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.


Gallagher: Syncretic and Cultist Forms

The closed system of interpretation identified by Gallagher consists of the text of Revelation, the interpreter, and the context. While the text remains fixed, the interpreter and the context are more fluid. The Branch Davidians formulated their concept of the divine around the image of a “majestic God seated on a throne and holding a scroll sealed with seven seals (199). “ This fixed text was the cornerstone of the community at Mt. Carmel, and provided a basis for Koresh’s “highly coherent [and] closed system of interpretation” (200). For David Koresh, Revelation encompassed all books of the Bible, and contained a singular message or truth. Koresh viewed the Bible as teaching through repetition, which is in turn how he encouraged his students to form a relationship with Revelation: through repetitive, marathon Bible Studies. Koresh’s message was surprisingly non-inclusive; it required an audience that was deeply familiar with the Bible and that was convinced of an imminent last judgment. Though this differentiates Koresh from most prophets, he did follow other millenarians in “renovating tradition. . . [and] so phrasing the new that it emerges as a more appropriate expression of what has always been agreed to be true (202).”

Though in reality it is the text itself that remains fixed, Koresh was able to cement his interpretation as the authoritative interpretation in the Mt. Carmel community. Koresh’s interpretive authority derived from his belief that he was destined to be a prophet and messiah; he viewed his role as not just a teacher of Revelation but one who would bring its prophecies to fruition. As such, he posited himself not just as interpreter but also as a key player in in the apocalypse. Koresh consistently championed the authority of the text over his interpretation, which only served to bolster his credibility. More important than his brushes with the divine (like his ascent into Heaven) were his Bible Studies that continually reinforced the “truth” of his interpretation.

The community of Mt. Carmel was steeped in the belief that significant transformation was on the horizon: they believed that for the first time the Bible was being interpreted correctly, and that judgment was imminent. This imbued the community with a sense of urgency and intense conviction. When the raid by the BATF occurred, this challenged the order of climactic events Koresh had expected to unfold. Thus, as the context of the Mt. Carmel community changed, Koresh adjusted his interpretation to accommodate the unexpected circumstances. Revelation’s message of ultimate vindication provided Koresh with a sense of comfort and certainty, and allowed him to read the deaths of his community members as martyrdom. The dichotomy of good vs. evil presented in Revelation provided Koresh and his community with a framework through which to view themselves as the persecuted churches, and thus created a situation in which Mt. Carmel viewed itself as engaged with the forces of Babylon. As Elaine Pagels has noted, this reductive and archaic view of the world renders negotiation effectively useless, much like the failed negotiations at Waco.

Moore’s “Ecotherology”

Stephen Moore reads Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign and The Animal That Therefore I am as “incisive if unintended” commentary on Revelation’s animality. In “Ecotherology” Moore explores the relationship between animals in Revelation and animals in today’s “apocalyptically theriocidal world (227).”

Revelation’s beast is typically understood as a metaphor for imperial Rome and/or it’s emperors; Derrida’s finding that sovereignty is often represented through animal monstrosity (much like the beast from Revelation) supports this interpretation.   The beast qualifies as a monster because it does not respect the divisions between species: it is a composite creature of leopard, lion, and bear. This monster, or beast, is an appropriate symbol for the Roman Empire (and/or its emperors) because both are outside the law. A sovereign not only makes laws but also has the power to break them—much like a wild beast that does not respect law and order.   Yet, as Moore points out, Revelation’s author similarly represents divine power in the guise of an animal (the Lamb). God, as divine sovereign, and Jesus as his agent, are outside the law—including their own law of “Thou shalt not kill.” For those who do not number among the faithful (read: those who do not accept God’s absolute sovereignty), God and the lamb are monsters who bestow upon them vengeance and destruction. In this way Revelation reinscribes imperial power while simultaneously critiquing it.

Two kinds of animals are represented in Revelation: the domestic (the lamb) and the wild (the beast).   This dichotomy is reflected in the two women represented in Revelation: the bride and the whore. The whore is bloodthirsty and savage like a predatory animal, whereas the bride’s virtue aligns her with the Lamb. Both the bride and the Lamb are docile, domesticated figures who simultaneously (and paradoxically) represent absolute domination; thus Revelation replicates imperial Rome’s hegemonic structure at the same time it offers a nonhegemonic alternative through the interspecies intimacy of the bride and Lamb.

Personified by the bride, the new Jerusalem is a city constructed around the needs of humans and as such represents a domesticated version of nature—much like modern high-end shopping malls. The city is an “anthropocentering of nature (237).” The new city of Jerusalem is sovereign not just as the seat of a divine ruler but because of its enormous size—excess being, according to Derrida, one of the intrinsic qualities of sovereignty. Moore finds the new Jerusalem to be ill-designed as a prophetic counterexample to the anthropocentrism of empire because it exhibits eerie similarity to the megamalls of today. There does seem to be hope for the formation of a positive, constructive ecotherology in Moore’s reading of Revelation; though the city is anthropocentric in design, its emblematic animal, the Lamb, defies that reading in that it holds dominion over all humans. In Revelation, Jesus is most powerful in animal form—it is the only form in which he is worshipped, and it is as a theriomorph that he is enthroned in the heavenly kingdom.

Moore’s “Raping Rome”

Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity informs the analytical framework of Stephen Moore’s “Raping Rome,” in which the author investigates Revelation’s Whore of Babylon as a “parodic representation of Dea Roma/Thea Rhome, the goddess who personified the city of Rome and, by extension, the Roman state (125).” Moore notes that the figure of Roma has a complicated gender identity, being a female personification of Roman militant hypermasculinity and a female body in the masculine attire of a warrior. The “rape” of Roma occurs through her transformation into the Whore of Babylon, in which she is stripped of her masculine garb and given a more feminine appearance. Rome is linked with Babylon not just because of its destructive capabilities but also because of its alluring, seductive qualities. Rome/Babylon is the antithesis of the kingdom of God, and is accordingly aligned with notions of vice.

The concept of virtus, a vitally important component of Roman masculinity, is the ideal of manliness that connotes valor and virtue. As a virtue rather than a fixed gender identity, virtus was a quality that even women were able to achieve through correct action. As the embodiment of strength and Roman virtue, the figure Roma has an inherent affinity with virtus. Virtus serves as a counterpart to “women’s vices,” which include qualities like sexual profligacy, luxury, and vanity—all, unsurprisingly, qualities that are embodied in the Whore of Babylon.

Moore advocates a multi-layered reading of the figure of Roma, suggesting that she may be read as an allegory of hegemonic Roman gender ideology in her championing of masculinity over femininity. The virtus that Roma possesses was achieved through the denial of her femininity, what Moore terms the “hard-won product of (self)-conquest (143).” Roma may also be understood as an internalization of the Roman stereotyping of Asian males as “soft,” or as a critique of the Roman ideology of masculinity, or as a satirical assertion that Roman masculinity is in constant threat of reverting to femininity—or perhaps these are all valid interpretations that work together simultaneously.

If Roma is a man dressed as a woman dressed as a man (Roman patriarchy embodied in a woman dressed as a warrior), then Roma’s transformation into the Whore of Babylon is a sort of “triple drag” in which she is stripped of her military garb and clothed as a prostitute (144). The Whore of Babylon is the embodiment of “women’s vices.” Thusly, by stripping Roma of her masculine disguise, Revelation demolishes her self-autonomy and bodily control; this is the first stage of shaming Roma undergoes, which is followed by further sexual shaming and physical punishment (Rev. 17:16).

In an interesting parallel, Moore reads the figure of Jesus presented in Revelation as similar to that of Roma; Jesus represents a masculinity constructed through the suppression of femininity (an invincible warrior with unrivalled military prowess whose physical body bears female breasts). Like Roma, Moore argues that Jesus can be read as an equally complex allegory of Roman gender ideology.

Though my knowledge on the subject of gender politics in ancient Rome is rather limited, Moore’s analysis appears to depend on an anachronistic reading of gender that is reflective of his own cultural moment. Though Moore makes a very convincing case for his analysis, especially through his thoughtful application of Butler’s theory, I wonder if his discussion of gender is perhaps too binary; as Moore himself points out, Roman sexuality was simultaneously rigid and fluid. I have a hard time understanding why a militant female figure must be understood as performing a masculine identity—it seems that there was room in the Roman imagination for women to be feminine and powerful, as in the case of the goddess Athena. Performing the virtue of masculinity seems to be different in my mind than performing masculine gender.



Cohn’s “Biblical Origins”

The persecution of Judean Jews under Antiochus IV in the 160s BC forms the socio-historical context for the Book of Daniel. Antiochus desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, and then later pillaged and burned the city itself. The Jewish community fought this oppression, resulting in the Maccabaean rising in which the Temple was successfully reclaimed.

Though not a Maccabaean manifesto, Norman Cohn argues that the Book of Daniel’s aim was to encourage the (elite) civilian population to remain faithful under persecution.   The setting envisioned by the author of the Book of Daniel is likely Judea, while the four beasts he describes can be read as the imperial powers that ruled over the Jews. The one who appears from the clouds “like a son of man,” whether representative or symbol for the “saints of the Most High,” embodies the promise of future exaltation and vindication for the Jews.

This identification of the Jewish community with the “saints of the Most High” indicates that they will inherit the kingdom of God on earth. The establishment of this new and righteous kingdom is marked by the reconsecration of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Book of Daniel suggests that those Jews who rule over this new kingdom are not only those who are without sin but are those who also followed the teachings of visionaries like those of Daniel. The struggles that the Jewish community faced served as inner purification, elevating them above normal human beings and aligning them with the “holy ones” in Heaven.

The establishment of this holy kingdom is preceded by the judgment of the Seleucid Empire and of all Jews; those who were martyred under Antiochan persecution rather than deny their faith would be rewarded with eternal life. Written during the persecution of the Jews, the Book of Daniel is a narrative of resistance in that it promises retribution and reward for the injustices faced by the Jewish community under Antiochus IV.

Revelation draws heavily on the Book of Daniel, and can be understood as a Christian counterpart to the Book of Daniel. Revelation was written for Christians who still considered themselves Jews (their religion was not yet termed “Christianity”). In its relationship with the Book of Daniel, Revelation demonstrates that the history of the Church follows what has been foretold in scripture.

Early Christians were certain that Jesus would soon return to judge the living and the dead and thereby usher in the great transformation. The war in Heaven described in Revelation has an earthly parallel: the “woman clothed with the sun” represents Israel, with her child representing the Christian community. Satan is assisted on earth by two beasts: the first, representing the Roman Empire, and the second representing the “false prophet” or priesthood of the Roman religion. The Archangel Michael, the patron angel of Israel in the Book of Daniel, ultimately defeats Satan. Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian, and though scholars hotly debate the degree to which Domitian persecuted early Christians, it can be said with certainty that the author of Revelation had a conception of the cosmic order that contrasted markedly with the Hellenistic world in which he lived. Thusly, John, Revelation’s author, viewed the rule of kings and emperors as an expression of Satan’s power and expected God to put an end to both.