliefs and actions are of tremendous importance.
posted by a small part of the world at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


(I went to a private high school run by a charismatic--faith healing, speaking in tongues, Satan lurking behind every head cold--church. We watched all four movies in our weekly chapel service one year.)
posted by EarBucket at 8:01 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is lunatic, but nothing compared to the utter southern-fried madness that is 1971's "If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?", which includes graphic (albeit poorly done) footage of Americans Christians getting tortured, including a child getting his head chopped off. Want to see it? It's online!

The bad guys in this are communists, rather than Satanists, but it's worth comparing these two pictures -- they're extraordinarily similar, which is why I think that in Evangelical circles, calling Obama a socialist is a dog whistle for saying his in league with Satan.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 AM on September 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd like to make an end-times tribulation/rapture movie of my own. Except in this one, the main character left behind is a special collections librarian at Harvard, who, while not a Christian herself, has nonetheless read all of the Left Behind books and has seen all the movies, so she's prepared.

Does this end with her breaking her glasses?
posted by DU at 8:04 AM on September 14, 2010 [11 favorites]


Sweet goddamn, Pastabagel.... I'd definitely go see your movie.
posted by brand-gnu at 8:05 AM on September 14, 2010


Now I want to see Pastabagel's movie.
posted by warbaby at 8:07 AM on September 14, 2010


calling Obama a socialist is a dog whistle for saying his in league with Satan

Oh it absolutely is. Socialism = communism = atheism = satanism. The generous evangelicals will grant that many atheists are merely Deceived by Satan and not true Satan worshipers.

"Kenyan" is probably also code for "pagan" which for these people is largely indistinguishable from atheism. ("You can't worship NO god, so you must be praying to trees.")
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Do any Mefites -- Bible scholars, religious sociologists, whomever -- know why?\

My theory is that it's twofold.

First, it's a sexy idea. It lets you live in a world like Harry Potter or The Matrix, where there's a hidden supernatural battle for the fate of the world that most people don't even know exists. But you're one of the chosen few, who has magic powers to oppose the Dark Lord and his minions. It's popular for exactly the same reasons that escapist fantasy like Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings attract so many fans.

Second, it conveniently lets you ignore any kind of social responsibility. It puts the focus of religion squarely on the end of the world: the only thing that really matters is that Jesus is going to come back and reward the people who've been faithful to him and punish the rest (who will finally find out that they've been wrong this whole time, ha ha ha). Feeding the hungry and healing the sick and caring for the poor aren't just irrelevant, they're distractions from what God wants you to be doing.
posted by EarBucket at 8:08 AM on September 14, 2010 [18 favorites]


I started going up to get re-saved every time they had an altar call for months afterward

Oh my gosh, I thought that was just me. What if it didn't take the first time????


We called that re-dedication in our church. I did at least once a year, usually at our tent revivals or during Bible school. I remember they used to play "Just As I Am (!)" over and over, at least 20 times in a row until somebody came up -- everyone knew that until somebody did it, we'd just all keep standing there.
posted by ukdanae at 8:10 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


During middle school/early high school, I was "born again" so many times that if you counted the hours I spent accepting Jesus into my heart, they would probably exceed the number of hours (9) that my mother was actually in labor with me.
posted by sonika at 8:13 AM on September 14, 2010


It lets you live in a world like Harry Potter or The Matrix, where there's a hidden supernatural battle for the fate of the world that most people don't even know exists. But you're one of the chosen few, who has magic powers to oppose the Dark Lord and his minions. It's popular for exactly the same reasons that escapist fantasy like Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings attract so many fans.

See also Prayer Warriors. Sarah Palin has specifically thanked them. She should scare you more than she does.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:13 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hey, PHINC, did you see it at the Christian drive-in theater in St. Petersburg? That's where I saw it in the 80s, and it scared the crap out of me. I remember one night my parents were working late, but before they got home I was convinced that the rapture had occurred and and my brother and I were left behind (I was like 9 years old or so). I finally managed to reach my mother at work, to my great relief.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:15 AM on September 14, 2010


Looking down from above and seeing all those including friends and loved ones who are suffering eternal damnation in hell seems like the best part of heaven to me.
posted by pianomover at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I started going up to get re-saved every time they had an altar call for months afterward

Oh my gosh, I thought that was just me. What if it didn't take the first time????


Yeah, that was TOTALLY me.

In addition to A Thief In The Night, I also had to contend with the fact that my parents were missionaries in Ecuador. THE SAME ECUADOR WHO USED TO SPEAR MISSIONARIES.

So, when I was little, it was a combination of OMGRAPTURE! and OMGDEATH-BY-AMAZON!

Also, the last time I saw this movie was in middle school in the 90s. I remember the teacher turned it off so we could watch a certain White Bronco slowly careen down a certain highway. Kind of lost its scariness after that.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:18 AM on September 14, 2010


I saw this at church camp in the mid-70s. Not at MY church camp, you understand; we were liberal Presbyterians, about a step-and-a-half removed from Unitarianism, and had no truck with this sort of thing. Our minister was too polite, though, to turn down an invitation from the Baptists next door to view "an inspirational film". We thought it was hilarious, and took turns on the walk diving into the woods and pretending to have been uplifted. We felt kind of bad when our minister explained that the Baptist kids actually believed this stuff.

But not too bad. We were smug little bastards.
posted by steambadger at 8:20 AM on September 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


But, speaking as an atheist who nevertheless intends absolutely no snarkiness, I find the claim that what makes millenarian types wacky is their divergence from traditional, big tent Christian practices to be silly.

I take your point, but there's more going on here than that. Various millenarian types are perennial features of Christianity over its two thousand year history, but in most cases they represent fringe groups that spring up and pass away on a more or less regular basis. There have always been people--Christians or otherwise--who think the world is about to end, and Christianity has usually dealt with these people by ignoring them.

It wasn't until dispensationalism that such views made their way into the mainstream, and I have a theory as to why that is. Until the Reformation, there was a single hierarchy responsible for theological orthodoxy, and though the Catholic church is actually a remarkably heterogeneous tradition, it has with a few exceptions been pretty good at marginalizing these sorts of obviously heterodox fringe movements.* The Reformation obviously saw the end of that dominance. But for a few centuries after that, most Reformation traditions were pretty hierarchical themselves. Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and the Reformed tradition all have pretty strong internal mechanisms for policing their theology. They may not have liked the way Rome ran the hierarchy, but they all recognized (and recognize) the need for authority.

But in eighteenth and nineteenth century America, that just wasn't true. A lot of the early settlers were Congregationalists, i.e. Christians who believed in no ecclesiastical organization above the local church. This is the form of church government pursued by most Baptist traditions. Other traditions came out of the early nineteenth-century Holiness Movement, which focused almost exclusively on personal sanctification at the expense of any kind of institutional loyalty or involvement. Other older groups represented refugees from state churches in Europe or were Anabaptists--Amish and Mennonite--who reject most forms of institutional organization. Then you've got various Pentecostal movements springing up at the end of the nineteenth century.

The common thread of all of these is that they have no internal mechanism for policing themselves, i.e. keeping in touch with their roots. There exists no authority to say what is in bounds. There does not even exist any connection to the ancient faith. Most of these people are reinventing the wheel, some of them deliberately so. Most of their leadership was (and is!) shockingly uneducated to boot, having been trained at their own tradition's seminaries, generally founded by itinerant ministers with no formal background. Seriously, we're talking about traditions where anyone who wants to can call himself a preacher so long as he's got a Bible, a horse, and can give a good tent revival. So when some guy comes along with a radically ahistorical reading of Revelation, there wasn't anyone who could stand up to him.

Again, note that those traditions which have preserved their connection with the past are not given to this sort of nonsense. They certainly have their own problems, but anarchy tends not to be one of them.

In short, the majority of the American church represents a wholesale and more-or-less deliberate attempt to break with traditional Christianity. So its not surprising that you get weird results like this one and the bizarre civil religion stuff you see both in the antebellum South and the Tea Partiers. They simply don't know any better.

*I'd throw in most of Marian theology in here, but the counter-argument would be that Mary has been a person of interest to Christians from the beginning. Either way, Rome isn't all that tolerant of sensationalist theology.
posted by valkyryn at 8:28 AM on September 14, 2010 [31 favorites]


The recently published Therefore, Repent! and Sword of My Mouth, both by Jim Munroe and different artists, provide an interesting antidote to the freaky dispensationalism in these movies and all those Jack Chick comics.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:30 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't speak to yours, but my own is actually deeply mentally ill and uses his religious devotion as a cover for it. Honestly, the man believes that G-d speaks to him on the phone. So, for him to try and "save" his young daughter by showing her these movies when she was going through a phase of watching Night of the Living Dead and such was completely in character for him. And it worked.

Aside: are there Christians who use the spelling "G-d"? I thought it was exclusively an orthodox Jewish thing.
posted by acb at 8:40 AM on September 14, 2010


are there Christians who use the spelling "G-d"?

I can't say that there are none, but there certainly aren't many. It certainly isn't anything like a majority standard.
posted by valkyryn at 8:41 AM on September 14, 2010


Do any Mefites -- Bible scholars, religious sociologists, whomever -- know why?

Same thing that causes hysteria in any group:

1) Someone makes an ultimate claim
2) The claim implicates you
3) Your social net at least tacitly reinforces the claim
4) You encounter no legitimate means to oppose the claim
5) Hysteria
posted by jefficator at 8:52 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I grew up Catholic so I never got to see this. The only mind-scarring movie I got to see was a safety film about kids getting hit by a train. I swear, every time it rained at Camp Wohelo we watched that sucker.
posted by Biblio at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2010


Points taken, valkyryn, but I think it's a stretch to describe American revivalist, evangelical, or millenarian movements as "heterdox," since most of them have no immediate roots in Catholic orthodoxy. As a descriptive matter I think you're right that there's a more anarchic or at least antihierarchical impluse in American Christianity, but I don't think that means that any given sect lacks the means to police doctrinal or institutional boundaries. It's just means that a lot of American religion is "federalized" or decentralized. I think decentralization is seen as a plus rather than a minus by people who want personal or local relevance in their worship or religious community. If all this represents an important schism or break with traditional Christianity (and what is "traditional," anyway? Just Catholic? Catholic and Orthodox? Lutherans too?), it's not as if the people involved don't have their reasons for it.

Whether or not this buffet-style approach to religious association is a good thing is something I'm agnostic (ah ha) about. And certainly one of the advantages of a religious organization with clearly demarcated authority and relatively rigid interpretive practices is that it can dampen the kind of religious enthusiasm that, to my mind, is dangerous to the institutions and values of democratic politics.
posted by a small part of the world at 9:06 AM on September 14, 2010


While I was reading the link "Christians in the Hand of an Angry God" I just received a call with a recorded message from the pastor of Hurricane Bible church who wanted me to stay on the line so someone could tell me how I could know Jesus. I've never gotten such a call before. That was weird.

If it had been playing "Just As I Am" in the background, I think I might have shit my pants.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:16 AM on September 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


First, it's a sexy idea. It lets you live in a world like Harry Potter or The Matrix, where there's a hidden supernatural battle for the fate of the world that most people don't even know exists. But you're one of the chosen few, who has magic powers to oppose the Dark Lord and his minions. It's popular for exactly the same reasons that escapist fantasy like Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings attract so many fans.

This is definitely a big part of it. For example, witness the works of Frank E. Peretti (over 12 million copies of his works in print). Works of his like This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness posit that there is, although invisible to us, a literal war between angels and demons being waged all around us. When we sin (or, worse, turn to things like the dreaded New Age Movement), the demons gain the upper hand. When we pray and repent, the angels have the advantage. As I recall, the demons can attack people's minds and cause problems in the physical world. The angels seem less inclined toward direct intervention.

The angels and demons are described in very fantastic terms. I recall the demons wield scimitars and disappear in puffs of red smoke when slain.

The analogy to Harry Potter is very apt. Perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that evangelicals accuse Harry Potter, D&D, etc of being about real magic instead of fiction, since their own fiction basically claims to be an accurate depiction of the way the world really works, and many readers have taken them all too literally.
posted by jedicus at 9:18 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think it's a stretch to describe American revivalist, evangelical, or millenarian movements as "heterdox," since most of them have no immediate roots in Catholic orthodoxy.

Catholic orthodoxy is the trunk of the tree from which all branches of Western Christianity emerge.

The penal, substitutionary atonement central to most revivalist, evangelical, or millenarian movements is the brainchild of St. Anselm of Canterbury.

Just because modern religious communities are ignorant of their historical roots does not make them free from those roots.
posted by jefficator at 9:18 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


"It's popular for exactly the same reasons that escapist fantasy like Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings attract so many fans."

They get the best of both worlds - the heebie jeebies of spooky entertainment while still condemning the satanic fascination with fantasy. Kind of like when there was a film or speaker at the church going over the specific demonic references in rock music. That one would have them lined up around the block.

And by them, I mean me.
posted by double bubble at 9:18 AM on September 14, 2010


The film opens with a young woman waking up to find that people all over the world have suddenly disappeared, and she soon learns that she was left behind after the Rapture

Yea, and thus I say unto you, set thy alarm clock carefully, and let the hour of alarm be an early hour, for that is pleasing to THE LORD.

And mind thy battery life, and should thou needst to replace thy batteries, do so in a prompt manner, so that thy alarm clock shall not fail to rouse thee in time for thy rapture.

For, if thou sleepest in, thou will rise late and say unto thyself, "fuck, I thought the rapture wasn't 'til 10. Fuck fuck fuck! Shit". And then where wilst thou be? Thou wilst be up dung creek without thy paddle, mark mine words.

And don't thou think, "no problem, Bill will call me if I sleep in, and I'll just jump in the shower, throw on a robe and I'll be good to go in 5 minutes". Thou fool! Thou will take thy time in the bathroom, as is thy wont, and THE LORD will be banging on the door, saying unto thee, "For fuck's sake, can you get a move on in there? What the fuck are you doing in there that takes half a fucking hour?" and the wrath of THE LORD shall be upon thee.

Well, to be pedantic, it will be outside the bathroom door of thee, but thou gets mine drift.

- Rev 24:12-16
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:21 AM on September 14, 2010 [45 favorites]


Reading all y'alls stories here leads me to one conclusion: it was child abuse.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:30 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cthulhu eats God, and the latter gives His thanks.

He then shambles across the face of the earth until finally coming to rest at the bottom of the blood ocean. An eternity passes, and eventually the fruits of rotten morels and ripened mushrooms births God anew. God who in an act of great violence and hubris creates man in his own image. And the wheel turns. Man will again refuse to leave lie that which is encased in the dirt. Man will again learn to read what is written in the pages of what is unearthed and what will unearth. Cycles repeat. Cycles within epicycles, eternities within eternities.


I like the cut of your jib sir, but try this on: what if RAGANAROK happens on the exact same day, sure Jesus is no match for Cthulhu, but what about Thor?
posted by ennui.bz at 9:32 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was talking to some ex-rapture type people and they all said they never walked into a suddenly empty room without thinking for half a second that the rapture had come. It's deeply entrenched. We just got Armageddon with rains of fire, which made stormy nights all sorts of unfun. It wasn't till about five years ago that thunder didn't make me think oh-crap-I-was-wrong for a split second.

The UN thing is funny though, JWs got in lots of trouble for being members while their official policy was that the UN was the abominable thing that causes desolation. They unjoined in 2001 claiming that they were only members to 'access the resources'. Abominable things have the coolest resources.


Aside: are there Christians who use the spelling "G-d"?

I thought mostly christians replaced 'YHWH' with 'LORD' on the same principle.
posted by shinybaum at 9:33 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


My favorite thing about the Left Behind books (besides the fact that anyone who isn't an Evangelical apparently doesn't care that all the children in the world have vanished) is this idea that the UN is a world government and the US is just a local government under their control.

I tell you what, it was pretty confusing to grow into a liberal sensibility with the belief that the UN could fix all the problems in the world if they wanted to.
posted by muddgirl at 9:44 AM on September 14, 2010


Rains o' fire, Ragnarok, cycles within cycles, the UN and Lammas Night... all o'this at the same time. Aw, fthagn. Armageddon tired of hearing about it.
posted by drhydro at 9:46 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the G-d/God/Yaweh/Jehovah thing, end times, and the Rapture...

There was a group of Baptists back home who decided that they needed to start following the Law of the Jews as part of the preparation for the end times. Like some kind of loud, singing, Kentuckian Calvanistic Ebionitical thing. I was working in a fabric store (1998-ish, there was a weird uptick in this kind of thing right before 2000) when the women came in and asked for "prayer shawl fabric". I told them we didn't have anything that would really work for a Jewish prayer shawl, when they walked over to the confetti sequined fabric (think: prom dresses and sequined tube-tops) and said "Here we go" and then they proceeded to make prayer shawls out of sequined polyester and upholstery tassels from Jo-Ann's for the rapture.

They were completely serious. They weren't making fun of Jewish people, they really believed that they were adapting the Law so that they could worship properly and they needed some prayer shawls to do it because the end was coming. They chose the flashiest because in their mind it was the fanciest way to show respect.

At least their rapture was going to be fab-u-lous.
posted by Tchad at 9:51 AM on September 14, 2010 [19 favorites]


Okay, I'm about 25 minutes into this thing, and so far it's... dull. And weird.

- I'm apparently supposed to side with the youth pastor, a creepy guy who apparently just sits around in the park threatening people with hell, over the dude with the kick-ass 'stache that works as an ambulance tech and does more tangible good in the world in one day than Mr. Creepy has done in his lifetime.

- Jesus saves people from cobra venom. Specifically.

- now 30 minutes in and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. A man got bit by a snake. He got better thanks to Jesus. How the hell did teenagers sit through this thing? Were you tied to your chairs?

- apparently the lot of a pastor is to be overweight and wear spectacles.

- I'm kinda pulling for Metal 'Stache to actually be the Antichrist.

- if Fat Pastor's pulpit ramblings are making your daughter start to freak out whenever you leave the room because she thinks you've been raptured, that's not time for praying, it's time for a new church.

- 35:00: Montage!

- I love the way that they're not only going after the atheists, but also people that attend non-crazy churches. Fat Pastor patiently explains that Jesus fights snake venom specifically. Take that, liberal theology!

- 40:00. Nothing. Has. Happened. Tied to chairs and doped up on Valium, apparently.

- There're at now two scenes in this picture, so far, featuring youngish men with their shirts off. Just sayin'.

- 41:35 THE GUY MOWING HIS LAWN SHIRTLESS GOT RAPTURED. Holy crap! He did not look rapturable. If you asked me "who gets raptured?" I would not have said "the pasty guy in cut-off jeans." I wouldn't have imagined Christ would be okay with people showing that much leg!

...and now I have to go back to work. Just as it was getting interesting!
posted by Shepherd at 9:55 AM on September 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


I had completely blocked the fact that this movie exists. This ilk of movie was par for the course along side 'bible studies' that pulled apart Genesis line by line for it's scientific validity.

I too would gladly attend a support group that dealt with this topic...That would have made for a much easier transition into a normal adulthood. I cannot recommend enough that individuals who went through this kind of upbringing find a really good, secular (but understanding!) counselor or therapist.

My wife was raised Catholic-ish and finds this entire genre the most fascinating thing ever. She's been on a documentary kick about evangelicals. This post will be required reading for her. I find it amazing how little some of the themes in my own childhood upbringing were absent from hers.

On a very related note, she's also in the childhood mental heath field. After working for a short while at her first therapy job, she is horribly disappointed with the lack of preparation she was given while schooling for her M.H.A. about popular religions. She's having a very hard time when it comes to things exactly like this, since she's a Mandatory Reporter she doesn't know if this can be classified as child abuse or not. The overlap of this exact topic and mental health is something that is completely unaddressed.

Hey Valkyryn, you wouldn't mind posting a concise reading list that deals with this topic would you?
posted by furnace.heart at 9:56 AM on September 14, 2010


Tchad,

I would have just sold them a nice cotton/linen blend. But then again, I'm a dick.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:56 AM on September 14, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'm kinda pulling for Metal 'Stache to actually be the Antichrist.

Jerry, the dude with the sweet mustache, later becomes a kind of badass secret agent for the Antichrist. I believe he's the only character to appear in all four movies.
posted by EarBucket at 10:00 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aside: are there Christians who use the spelling "G-d"? I thought it was exclusively an orthodox Jewish thing.

Dunno, I'm not Christian or Orthodox Jewish. I picked it up from writings in a class I took about the Holocaust (writings done, as you may have guessed, by Jews) and it's just become habit since.
posted by sonika at 10:05 AM on September 14, 2010


Reading all y'alls stories here leads me to one conclusion: it was child abuse.

It was certainly ill-advised, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it abuse. Other things that my father did that I would characterize as abuse: refusing to take me to the doctor because "G-d" would heal me, telling me at age 6 that my mother was going to go to hell, and of course the ever present threats that he/Jesus wouldn't love me if I ever had pre-marital sex. These movies? Hardly even touched the surface of the fuck-up-itude of my childhood. If we're going to classify these as "abuse," we need a whole different word for the rest of my reality w/r/t my father.
posted by sonika at 10:13 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nothing like revisiting childhood trauma. Looks like MD will be putting a call into his therapist and popping a fistful of Xanax this afternoon.
posted by MasonDixon at 10:23 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a descriptive matter I think you're right that there's a more anarchic or at least antihierarchical impluse in American Christianity, but I don't think that means that any given sect lacks the means to police doctrinal or institutional boundaries.

As one who has spent his entire life as both a member and student of American Christianity, I would strenuously argue that this is actually the way things are.

If you go up to your random Christian on the street--even your random Christian minister--and offer an usual or downright heretical reading of Scripture, and most of them will have a really hard time telling you why you're wrong, if they even know that you are. I mean, most of them will be able to tell you that drinking is wrong (it isn't) and that homosexuality is the worst possible sin (not true either), but the vast majority will not be able to given even a basic explanation for how the Trinity is traditionally conceived, let alone an explanation for why things like Nestorianism or Arianism are not what Christians believe. Heck, the gospel preached in many modern churches looks one hell of a lot like Pelagianism, when it comes right down to it. All three of those have been regarded as heretical for over 1500 years.

This isn't just an individual problem. You'll have entire churches, denominations even, torn apart over a theological question which a more hierarchical tradition could handle pretty easily, in no small part due to the advantage of institutional memory, i.e. "What, that again?" Again, the historic Reformation traditions--Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and the Reformed tradition--make no bones about the fact that Rome is right about the need for centralized authority, they just object to the mechanics of how that authority was implemented. But many if not most American Christians would find the idea that there is or should be any kind of formal theological authority other than them and their Bible confusing if not offensive, because it means that someone can tell you what to believe.

I'm not trying to argue here that hierarchy is an essential feature of Christianity--this isn't the thread for that--but I am trying to argue that the emergence of dispensationalism as a tradition can be linked to the absence of any kind of traditional theological authority structure in the nineteenth-century American church.
posted by valkyryn at 10:38 AM on September 14, 2010 [17 favorites]


The penal, substitutionary atonement central to most revivalist, evangelical, or millenarian movements is the brainchild of St. Anselm of Canterbury

I do believe that St. Augustine of Hippo got in there several centuries before, actually. Anselm put a more bluntly legalistic spin on it.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:45 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


>The penal, substitutionary atonement central to most revivalist, evangelical, or millenarian movements is the brainchild of St. Anselm of Canterbury

I do believe that St. Augustine of Hippo got in there several centuries before, actually.


Paul also seems to have something to say on the subject.
posted by valkyryn at 10:50 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Something about low-budget 70s flicks just makes them more terrifying to begin with.

It's the bleak tone of the age marinated deep into the scenes, the saturated grotesque color palate, the fact that everything looks like its been rubbed down with ham and greasy ennui.

Just like with Last House on the Left, sometimes bad acting and no budget make a film feel more real (the horror of the mundane I guess) than they would with a budget and real actors.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:50 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Kenyan" is probably also code for "pagan" which for these people is largely indistinguishable from atheism.

Are you sure it's not just code for "nigger"?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:59 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


But many if not most American Christians would find the idea that there is or should be any kind of formal theological authority other than them and their Bible confusing if not offensive, because it means that someone can tell you what to believe.

Which many American Christians would tell you is exactly the point of their anti-establishment religious leanings. I'm not saying that that's necessarily a better approach to religious organization as opposed to a more centralized model, but the comparative disorganization of American Christianity is as much the result of deliberate choices about institutional design as it is about a kind of centrifugal, decentralizing chaos. Plenty of "heterodox" Christians are quite conscious of their deviationism, and proud of it, too, for better or worse.

And it's not always the case that you need an institutional memory in order to have a doctrinal memory. Milton didn't espouse what amount to an Arian reading of the trinity because he didn't have a Catholic theologian handy to remind him of the Nicene Creed; he actually thought he had a better view. Metaphysically speaking, at least. (Dude was blind.)

What, too soon?
posted by a small part of the world at 11:07 AM on September 14, 2010


Does this end with her breaking her glasses?

As someone who didn't grow up Christian, I only became familiar with this whole rapture mythology in the last few years from friends telling me about it*. And whenever I hear about it, I always picture that Twilight Zone episode.

*True story: One of my friends works for an environmental group. As part of his job, he lobbies the state environmental agencies where he lives. The head of one of the agencies is a serious believer in this end of times stuff, and he thinks the world is going to end soon. So he doesn't see the point in doing a lot of environmental protection. He's getting sucked up into heaven anyway; what does it matter if he leaves behind a cesspool?
posted by bluefly at 11:09 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Other things that my father did that I would characterize as abuse: refusing to take me to the doctor because "G-d" would heal me, telling me at age 6 that my mother was going to go to hell

For me, it all comes from the same place: the worldview that believes in these movies is the same that puts all this on its kids. I spent most of my teenage years terrified -- hell was very real, and I was absolutely convinced I was going there because I was gay (never mind just for doubting that the things I was told were all they were cracked up to be)... and I had nothing around me to tell me otherwise. I suspect it wasn't much different for most of the other kids who were subjected to stuff like this; it wasn't like we were going to be discussing Christopher Hitchens in the next class. For me, and for (blank) knows how many other kids, this was the worldview in which we were raised and allowed no alternative to.

It's not the movie, it's the parents, the teachers, the whole social fabric it represents, that hand it down -- and all the fear and loathing that comes with it, hammering into you that you are no good, worse than worthless, born imperfect and deserving of roasting in an eternal fire if you don't think as we think and feel as we feel. I don't know that I want to go so far as calling it child abuse -- as a rape survivor I think the term needs to be kept apart for actual, physical abuse -- but when I see something like this, and remember being one of those kids and all the fear and self-hatred that I was brought up with, it's hard for me not to think that if it's not full-on abuse, it's not too far away, either.
posted by Noah at 11:10 AM on September 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


Plenty of "heterodox" Christians are quite conscious of their deviationism, and proud of it, too, for better or worse.

True. But I'm not talking about Unitarian Universalists or the liberal wings of the ELCA and ECUSA. I'm talking about your white-bread, middle-class, middle-American Evangelicals, the sorts that tend to get caught up in the sorts of theology which produce artifacts like A Thief in the Night. Those people do things like this because they believe it's what Christians have always believed, and I'd be willing to bet my bottom dollar that the vast majority of those sorts aren't conscious of the extent to which their beliefs are unbiblical and would be mortified if they knew. Sheep without a shepherd.
posted by valkyryn at 11:17 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


Milton didn't espouse what amount to an Arian reading of the trinity because he didn't have a Catholic theologian handy to remind him of the Nicene Creed; he actually thought he had a better view.

But you can't interact with and critique orthodoxy in this way unless there exists some common consensus about what orthodoxy is. Besides, as I argued above, we aren't talking about people who think they're improving upon orthodoxy, we're talking about people who believe that this dispensational crap is what the church has always taught. Milton represents a learned disagreement with tradition. A Thief in the Night represents ignorance of tradition. There's a difference.
posted by valkyryn at 11:20 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


For me, and for (blank) knows how many other kids, this was the worldview in which we were raised and allowed no alternative to.

I know I wouldn't have grown up to be the adult that I am now if not for the stabilizing influence of my non-Christian mother. (Oddly, she's Catholic now, but wasn't when I was a kid.) I've been told by therapists that if I had actually lived with my father during my childhood (as much influence as the man had on me, I never actually co-habitated with him), I wouldn't be sane today. And yeah, I totally believe that.

As much as I love him (because fucked up as he is, he's my father), my father will never be allowed to be alone with my own children. I don't want to even think about the kinds of things he would say to them that would just be downright traumatizing.

Oh yeah, and I'm queer. You can imagine how well that went over with my father. I was flat out accused of being personally possessed by Satan. Smooth.
posted by sonika at 11:21 AM on September 14, 2010


The head of one of the agencies is a serious believer in this end of times stuff, and he thinks the world is going to end soon. So he doesn't see the point in doing a lot of environmental protection. He's getting sucked up into heaven anyway; what does it matter if he leaves behind a cesspool?

Yes. I have literally heard these words pretty much verbatim from my father. I think a lot of what drives this kind of belief in the "end of days" kind of thing is a fear of their own mortality and this "Rapture" business provides a loophole to cheat death. Everyone I've met with a serious belief in the Rapture also believes that it will happen soon, ergo, they will personally be taken into heaven. I guess it beats dying, but if you've alright got the "I love Jesus, so I'm going to heaven" thing going for you, it seems a bit silly to also throw in "And I don't even have to die!" but hey - if you mentally can't handle the human condition and are looking for an escape, it's one that plenty of people have invested themselves in. It even has its own movies!
posted by sonika at 11:25 AM on September 14, 2010


It's nevertheless fascinating, as valkyryn points out, that a textually and liturgically ungrounded eschatological view is so widespread in the U.S. today. Do any Mefites -- Bible scholars, religious sociologists, whomever -- know why?

I've mentioned this somewhere around here before, but I think the civil war had a lot to do with the enormous upswing in pre-millennialism. Before the war, a positive, forward-thinking version of post-millenialism had dominated the growing quarters of American Christianity. The basic idea was that things were going to get better and better as the years went by. The old age of tyrants was drawing to a close; freedom and democracy would continue to spread. The success of the American political experiment and the vast, resource-rich territory of the new world were seen as signs of God's providence. Human society would continue to improve until it was ready to transition into the kingdom of Christ, and he would come and reign. In my own tradition, the most influential journal of the mid-1800's was called the "Millenial Harbinger," precisely because the editors believed that the work that they were doing was setting the stage for the millenial reign to come.

And then came the Civil War. Nasty, vicious, incredibly bloody, with a body count that couldn't have been imagined before. It split families, churches, denominations, and country. The idea that things were just getting better and better died out there on the battlefield as well. With post-millenialist hopes dashed, there was a vacuum to be filled in popular American eschatology and people began to move to Darby's pre-mill views. Those views were incorporated into the Scofield Study Bible (still putting out new editions every year--they'll be in your local bookstore), which had detailed notes showing people how to interpret prophecies so that they fit the Rapture, Tribulation, Reign schemata. The Scofield Bible became enormously popular, and taught thousands of Americans how to draw the (completely unnatural and, as valkryn said, deep silly) links.

Follow that up with World War I, "the War to end all wars," and then WWII, in which we discovered that WWI not only didn't end all wars, but there were new kinds of horrors yet in the concentration camps. It became easier and easier to picture the world getting worse and worse, until the stage wasn't set for Christ to rule, as people had once hoped, but for the Anti-Christ. Only after things completely went to hell would Jesus swoop in and set things right.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:29 AM on September 14, 2010 [15 favorites]


The hand of Jack is indeed mighty
posted by clavdivs at 11:36 AM on September 14, 2010


We should form a MeFi Pre-millenium Tension/Rapture Mythology Survivor Support Group.* I'll bring the coffee and donuts.

*Metal 'stache and mom jeans optional.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:37 AM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the civil war had a lot to do with the enormous upswing in pre-millennialism

Perhaps, but that isn't the way I remember the timing. I was under the impression that premillennialism remained something of a fringe belief--a large fringe, to be sure, but certainly not mainstream--until Fundamentalism started taking off in the early twentieth century.
posted by valkyryn at 11:41 AM on September 14, 2010


I thought it was more to do with the Burned Over District and the restoration of christian primitivism after the revolution, but I'm skewed to Millerites in my history and the other half just kind of passed me by.
posted by shinybaum at 11:55 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me, it all comes from the same place: the worldview that believes in these movies is the same that puts all this on its kids. I spent most of my teenage years terrified -- hell was very real, and I was absolutely convinced I was going there because I was gay (never mind just for doubting that the things I was told were all they were cracked up to be)... and I had nothing around me to tell me otherwise.
...
It's not the movie, it's the parents, the teachers, the whole social fabric it represents, that hand it down -- and all the fear and loathing that comes with it, hammering into you that you are no good, worse than worthless, born imperfect and deserving of roasting in an eternal fire if you don't think as we think and feel as we feel.


Most of that seems to come from Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.", which I've heard to justify everything from the kind of horror-based indoctrination we're reading about in this discussion thread to full-on child abuse. Gotta keep 'em on the straight and narrow -- that'll make them into good adults.
posted by hippybear at 12:05 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every time I manage to get the song out of my head I make the mistake of checking my recent activity and this thread comes up and it gets stuck again.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:08 PM on September 14, 2010


Right now "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" is at war with "You Belong With Me" from the VMAs/Taylor Swift thread. It's a rather intriguing mash-up, but it's giving me a headache.
posted by muddgirl at 12:12 PM on September 14, 2010


certainly not mainstream--until Fundamentalism started taking off in the early twentieth century.

Yeah, my reading of history indicates that things like the Scopes trial, and Sister Aimee and Billy Sunday, were widely seen as fringe events, novelties not completely taken seriously (possibly even by many of their supposed followers). I think the reason we (have to!) take them seriously now is because they made themselves political: the fundamentalists transformed American grassroots politics and spent decades making themselves powerful from the bottom-up, getting their messages heard and their money felt at the most local levels -- slowly building up their numbers and their influence until they reached the top with Reagan. Bluefly mentioned a friend who works with an environmental group lobbying against environmental protection -- well, we had at least one secretary of the interior who felt the same way... to say nothing of what we might get in a couple of years if we're not lucky. It's not enough to believe that the world is going to hell; they really believe there's no reason not to turn the world into one in the meantime.

So yeah, let me know when the support group happens, I'll bring cookies.
posted by Noah at 12:14 PM on September 14, 2010


Fun fact: Russ Doughten helped make The Blob, which was a project of the secular arm of Good News Productions, a Christian filmmaking commune he was living with in the 1950s.

Also, here is a short essay I wrote about Doughten's films and the history of evangelical film exhibition.
posted by bubukaba at 12:20 PM on September 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


This movie and the conversation here makes me scared that my kid, despite my best efforts, might someday believe in gods . Or wors, be an Evangelical.

But I wish I could grow a 'stache like that. That takes dedication.
posted by Seamus at 12:24 PM on September 14, 2010


Jerry, the dude with the sweet mustache, later becomes a kind of badass secret agent for the Antichrist.

If I ever shave down to the Fu Manchu again, I know what my Facebook status will be forever.
posted by Shepherd at 12:48 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had to watch that!!! Thanks for this FPP, I never knew what this movie was called before today. Ugh. What an awful film.
posted by LiliaNic at 12:57 PM on September 14, 2010


Until the Reformation, there was a single hierarchy responsible for theological orthodoxy

This is the sound of the Orthodox glaring at you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:06 PM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is the sound of the Orthodox glaring at you.

Yeah, okay, but as far as American Christianity is concerned, they don't really count, as our heritage derives mostly from Rome, not Constantinople, and it was certainly the former that ruled the parts of Europe that are the most interesting for students of American religious history. Even today, the Orthodox tradition is sort of an insular bit player as far as it goes. The Amish have been far more influential.

So while that may have been a slight overstatement, it wasn't an unreasonable one.

Besides, while Rome has had a rocky relationship with Protestantism, the East tends to want no truck with it whatsoever. A Protestant who converts to Catholicism is frequently viewed as coming home, but a Protestant who converts to Orthodoxy tends to be initially viewed as a tourist.
posted by valkyryn at 1:15 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


...thats why the Priest had me turn my pockets out.
posted by clavdivs at 1:18 PM on September 14, 2010


Hey PHINC and Philosopher Dirtbike. I remember that drive-in! It's now part of a Super Wal Mart. Anyway, I never saw a movie there after it went "christian themed" but in the mid '70's I saw several, er, "real" movies there. I more fondly recall that the nearby 28th St Drive-In showed soft porn at the time, and you could see the screen from 34th St. hump over the train tracks.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:43 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


valkyryn:
Perhaps, but that isn't the way I remember the timing. I was under the impression that premillennialism remained something of a fringe belief--a large fringe, to be sure, but certainly not mainstream--until Fundamentalism started taking off in the early twentieth century."

I'm a but rusty, but I think I'd make a case that the civil war ended the positive post-millenial view that was popular before, and left a vacuum that dispensational pre-millenialism eventually filled. It wasn't an overnight thing, and I don't necessarily disagree that it was the early 20th century that solidified pre-millenialism on the scene. I would reiterate, though, that the great wars had a lot to do with it all, especially as people were increasingly trained to read Revelation as though it were about the modern Western world.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:51 PM on September 14, 2010


Bad, bad bad BAD BAD theology.

I saw a couple of these movies. I don't know anyone who was motivated to come to the Lord thru them. I used to read all the Hal Lindsay books as a rank fornicating sinner and it never did me a bit of good (tho it did make me nervous.)

Good theology has the power of God behind it. Bad theology....doesn't.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:57 PM on September 14, 2010


Good theology has the power of God behind it.

But clearly many people have faith that this theology has the "power of God" behind it, right? In fact, given that this brand of evangelical religion usually stresses personal and non-scholarly interpretation, they will want to argue that their home-spun "literal" reading of Ezekiel and the Revelation are more powerful than the liberal interpretations that allow for metaphor and allegory.
posted by muddgirl at 2:00 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to read all the Hal Lindsay books as a rank fornicating sinner and it never did me a bit of good (tho it did make me nervous.)

Not entirely joking, if reading them helped make the rank fornication more enjoyable by adding a bit of the frisson of the forbidden, it may have done you some good that way.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


[twitch]
posted by digitalprimate at 3:00 PM on September 14, 2010


[twitch]

Ye shall not suffer a twitch to live.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:15 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to officiate weddings in Japan. I wore a cassock and genuflected (usually on a Sunday morning while terribly hung over) beneath a large crucifix. After a couple of years I honestly thought I was going to go to Hell.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:32 PM on September 14, 2010


The Left Behind books are vile. Seriously, have you picked one up? They're violence porn for Christians who wish all non-Christians a horrible death.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:41 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


more fondly recall that the nearby 28th St Drive-In showed soft porn at the time, and you could see the screen from 34th St. hump over the train tracks.

I see what you did there.
posted by emjaybee at 3:41 PM on September 14, 2010


On a different note, if you're looking for examples of white middle-class non-hippie clothing, hairstyles, or interior design from the early 70s, these videos are a goldmine.

If Mad Men survives enough seasons to show Nixon in China on a TV in the background, it'll look a lot like this, just slicker. And with actual, you know, acting.
posted by gimonca at 4:06 PM on September 14, 2010


This is as good a place as anywhere to share the trailer for kids' spy show Mickey Masters, Agent of Truth. I found it on everythingisterrible.com, which does not state anything about its content, but from the first few moments I knew something was wrong. It wasn't just the low budget and cheap CGI; it was a fake, greasy, store-brand quality, which resembles a real show in the way that a glittery rubber fishing lure resembles a real fish. It had to be Christian, I thought -- and so I watched the whole thing through to see how long they would hide it. They only tip their hand to the Judgment Day business in the last five seconds. False, false; a bear-trap for the soul, directed by Willie Aames.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:09 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


WOLVERINES!

(Oops. Sorry. Wrong apocalypse.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:17 PM on September 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I break for the Rapture (NSFW)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:21 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw a couple of these movies. I don't know anyone who was motivated to come to the Lord thru them

Well, if this thread is any evidence, it scared a bunch of 12 year olds into constantly questioning whether or not they'd accept Jesus enough - so... I don't know if that count as "coming to the Lord" but it certainly has motivated people.
posted by sonika at 4:35 PM on September 14, 2010


Absolutely violence porn. I have no idea why a true Christian would want to imagine pain and suffering for fellow humans. But then again, I think there are but a handful of true Christians in this world. A handful.
posted by agregoli at 4:45 PM on September 14, 2010


Oh my god, I had a high school friend who made me watch this, but it was the 90s so it was hilarious instead of scary. I've been wanting to see it again for song long! Now I just need some pot.
posted by 912 Greens at 5:13 PM on September 14, 2010


So long, I meant. The excitement is too much!
posted by 912 Greens at 5:14 PM on September 14, 2010


See, the purpose of these, is, pardon the expression, to "scare the hell" out of you. In other words, evangelism.

With that as the purpose these movies probably failed miserably in most cases. I agree with those that want to call this violence porn.

There's enough real horror in the world, frankly.

Look, the job of a Christian when it comes to evangelism is to tell people what Jesus did for them and how to be reconciled to Him. (but NOT nag them about it.) The Bible itself states that if salvation happens it is because of the power of God and not the eloquence of the speaker or any type of "trick" to communicate the Good News. The Scriptures are powerful enough all by themselves and to add anything to that or to beat people over the head with them is quite counterproductive. COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

And to top it all off, the theology presented in those movies is just flat wrong in my humble opinion. Eschatology is not a simple subject and there is room for disagreement re what viewpoint one takes on it, but yeah, this view is pretty much NOT one I would subscribe to.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:51 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't to do with the movie in question, but when I was 8 I saw a movie called "Burning Hell" or "Blazing Hell" or something like that which was being shown by a local Baptist touring church thingy in a caravan at our local agricultural show. My sister (one year older and much, much braver than me) had seen it and said that I really needed to see it too, but that I absolutely mustn't tell Mum and Dad about it.

So off we go to watch it and it was full of maggots and worms and evil Kings in Hell and all kinds of incredibly disturbing things. Before the movie, I'd grabbed a tract (because it was a comic! Yay, I thought!) and I was clutching it and screaming with fear whilst watching this terrible show with my sister on one side getting awfully embarrassed and shushing me. Eventually one of the church people came over and took me outside and tried to calm me down. My parents had a stand at the show so eventually sis and I go back to them and my eyes are as big as saucers and I'm uncontrollably shaking but I wouldn't tell them why. My dad finally got my sister to confess to what had happened and he went down and blasted the people at the church place for having let me see the movie.

When we got home I read the tract I'd picked up and which I hadn't told my parents about. It was to do with two good friends who also happened to be bikies and sinners (one was slightly worse than the other). Anyway, they get hit by a train, die and promptly end up in hell. The same kind of hell as depicted in the movie (which is why I've often conflated the movie and the tract in my memory), full of maggots and demons. The slightly not so bad sinner turns to his friend and says, "at least I'm here with a friend" and his friend promptly pulls off his face to reveal a demon's head and says, "There are no friends in Hell!"

I had uncontrollable screaming nightmares for months afterwards. I hid the tract in an old linen chest because I couldn't bring myself to throw it out , for fear of it being a sin. (That thing haunted me for years). I couldn't ride my horse up the road (dirt road in the country) because I was absolutely certain that Satan was waiting behind a particular tree for me. I was convinced that everyone I knew, my family and school mates and teachers, were actually demons wearing masks.

Eventually, I used a good bit of child's logic to snap me out of the demon-mask thing, which was that I knew I wasn't a demon wearing a mask so the likelihood of everyone else wearing masks but not me was slim.

Anyway, surprisingly this whole thing didn't completely sour me on the idea of religion, although any evangelical ranting still makes me a feel a little bit of the sheer terror that I felt for so long after seeing the movie and reading that tract.

I'm an atheist because, well, that's just the way I feel but I don't begrudge anyone their spiritual feelings and beliefs. I have to say, though, that I can't bear the whole 'fear of God' thing and the emotional blackmail aspects of scaring people with ideas of Hell. Doesn't seem like a good strategy, to me.
posted by h00py at 5:58 PM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


WOLVERINES!

It's important to remember the fact that OMG COMMIES! also played a significant role in evangelical Christian worldview during the 80s, what with the "well documented" persecution of Christians in Communist countries.

Communist political leaders were frequent targets of Most Likely to Be The AntiChrist speculation which frequently permeated in our class discussions during Bible class. In fact, when we were in high school at my aforementioned God School, OMG COMMIE! scare films were an important part of our curriculum. Not only did we get to watch Red Dawn, we got to watch the entirety of AMERIKA starring Kris Kristofferson, Mariel Hemingway and Robert Urich.* In fact, in my later years at God School, I began forming opinions in which I dared to point out that communism was not an oppressive religion, per se, but rather a socio-political system, which earned me some notoriety for a year or two and I was branded a godless commie by classmates. GOOD TIMES!

Fortunately, I got the last laugh. God School folded several years back.

*For teenage Dr. Zira, this particular method of OMG COMMIE political indoctrination sort of backfired due to teenage Dr. Zira's crush on the KGB dude played by Sam Neill.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:29 PM on September 14, 2010


Much later than these films, but I remember Black Roses being cut of the same cloth. This was around 20 years ago, though.
posted by Decimask at 6:59 PM on September 14, 2010


My Methodist church in high school (in Oklahoma) was an odd sort of mix, where half the congregation was of the typical, laid-back Methodist variety that I had known in Houston, and half was of, well, this variety. Not shockingly, the dispensationalists involved themselves with the youth ministry in a very hard-core way. At one point, the bishop came to give a service, and spoke on the idea that reading the bible as literally true was missing the point at best and perhaps dangerous at worst, and between a third and half of the congregation left the church to start their own. You can guess which half.

My best friend from that period of my life grew up in this - his father was a deacon for the church - and though his family was most definitely of the "laid-back" group, my friend has now fashioned himself as an end-times prophet, convinced that the era of the U.S. is over (fair enough) and convinced that the E.U. is about to take over the world (wait, what? Yeah, I know.) It's a bit sad and a bit disturbing.

Anyway, one of the things that the eschatologists kept bringing up was that the antichrist would be "all things to all people." I don't know if this was particular to this group, or if this is a standard part of the Darby rhetoric (the phrase only ever comes up in Corinthians, as far as I can tell, and then as a positive) but I've heard it elsewhere as well, so I suspect the latter.

The point is that it's a very loaded, malevolent concept, and one which is naturally used to describe anyone popular who they don't like. Because "all people" excludes themselves, of course. Bonus if he's charming, obviously. So someone like Obama gets major antichrist cred within this group. I've always thought this was one of the more disturbing elements of this whole debacle.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:08 PM on September 14, 2010


At one point, the bishop came to give a service, and spoke on the idea that reading the bible as literally true was missing the point at best and perhaps dangerous at worst, and between a third and half of the congregation left the church to start their own. You can guess which half.

See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. The Methodists retain a pretty centralized authority structure, and while they're considered by the more conservative traditions to have gotten a bit squirrelly/liberal over the past couple of decades, they've still got people with authority who can tell whack jobs where to get off. Those people stayed dispensationalist, sure, but they weren't Methodist anymore.
posted by valkyryn at 7:29 PM on September 14, 2010


H00py, that was a Chick tract. I remember the very one.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:00 PM on September 14, 2010


I have fearfully looked through the archives but haven't managed to find it yet. I think I might be old enough to handle it now. I think.
posted by h00py at 8:04 PM on September 14, 2010


I am beginning to understand why US culture is so full of fear and why "fuck you got mine" seems so prevalent. That's some seriously traumatizing shit all y'all been through. And so common!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Thanks for this! I love the internet.

I saw the one with the beheading when I was very young and it totally shaped/scarred my whole youth/adolescence. As a teen I studied the book of Revelations obsessively and was pretty sure all of that shit was going down SOON (this was in the 90's). My parents also had the Hal Lindsey books around, so that didn't help. Whenever I would come home to an unexpectedly empty house I would think it was all over and I had been left behind.

I have all sorts of theories on how this shaped who I became as an adult. For instance, the idea of not really planning too far ahead in life (because the Rapture could happen at any time) I think influenced my financial habits - I am really bad at saving money. I'm also pretty aimless in my career as I honestly never imagined myself past age 25 or so (yet am now well into my 30's).
posted by smartypantz at 8:11 PM on September 14, 2010


It was SOMEBODY GOOFED. That one came in two versions, so if this one is not exactly like you remember yours might have been the other one. I think their server is running particularly slow tonight so if you click on it be patient. (h00py, seriously, don't click on it till daytime if you really think it might bother you...)


Yep, that one was particularly creepy, I agree.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:12 PM on September 14, 2010


That's a great one! I used to be totally obsessed with Chick tracts, which teen me used to find on the bus pretty much constantly way back when. There's a small subgenre of comics that's devoted to parodies of Jack Chick -- my favorite is probably Daniel Clowes's "Devil Doll," which doesn't exist on the internet but I think is in his 20th Century Eightball -- many of which are found here (some of these may be NSFW). (Also, if someone can find the fantastic "Love That Dracula," which seems to be in hiding, that would be awesome.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:28 PM on September 14, 2010


I don't think the great mass of "unsaved" understand that there were children raised under the expectation of DOOM. We were all going to die virgins. Either Jesus was going to come back or the USSR and USA were going to destroy us all with Thermonuclear War. There was no future in our lives only the imminent expectation of coming global calamity.

Patty with her head in the guillotine at the end unsure if the blade is going to fall our not? That pretty much sums up the existential predicament of a fundamentalist child growing up during the Cold War. We were always right there, waiting for that guillotine to come down and end our world. It was fucked up and traumatic.

No matter how loving they are told Jesus is (of course this love is expressed as his horrible suffering for your essential unworthiness) eight year olds are not eager to get to heaven.
posted by MasonDixon at 8:45 PM on September 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


I wonder if watching this movie is what prompted some jr high school friends of mine to try to "save" me and my best friend. We were raised Catholic and weren't getting Raptured; we'd get a damning mark on our foreheads instead. They acted scared for us, but clearly superior too, like Evangelical Mean Girls.
posted by tula at 9:07 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks to valkyrn and Pater Aletheias for making some sense of this stuff. Christianity scares the pants off me.
posted by sneebler at 9:29 PM on September 14, 2010


I think scaring people with this exagerated, extreme theology is very unhealty indeed. In fact I think this kind of extremism leads to imoral behavior, because you get hit with this brainwashing, you will figure 'I am going to Hell anyway so might as well enjoy myself in the here and now.'

The trouble with that is some stuff people might consider to be fun, objectively speaking might be a bad idea.

Any sort of end of the world thinking leads to that, I don't care if it is, religiously based, a political theory, nuclear war, the result us an attiude not of greater spituality, but of ' I better get it while I can' I better do it while I can'
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:11 PM on September 14, 2010


Someone should do a parody along the lines of "Who Will Be Eaten First?" but about /b/.

Or do something similar to Metafilter/Be Safe And Smart with Tony the Tiger as cortex, but in the style of a Chick tract. It could even have mathowie gloating HAW HAW at some selflinker as he smites him with the banhammer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 PM on September 14, 2010


h00py, that is one seriously fucked-up comic to be giving a child. Wow. Do you want to bring the cookies to our support group?
posted by ukdanae at 12:21 AM on September 15, 2010


Fun fact: Russ Doughten helped make The Blob, which was a project of the secular arm of Good News Productions, a Christian filmmaking commune he was living with in the 1950s.

Also, here is a short essay I wrote about Doughten's films and the history of evangelical film exhibition.
posted by bubukaba at 12:20 PM on September 14


Because of my six years older sister's odd habit of dragging me along on dates with her hordes of boyfriends (if I tried to make excuses, she got mad!), I saw most of the horror movies in general release during the period I was in grade school, in the late 50s and very early 60s, including a bunch of Dracula, Vincent Price doing Edgar Allan Poe, all kinds of monsters, etc.

I had loads of nightmares from this, too, including recurring dreams inspired by particular movies. The nightmares from The Return of Dracula lasted more than a year. It didn't occur to anyone in my household, apparently, that 2-4 horror movies a week might not have been ideal fare for a 7, 8, & 9 year old-- least of all me.

But the movie that scared me ten times more than any other was a movie I never even saw, a movie I experienced only from all the posters in the lobby and outside the theater: The Blob.

I had scores of nightmares about the Blob, possibly more than a hundred over several years. Despite never seeing it, I knew the outline of the plot of the movie, including that the Blob had been stopped by freezing it and dropping it on the North Pole.

The nightmares were always basically the same. Everything was kind of OK for a while, until a report came in over the radio in an urgent voice that ships coming back from the North Pole reported that the ice was melting. Then my point of view flew over a chaotic watery landscape, then the ocean just in time to watch a huge iceberg with a massive pink form frozen into it (looking like nothing so much as a giant ice cube containing an enormous wad of chewed bubble gum) break off and start floating toward the US. I knew with absolute certainty that the world was doomed. Then I'd usually wake up, sometimes (rarely) screaming.

No wonder I'm so terrified of Global Warming.
posted by jamjam at 12:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Raised Catholic, therefore, never saw this movie but deliberately watched it due to the comments in this thread and the hive recollection of this movie frightening them into religious belief as children. Fascinating!

The movie:
Eventually Rapture occurs.
One World Gov't is assembled requiring every remaining citizen to be identified and tagged with a permanent
0110
0110
0110
choice hand or forehead.

Those that refused were arrested and jailed!
(Movie quote, "I know that is a computer read out for 666" )
.. then the ending involving the mustache man.

This is me not asking for my 70 minutes back.
Rather, every time I see the bumper sticker (daily in the bible belt)
"In case of Rapture this car will be abandoned"
I will have clarification and a cheesy grin.
posted by will wait 4 tanjents at 12:47 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


*True story: One of my friends works for an environmental group. As part of his job, he lobbies the state environmental agencies where he lives. The head of one of the agencies is a serious believer in this end of times stuff, and he thinks the world is going to end soon. So he doesn't see the point in doing a lot of environmental protection. He's getting sucked up into heaven anyway; what does it matter if he leaves behind a cesspool?

Wasn't one of Reagan's heads of the EPA quoted as saying something similar?
posted by acb at 3:59 AM on September 15, 2010


(man, I remember the Blob. Scared the crap out of me too. Nightmares, etc. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:21 AM on September 15, 2010


Wasn't one of Reagan's heads of the EPA quoted as saying something similar?

James Baker is sometimes quoted as saying something like that, but it's an urban legend.
posted by EarBucket at 6:18 AM on September 15, 2010


Sorry, not Baker. It was James Watt, Reagan's Secretary of the Interior. Still not a real quote, though.
posted by EarBucket at 6:26 AM on September 15, 2010


"I know that is a computer read out for 666"

But.... but... It's actually just 6 three times! In 4 bit (WTF?). That would make 18 the number of the beast.
posted by Artw at 6:34 AM on September 15, 2010


Or do something similar to Metafilter/Be Safe And Smart with Tony the Tiger as cortex, but in the style of a Chick tract. It could even have mathowie gloating HAW HAW at some selflinker as he smites him with the banhammer.

I've had that thought myself.
posted by cortex at 6:47 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Except in this one, the main character left behind is a special collections librarian at Harvard

If you're willing to rewrite the lead as a man, I think I know somebody who could play it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:22 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


acb: Wasn't one of Reagan's heads of the EPA quoted as saying something similar?

James Watt, Reagan's secretary of the Interior, said before Congress:
"I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations."

(There was another apocryphal quote attributed to him that was false, saying that Christ would return after the last tree was cut.) The actual quote is more nuanced. But the fact remains that he often spoke of his eschatological Christian faith, decimated environmental protections, and accelerated mining, drilling and other development drastically.
posted by msalt at 9:50 PM on September 15, 2010


I have never been happier than today for having been raised Catholic.
posted by msali at 10:27 PM on September 15, 2010


With due respect to valkyryn and Pater Aletheias, I think the root of all this dispensationalist nonsense is not in the dissolution of Church hierarchy or some kind of crisis of modernity starting with the Civil War, but just in the Book of Revelation itself. Church hierarchy and a general Western optimism may have held things together for a long time, but they were ultimately fighting a losing battle when you consider how seductive and inflammatory the images and themes of Revelation are. A lake of fire, a battle between angels and dragons, the beast with seven heads, plagues, death, judgment, etc., etc. How can you compete with that? It's like a Michael Bay movie directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Angelina Jolie as the whore of Babylon.

It may have only been originally included by mistake--early Christians confusing its author John of Patmos with John the Evangelist. Thomas Jefferson went so far as to call it "merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams."

It takes a serious amount of Biblical and historical scholarship to interpret Revelation in a non-crazy way that's consistent with the rest of the Bible, and you can't really blame people for succumbing to a more literal emotional reading (witness the stories in this thread, for example, of people's reactions to these movies).
posted by albrecht at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2010


It takes a serious amount of Biblical and historical scholarship to interpret Revelation in a non-crazy way that's consistent with the rest of the Bible, and you can't really blame people for succumbing to a more literal emotional reading (witness the stories in this thread, for example, of people's reactions to these movies).

True, but that's just the thing: the dissolution of the church hierarchy meant that for the first time in history you had clergy and theologians running around who were completely out of touch with serious Biblical and historical scholarship.

The "literal emotional" reading you discuss is a perennial weed in Christianity, and there have always been wingnuts who thought the world was about to end in some spectacularly apocalyptic fashion. But for most of the church's history, the caretakers of mainstream Christianity were serious scholars and thus kept most of this from taking any kind of serious root within the broader tradition. Dispensationalism is not unique in being unmoored from historic Christianity, but it is rather unique in that it didn't die out within a generation.
posted by valkyryn at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2010


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