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.

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.

Moore, “Ecotherology”

Moore looks at two aspects of Revelation he feels has been neglected by previous commentators: the animality of Christ and the huge, fairly desolate New Jerusalem.  Largely basing his examination around Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign, Moore explores the similar, yet contrasting natures of the Lamb and the Beast.  Bestiality’s traditional association with political despotism, on one level, explains why John personified the Roman empire as an animal-like figure.  But, it also raises the question, why is the Lamb, simultaneously an animal and symbol of the divine, assigned to embody Christ?  Moore draws on Derrida to conclude that Revelation presents a hybrid view of animality.  The two beasts, divine and evil, behave as humans expect animals to behave- by remaining mute.  However, they both carry significant metaphorical connotations (the Beast as absolute evil and the Lamb as absolute divinity), illustrating Revelation’s dual view of animality.

Moore then addresses other instances of evil and divinity in Revelation that are directly related to the respective beasts.  Human savagery is simultaneously present in the Beast and the personification of Babylon, who physically rides on the Beast’s back.  Both figures are closely connected, almost morphing into one evil being.  The Lamb also corresponds with a human figure.  The virtuous woman is closely related to the divine animal.  However, her connection runs deeper, as she is referred to as the bride of the Lamb.  Moore points out that Revelation transforms the bride into the New Jerusalem, equating the good woman with the good city and the good woman with the good people of God.  However, Moore questions the “goodness” of the new city when it is described as essentially empty, with the exception of the river, the tree of life, and the Lamb.  Again, he states that while eco-commentators have addressed the river and the tree in the walls of the city, they have rarely tackled the unfathomable size of the New Jerusalem.  Moore admits that the sheer size is used to convey power, authority, and sovereignty, but the description presents a dystopian environment devoid of life, similar to a dead megamall.  And the Lamb, as the sole living creature within the dead environment, is again part of the duality (or contradiction) of Revelation.  Questioning the place of animals in the New Jerusalem, Moore metaphorically relates the unworthy humans to dogs, cast out of the city because of the dirtiness and base desires.

Moore concludes that the lone presence of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem signifies that humans now exist to serve animals, instead of the reverse that is often assumed by humans (especially those living today).  Christ takes the throne in the heavenly city as an animal, the only form in which he is worshipped by humans, demonstrating that, in Revelation, the ultimate form of divinity is the animal Christ.

Moore, “Raping Rome”

Moore’s essay, “Raping Rome,” attempts to answer why the Roman Empire, where masculinity is valued far above femininity, is symbolically represented by the Whore of Babylon, a woman. Moore suggests that while John attempts to subvert the empire by shaming its representational goddess, Roma, he also inadvertently uses her as a model for the Jesus of Revelation, both of whom rise above the binary gender distinctions so resolutely maintained in Roman society. The fluidity of Jesus as an intersected being mirrors that of Roma similarly embodying male and female aspects.

Moore labels Roma’s inclusion in Revelation as “a case of triple transvestism” (125). She is Rome’s hypermasculine militarism in a female body in a male warrior’s dress: male as female as male. Her association with military might and imperial power, along with her very name meaning “strength,” furthers the paradox of the presence of masculinity in her clearly female body. In addition, Roma displays virtus, a male characteristic that was thought of as the opposing force to feminine vices. Moore concludes that Roma personifies both men and women, but in a constant state of tension. Judith Butler’s theories of gender and performance set the theoretical framework for examining Roma as a being in double drag, and the subsequent reading of the Whore of Babylon as one in triple drag who is stripped of her Roman power and shamefully defeated.

According to Moore, John violently destroys Roma, yet he uses her multi-gender model to describe the figure of Jesus in Revelation. On one level, the division between male and female seems rigidly separated; male takes the top place while female is relegated to a lower rank. However, Moore states that Jesus confuses the binary distinction; he is both male and female, deconstructing the boundaries between genders that Roma, and Roman society, represent.

Moore presents a compelling reading of gender in Revelation, one that makes the reader consider issues beyond the surface of the text.  The inclusion of Judith Butler’s work especially supports his conclusions.  However, the layer-upon-layer approach he takes creates confusion towards his logic and questions its applicability to the period in which Revelation was written.  Gender and queer studies are fairly recent fields in academia and can be used to examine almost any subject, yet Moore’s specific application of gender and queer studies to biblical scenarios seems a bit stretched.  My lack of extensive knowledge regarding the topic prevents me from having a solid opinion on the anachronism of Moore’s study (which he himself admits is one of his weaknesses).  But, the criss-crossing lines of logic are so difficult to follow that they give the sense that some conclusions have been forced onto the material.

Carter, “Vulnerable Power”

Rome attempted to maintain control over its vast empire by creating a totalizing state that governed every aspect of its citizens lives,  Yet, as Carter argues, groups holding beliefs that contrast the Roman ideological program sought to establish a way of life that went against the dominant societal formations which had been present for a significant amount of time.  Carter’s suggestion that early Christian literature does just that, draws from biblical sources that he interprets through the social settings in which the writings were produces, namely the Roman Empire.

In his discussion on Paul, Carter clearly states that Paul is aiming to establish a fully Christian community that opposes the existing state of the Roman Empire, but he also notes that Paul can be seen as an apocalyptic author by applying the literal meaning of “apocalyptic”, disclosing or revealing, to his writings. Carter’s interpretation of Paul’s “double-edged apocalyptic quality” suggests that his descriptions of true Christian life simultaneously condemn established Roman practices.  For Paul, the phrase “one Lord” refers to the Christian God, not the Roman emperor, as was often seen with rulers who wished to deify themselves.  According to Carter, Paul’s assertion of the omnipotence of the Christian God also undermines the all-powerful image many emperors used to maintain dominance and control.  Additionally, Carter identifies exploitation as a major theme that runs through Paul’s writing; exploitation of the peasants by the military, the upper class, and the emperor reveals the unjust social systems that keep Rome alive.  However, Jesus’ death and resurrection shows that release from the oppression of the Roman empire will come despite their attempts to subdue change: the imperials powers killed Jesus, but he did not truly die, he returned to life, just as abusing and persecuting Christians will not destroy their faithfulness.  Carter also discusses Paul’s use of language.  On one side, Paul employs familial language such as sister and brother to counter the patriarchal nature of imperial language that often refers to the emperor as the father.  Yet, Paul also utilizes familiar imperial concepts, like triumph and personal authority, in his descriptions of his Christian community, leading Carter to find inconsistencies in Paul’s writings.

The book of Revelation also addresses the creation of a Christian community, but on a much larger scale than what Paul imagined.  The events of the book describe apocalyptic events on a worldwide scale.  Carter identifies clear parallels between the fallen city in Revelation and the Roman empire, which, for many citizens of the period, could be considered the world.  The manipulation and control the Romans exercised  over its subjects can be paralleled in the beasts of the apocalypse that are controlled by Satan.  These beasts are defeated by God, who lives eternally.  Carter parallels God’s victory over the beasts with the Christians’ triumph over the Roman empire, which will die while the Christians will live forever with God.  He implies that Revelations takes advantage of the empire’s eventual dissolution and the Christian belief in eternal life through resurrection.