Melancholia is a two-part film that follows a family’s experiences and reactions when a rogue planet passes by and ultimately hits earth, completely obliterating it.  There are a few apocalyptic themes in the movie, which range from fairly obvious to more subtle.  The most obvious theme is the destruction of the world.  A rogue planet crashing into earth is very different from what happens in Revelation, but its thematic implications find parallels in the biblical book.  It marks the end of the world as the characters know it.  Their physical existence ends, and their earthly comforts, which are rather luxurious, become nothing, similarly to the earthly possessions of those experiencing the events of Revelation in the bible.  John stresses that physical things will not help fend off the Last Judgement, as the poor/those who suffered on earth will be rewarded in heaven, and the rich/those who lived comfortable lives, not believing in God, will be doomed to hell.  However, the connections to Revelation can’t be carried too far with Melancholia.  Lars von Trier didn’t really make the movie with Christian apocalypticism in mind; he based it off his experience and struggle with depression.

Quimby’s introduction discussing, among various topics, the three types of apocalypse can be used to interpret Melancholia through an apocalyptic lens.  In the opening paragraphs, Quimby addresses the theological and non-theological approaches to apocalyptic discourse.  The film falls into the non-theological category, as it looks at an end to the world that is based on an astronomical event, instead of on one originating in heaven and the characters struggle with their own personal emotions in the face of impending doom.  However, the fears associated with theological apocalypse are very similar to those identified in non-theological apocalypse and Quimby stresses that they cannot fully be separated.  Non-theological apocalypse often derives from theological discourse, adopting its language and imagery to explain widespread disasters or suffering.

One aspect of the movie I found especially interesting was the different responses of each character to the inevitable destruction of earth and, subsequently, to their impending deaths.  They demonstrated what I think to be the basic reactions of humans when faced with dying.  One took control of his own end, committing suicide instead of waiting for disaster to kill him.  One displayed outright fear and desperation to stop death, while another accepted the end with a calm demeanor, as if acknowledging nothing could prevent the inevitable.  I would imagine if the events of Revelation were to actually occur, humanity would display similar reactions based on their beliefs and trust/distrust of the higher powers.

Children of Men and the Perpetuation of Apocalyptic Thought

“Children of Men” explores a wide variety of issues that deal directly and indirectly with notion of apocalypse. At times, this film directly relates to elements found specifically in the book of Revelation and other points, generally referring to the New Testament. At times the Christ figure is blurred between Theo, the main protagonist and Key, the first pregnant woman the world has seen in over 20 years. While Theo starts the film as an uninterested bystander in a world now plunged into violent war, he ends as the central figure that helped usher in the dawn of new world. In a world ravaged in fear, the government in England stands as a picture of how Revelation portrays mighty Rome and her abundant power. Illegal immigrants are ushered into camps and systematically killed. Even the so-called revolutionists are trapped in political power-struggles, killing off their own leader to try and take down the mighty empire that enslaves their daily life. However, when Theo and Key meet in the barn and the revelation of her pregnancy is made known to him and the audience, the plot of the film begins to take shape. Will this child, supposed to be a boy throughout the film, be the messiah that the world need in order to bring peace? Taking a different spin than the gospel’s write it out, it’s as if the film is saying to the audience, “For I bring to you good news of great joy that will be for people. For unto us today, in the country of England, a child is born.” Key stands as a picture of Mary, both in the gospels and in the book of Revelation. People are trying to either kill her or control her. She is seen in the movie as constantly fleeing. The moment when the army is fighting it out with the revolutionists in the all but destroyed building the sweet cries of the little baby hush everyone there. As Key and Theo walk through the halls, people are floored by the infant and even the military orders their men to cease fire. They gaze upon the child, holding their arms out as if they have seen the Christ. Immediately after the baby is out of harms-way, the war continues as if nothing had changed when in reality the New Earth was about to be revealed. Throughout this film, it shows what the ending of the world probably will look like. Not in the sense of infertility driving the world into disarray, but how the world will destroy itself. Nation will war against nation, no one will be safe and the government will have total control over its people, even though their own walls will be breaking down around them. “Children of Men”, perhaps not the best acted or written film of all time still does justice to the notions and ideas of apocalypse and especially of how fear of the end of days drives apocalyptic discourse. It shows all the different types of people one would most likely find if the world really was plunging into its final days. The characters include the powerful, the political, the military, the uninterested, the righteous, the repentant, the evil-doers destined for their own demise, the martyrs, and the ambivalent. The likelihood of humanity ending at some point is high. Whether it is through the destruction of our own planet, millions of years passing before an eventual astronomical event occurs, or even the possibility of divine intervention, no one can deny that there is a life-span to the human race and the planet which we occupy. This nagging internal knowledge is what drives the entertainment world to creating movies such as “Children of Men” and subsequently perpetuates humanities interest and development of apocalyptic thought.

Exploring the Antichrist Narrative

Keeping Landes’ concept of “semiotic arousal” in mind (in the way Brasher interprets its meaning), reading Amarasingam’s essay about “Baraknophobia” becomes an exercise in seeing America’s history as a series of events unfolding into whatever you want to read into them. Brasher says, “Once the apocalyptic lever is tripped in the human mind, almost any random event can become fodder for the widening maw of end-times significance” (164). So when we have in our minds how the narrative will develop, and there is a group of people in opposition to the current leader, anything that leader says or does is fair game for interpretation and incorporation into that narrative. For instance, Amarasingam discusses three points made on a popular video concerning Barak Obama (110). One of these points is that the Antichrist is prophesied to be a “stern-faced” king, and that Obama obviously fits this prophecy. I agree that Obama could benefit from learning a wider range of facial expressions; however, I fail to see how this becomes a red flag for the end-time. In fact, the other two points Amarasingam outlines stretch the validity of the argument even further into fallacy than does noticing how Obama scowls a lot.

Amarasingham says, “On the Internet we can be different people, experience things we could never hope to experience in real life, help in the creation and perfection of collaborative knowledge and engage in participatory media” (113). Just like Amarasingam did for his article, and David did in preparation for our blog prompt, I too typed “Obama” and “Antichrist” into Google to prepare for tomorrow’s class discussion. The fact that we three did the same exercise illustrates participation in the disseminating power of the Internet, as we simply typed some keywords and were given (in my case) about 1,300,000 results to sift through. Additionally, “the ease with which blogs, forums and Web sites are created has given rise to an alternative media” (114). The speed at which ideas are cultivated on the Internet is astonishing, and any idea is fair game for the Internet, whether or not the “evidence” for these ideas is valid. The first website* on my list when I did my search claims that Obama is not the Antichrist, and that many of the “facts” used to prove that he is are simply not found in Scripture. Amarasingam says, “Disparate threads . . . are seamlessly and effortlessly woven together into an elaborate tapestry of paranoia that is nearly impossible to disprove” (114).

We can see this in the “empire narrative” of identification markers for the Antichrist. Earlier I mentioned a video claiming there is a prophecy of the Antichrist that says he will be a stern-faced king. Obama is not a king—he is a president—but, through the concept of semiotic arousal, the word king simply means to point to a man in power; therefore, Obama still fits into this prophecy. This careful wordplay is seen all over the Internet. Furthermore, Amarasingam points to a video by Alex Jones, who claims that Obama is the “perfect Trojan horse” and that his humanitarian efforts are a cleverly disguised attempt to turn America into a “paramilitary, domestic security force” (109). These threads are picked up and placed wherever readers feel the need to put them. Most often, the right-wing/apocalyptic mentality is quoting Christian and Jewish scripture to point to how Obama is (clearly?) either the Antichrist or an agent of the Antichrist. This is the mode of divine apocalypse, which is the “discourse of religious fundamentalists” (xv).

Quinby also says, “Apocalyptic time presumes a unity by a moment of origin and a moment of end” (xvii). In order for the Christian apocalyptic discourse to work, the identification of the Antichrist is essential. Through Internet blogs and forums, this identification can be discussed. Knowing who the Antichrist is will put the rest of the Christian apocalyptic narrative into line and it will allow the faithful to be assured that Christ—the true Christ—is coming soon.



Veronica Lueken

Brasher points out that prior to the age of mass communication, apocalyptic messages could take decades to disseminate (165). Today, the Internet allows for apocalyptic fervor to be transmitted instantly, and to a vast audience. I have explored the websites dedicated to Veronica Lueken and Our Lady of the Roses; these websites function as tools for disseminating the prophecies received by Veronica Lueken that urge people toward salvation through prayer, penance, and atonement (and veneration of Our Lady of Roses). The Lady warned Veronica, “Know that the light, the voice of truth, will be dimmed in your world, so great is the darkness of the soul!  Mankind shall go through a crucible of great suffering!  The Father plans to chastise those He loves.  It will be in this way that many shall be recovered.” One of the specific impetuses for the impending cataclysm delineated by Leuken is the practice of abortions in the United States.   Lueken’s apocalyptic vision is charged with specifically Roman Catholic values as well, necessitating, according to Lueken, partaking in the Eucharist and reciting the rosary to achieve salvation. Lueken is said to have a duty, because of her Catholic faith, to spread word of these prophecies. On many of the site’s webpages are opportunities to donate money to “help spread Our Lady of the Roses’ messages to the world.” Veronica Lueken’s biography describes her as an ordinary woman who became extraordinary in 1968 through the apparitions she began receiving. The site authors legitimize her as a mystic through the physical suffering she experienced through her life, noting that Our Lady called her a “victim soul” charged with saving the Church.

Brasher notes that the Internet has created a platform on which popular Marian devotion has been able to flourish; it has not been so widespread since the Middle Ages. The site authors assert the legitimacy of the Bayside Prophecies within Roman Catholic practice, despite several bishops attempting to ban their dissemination. One aspect of the website that seems to align the Bayside group with Medieval popular Marian devotional practices is the practice of selling items “recommended” by Our Lady—amulets, CDs of the prophecies, home protection kits, etc.   Rather than a “vengeful virgin,” however, the apocalyptic Mary of the Bayside group is in many ways a fount of mercy—a protectress, intercessor, and powerful healer of the sick (the website offers a vast multitude of testimonies on these subjects). The official Roman Catholic Church, rather than dismissing apocalyptic Marian fervor, has chosen to control and defuse it through a more peaceful rhetoric.


The Hal Lindsey Report

At first glance, the Hal Lindsey website appears to be a news site.  Apart from its title as “The Hal Lindsey Report”, the sleek appearance and layout puts it on the level of major news outlets, like the New York Times or BBC.  There are numerous links to stories about current events, especially regarding Iran, nuclear deals, and Obama.  There is even a designated area for Breaking News.  However, once you start reading the story headlines and the news sources, the Christian slant becomes very obvious.  “New Fern Discovery Pokes Holes In Evolutionary Theory” and “Muslims Have Infiltrated Washington DC” are just two of the several stories that are obviously geared toward those who share Hal Lindsey’s beliefs.  Their source website, Christian Headlines, again demonstrates the Christian focus.  Interestingly, though, the website provides links to news stories that are from mainstream sources like Reuters and the Boston Herald that are not intrinsically Christian.  They appear to be selected as examples of current geopolitical events that either largely support Hal Lindsey’s and his followers’ views, or illustrate examples of evils in the world.  At the top of the home page, there are multiple links that lead to other pages of the website.  Under the one called “Links” the site lists numerous outside news sources, which, again, lists Christian based sites along with non-religious ones.

In the middle of the home page, the video of Hal Lindsey’s most recent report occupies the majority of the space, easily available for quick access.  I only watched about 5 minutes of the February 27 report.  Hal Lindsey delivers his interpretation of current events like an anchor, sitting behind a desk with a Mac tablet, sheets of paper, and what is likely a copy of the Bible.  In the first 5 minutes of the video, Lindsey discusses global climate change, and attacks agencies, such as NASA, for deliberately providing false information and hiding the truth from the public.  According to Lindsey, the agencies are promoting propaganda, not science.  Following the first segment, a disembodied male voice announces that viewers can financially support The Hal Lindsey Report by calling 1-888-RAPTURE.

The video archives go back to 2009, offering free viewing of all his reports.  The older videos are much shorter and show him much less like an anchor and more like a casual speaker.  The website also hosts an online store offering opportunities to purchase DVDs, CDs, and apparel.  Options for donating, subscribing to the newsletter, or submitting prayer and praise requests can also be found in the store.

I had a difficultly taking Hal Lindsey’s website seriously, due to its specific agenda being presented like a news outlet.  In her article, Brasher discussed popularizing and marketing the end.  I definitely identified such instances on Hal Lindsey’s website.  The online store selling DVDs and CDs of Lindsey’s teachings could be interpreted as spreading his Christian ideas, but the undertone of monetarily profiting off religion was certainly present.  Additionally, the commercial-like tone of the video segment announcing the toll free donation number did not make my impression any better.  Hal Lindsey is popular with many people who truly believe in what he has to say, but I could not get beyond the sense of commercialization on his website.

Heaven’s Gate

I must admit I was a bit startled to see the web address for Heaven’s Gate listed. It costs money to maintain a website, and with everybody dead, I wonder who has taken the job. Nothing seems to have been added or edited since March 26, 1997. I’m told the site crashed the day after the mass suicides were discovered because thousands of people were suddenly very curious and visited the site. It’s ironic that the desired outcome of the website wasn’t entirely fulfilled until after the group had “evacuated their bodies.”

The website itself is very typical of the era, with oddly clashing colors and highly pixelated graphics. The words “Red Alert” flash in red along the top of the site. Heaven’s Gate’s logo is HEAVEN written left to right, with GATE written top to bottom, the A from each word being shared between the two. A distracting background of stars follows you to every page. Below some preliminary information about the comet Hale-Bopp and the closing “window” there are several links to visit.

I was immediately drawn to the link titled “Our Position Against Suicide.” According to the website, the proper definition of suicide is to turn against the Next Level when it is being offered. They believed that those who are not a part of Heaven’s Gate were committing suicide because they are rejecting the Next Level. They also believed that their bodies were merely vehicles used in the learning process. Therefore, what the group did on the days of March 24 through 26 was not actually mass suicide, but rather the evacuation of their bodies. They did not believe that they were dying, per se, but meeting up with the spaceship that was flying in the tail of Hale-Bopp.

“Do’s Intro” is very informative and offers a mythology for connecting the Jesus narrative of conventional Christianity to the intergalactic narrative of Heaven’s Gate. Do claims that Jesus was an alien, and that anybody who recognized him for who he was would be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, two thousand years later, that alien came back in the incarnation of Do. He then goes on to explain how we have all been programmed to not accept the truth. I did find it amusing that Do concluded his intro with this observation: “It is clear to all of us, that to the Anti-Christ . . . we are, and will be seen as, their Anti-Christ.”

Brasher says, “As the boundaries between religion and other cultural creeds thin, the ability to adjudicate interpretation of their myths and symbols is diminished” (170). We see the syncretism of ideas very potently on the Heaven’s Gate website, as they mixed Christian lore with UFO lore to create a millennialist religion that pinned its hopes (literally) on the stars. In the time of Christ, information dissemination was very slow, as letters were written by hand, sent, delivered, and often copied painstakingly. In the time of Do, all he had to do was log onto his hosting site, type a message, and within moments, the message was available for the world.

Tim LaHaye: Apocalyptic Movements in the Cyber Age

Tim LaHaye is the world-famous author of the Left Behind Series. As a prolific pre-millennial dispensational series of books (and movies, too) it details the book of revelation: reaching a wide-spread audience (millions sold!) with every bit of imminence and urgency it can muster. They’re easily readable, well written, and very well marketed— there’s also a children’s version!  He also writes on other topics like prophecy, spiritual growth, relationships and marriage; such a diversity in works aids to draw in a wider audience, no doubt (oh, I read his book on spiritual growth! It was fantastic! Maybe I should read his other works as well?!)

From the cover page of his website, unlike other premillennial dispensationalists’ webpages, it looks as if he is strategically reserved in giving a decided explanation and elaboration of his beliefs (other than his mission statement and doctrinal statement), but by the titles of his books and movies, the imminence and urgency which propagates his theology, is quite evident: Mark of Evil, Brink of Chaos, Thunder of Heaven, Mark of Apocalypse, Armageddon, The Rapture, The Remnant, Desecration, The Mark, The Indwelling, and Evil’s Edge, among others (it seems he is a rather prolific end-time writer). It is only when one carefully navigates the throes of his site that the answers to their questions may become clear.

When asked, “Is there anything in the Bible that would suggest we are truly in the last days, based on recent weird weather and natural disaster events?”  He replied:

                  According to Matthew 24 and Luke 21, in a sermon known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicted that catastrophes in the skies and on the earth and sea would increase in the last days. These could be the last days, or they could just be a warning from God that life is uncertain and all men should get right with God while there is still time. God’s Word clearly states and in fact it is forbidden to speculate on the day or hour of our Lord’s return. Having said that, we should take into account that our generation has more reason to believe Christ could come in our lifetime that any other generation before us.

His website’s pre-tribulation mission statement suggests that he ardently believes in the inerrancy of the bible (all 66 books), and that the bible should be interpreted “normally”— which I interpreted to mean “literally” (that is, he is a biblical literalist; although he certainly didn’t fess to this). He goes on to say that he believes Christ will rapture the church in the 70th week of Daniel, followed seven years later by his 1000 year reign on earth which will culminate in His millennial Kingdom.

Promoting his Left Behind series on his bookstore page, he exclaims “Nothing is more important than making a decision NOW on where you stand with Jesus Christ. Don’t wait until it is too late!” He informs impervious visitors to his website that there are at least 500 hundred prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ, supplementing his case with hard literary evidence of scripture — which, if you just purchase his books (at the differential prices listed), he will explain in great detail!

Although, LaHaye is careful to point out the uncertainty on whether the end time will take place during this generation, he says we have more reason than ever to believe we’re living in the end times. He says this is the most pressing issue in the bible! Tim also warns believers against the false view of pretermism (this views suggests that we are living in an inaugurated new heaven and earth because the fulfillment of the apocalyptic prophecies have already been fulfilled in the first century)– Does this sound like someone we know who also was warning against false teachers and prophecies? our dearest John, maybe? Tim claims he adheres to the futurist view on end times—that is, that no end time prophetic events are occurring currently, but they will occur in the future (during the tribulation and seven year period).

The left behind series depicts end time events occuring in the information age of technology. In that respect, it is modern, which serves to preserve the ancient ideas of apocalypticism and Revelation more wittingly. This is what PBS’s website had to say about Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind Series:

The religious themes, the apocalyptic themes of the series are very well known, very well established. But they’re combined with these contemporary allusions that give the series a very up-to-the-minute quality. … 

That is to say, that the currency of our age is information (internet, computer technology etc.), and to the degree that these age-old apocalyptic themes are being conveyed through this medium, these beliefs will continue to exponentially entrance readers, enrapture apocalyptic motifs and pervasively spread the imminent message of their ideological claims.

It is interesting to note, that the books purported to “Save” readers (that is, the ones that encourage salvation) are the same ones that disclose the unfolding of cataclysmic events and punishment/ destruction to befall the “unsaved” unbelievers. Not a unbiased sentiment, to be sure. (Again, sound like someone (anyone) we know?)

Soon, I expect, readers everywhere will be buying these books so as to not be “Left Behind.”

That’s the power of the Cyber age.