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.


Earth First! and Quimby

Members of Earth first! Describe themselves as ecomilitants; their prototypical slogan embodies the ideals of combat and warfare: “For Earth first! It is all or nothing: win or lose. No truce or cease fire. No surrender. No partitioning of the territory” (Foreman, 349). The apocalyptic-militant mentality, or rather, what Quimby calls “regime of power” is palpable in Earth first!’s discourse. Members say they are creating a biocentric paradigm, a new-world view; this defense, of course, is reactionary. Much like our Prophet John’s was in the NT in relation to Roman Imperial Rule. The sense of urgency in Earth First!’s “regime of power” steamrolls and further fuels their perception of the current destructive anthropocentric, or human-ego centered paradigm. This “new world view” is also consistent with Quimby’s theory of “regime of power.” Humans are destroying the earth (in a more pessimistic sense), and by the evil of their hands, the earth is now headed toward a certain end. Earth first! Members believe it is a moral imperative to fight back. By assigning a value-judgment to the destruction [read: evil] (reinforcing the us vs. them motif inherent in the apocalyptic mentality), members are able to justify their actions as rightful and good: “locating evil also [sic] presumes the possibility of salvation or an escape from evil” and further, Lorentezen says, “the fact that we are in the midst of an unprecedented, anthropogenic extinction crisis and consequently many ecosystems are presently collapsing, provides the essential underpinning and rationale for militancy. Without this claim there is no basis for urgency” (147). This is the “regime of power” that Earth first embodies, firsthand. Fueled by their deep-seeded belief of the inevitability that the earth should end at the hands of technology created by humans, they crusade, mercilessly, for their cause. No doubt, their motives are noble, but their entire discourse (philosophy, tactics, strategies) employ the quintessential apocalyptic discourse. Even as a secular entity, they have “bought in” to the enigmatic and cyclical mentality of apocalyptism. Just like John, actualizing the Romanized, gendered and hypermasculinized imperial discourse of his day to out-man the man (Imperial Rome), so too, does Earth fist! engage in this same kind of subversive discourse practice with its oppressor: technological destruction.

The “regime of truth” most associated with Earth first! Is technological apocalypse via devastation which  holds that human invention and technology are responsible for human and world devastation through threats of nuclear crisis, environmental degradation and “mechanized dehumanization” (Quimby, xvi). But, really, (I ask) isn’t it humans who should be held responsible for inventing the technology? Actually, it seems humans are the destructive crux behind all three regime of truths: divine apocalypse, technological apocalypse, Ironic apocalypse (In divine apocalypse, sin [or rather, human choice that allowed sin to enter the world] ultimately leads to the destruction of the world, in technological apocalypse, technology [created by humans] leads to the destruction of the world, and  In ironic apocalypse [humans, who invented linear time to make sense of the world, run out of what we have created]) thus, I would call the overarching regime of truth present in all three of these the antropocentic apocalyspe— but no one asked me.

Feminist members of Earth First! Claim that certain strategies and tactics first employed by the ecomilitarist group represent phallic masculinity in which the movement “preferring acts of individual bravado [sic], or mass organizing” demonstrate its radical ecological philosophy (Lorenzen, 150). Similarly, we saw something akin to this in two essays by Stephen Moore: Hypermascuinlity and Divinity and Raping Rome; the theses of both these, to one degree or another, suggest gendered underpinnings of hierarchy between the sexes, gendered rhetoric of male power and dominance and a misogynistic advent that reinforces its apocalyptic discourse. One Earth first! Member noted the inextricable tie between ecology and gender, “If we want to save the planet, we must address root causes like patriarchy and the destructive exploitative society…..we can’t separate it” (151). Subverting the aforementioned cause is the idea that “Mother Earth” (gendered female and anthropomorphic, no less) must be saved from the continuous savagery of rape that humans commit against her (again, reminiscent of Moore); But who are the ideal patron saints to conquer and to protect? Men— no doubt. The historic discourse of power, domination and hierarchy (the power dynamic ever-present in the us vs. them mentality) that is implicit in apocalypticism, is nuanced even in ecological movements such as Earth first!. Thus, the hierarchical power-relation prevails.


“Quadrupedal Christ”

In “Quadrupedal Christ,” Moore provides several examples that support his argument that Revelation both affirms and disturbs the Cartesian model. First there is the fusion of the divine, the human, and the animal (lamb) — all three of these Christological figures represent Jesus (207). Thus, Christ is both theriomorphic and anthropomorphic (211). This disturbs the Cartesian model (human/animal divide). Further, Moore notes that Christ drifts in and out of humanity by the donning and un-donning of clothing (since humans are the only animals who wear clothing); Moore argues that in this way Jesus can be “made and unmade” into animal (209). This example actually affirms the Cartesian Model.

 In his more complex example, Moore notes that Revelation actually inverts the Aristotelian-species hierarchy that elevated the human over the animal. He gives the example of those worshipping the Lamb in the throne room. Those worshipping (the angelic beings and elders) are subdued, subservient and slavish— much how we imagine cattle or other livestock being led to the slaughter— yet the Lamb is the one who is being worshipped (“King of Kings and “Lord of Lords”)(210, 212). This represents an inverse in Aristotelian logic as “the animal is domesticated to serve human beings now rules over them” (212). However, Moore says that in order for this inverse to happen, the animal had to be subjected to the slaughter of humans.  This means that the lamb had to suffer and die. The image of Jesus dying an inhumane death— like that of an animal—serves to further affirm the Cartesian Model: animals are killed; but humans are murdered and die. The difference? An act is immoral if taking a life involves a “human” animal.  But Moore then posits a question concerning the ethics involved in the slaughter of animals. Is it only murder when it is a human? What then are we to make of Revelation’s depiction of Christ in his three forms, not least of which is an animal? And if animals lack the requisite features of human (spirit), and man who, quoting Heidegger “has an experiential relation to death” can they die (217)? If so, this would confirm the Cartesian model, but as we read further, we find that this example is far from complete. In fact, Heidegger, says, no— animals “perish but do not die” (217).

Further, bringing in Derrida, we are given his take, “the animal is a living creature that cannot die.” For Moore, This existential axiom, coupled with the example of the Lamb in Revelation, provides a complex and paradoxal example which disturbs the Cartesian model. Further, Moore brings in Levinas to give an account of the ethical treatment of animals. We find then that if an animal has a face, (specific requisite to ethical treatment) to kill it is to commit murder.  However, as Moore points out, without a face, using Heidegger’s axiom, the lamb even when killed cannot die, and lives on “forever as the sacrificial animal” (219). This example complicates but disturbs the Cartesian model. However, Moore complicates it further when he says Revelation is highly more complex than this: the slaughter of a single lamb is indeed a crime; an injustice that deserves mention, reverence and respect; it is an effective and effectual sacrifice. To this end, Moore says, “Revelation [   ] relies on the sacrificial logic it deconstructs” (220). Moore points out that in order for this sacrifice to be redemptive though, “the slaughter of the sacrificial victim must itself be a sin, a crime” (221). This means that the victim must have a face— this is the ethical and lawful requisite that constitutes murder.  These examples complicate but also, paradoxically, affirm and disturb the Cartesian model.


Using Moore’s analysis on the ethical treatment of animals we find that Revelation’s view on this subject doesn’t necessarily present an explicit critique on animal sacrifice (that it is grossly unethical), but rather gives an implicit critique— that the lamb’s death in a compelling but subtle way, constitutes unlawful killing. I am not sure how people in the 1st century would have interpreted this, or how people today would. People, typically (though not always) read religious texts with an agenda, sometimes this is explicit (specifically reading texts for thoughts, ideas, & examples which validate and reinforce their own) more often than not it is implicit. I imagine those people (both then and now) who subsist off eating meat would read Revelation in such a way as to validate their own lifestyle, especially if not eating meat isn’t an option. To kill an animal for the sake of killing however, would be I think, hard to validate regardless. Also, this is not to put factory farms and the mass slaughtering of animals on the same scale as ethically-treated organic, grass-fed livestock of small, local farms.  These are separate things, to be sure and need to be evaluated as such.


The bold type throughout the text, I think, serves to support and give depth to Moore’s argument. Using the modern arguments and examples of animal treatment, he is able to effectively weave and link the thread of the ethical treatment of animals in today’s society with that in the first century and that presented in Revelation, so that we are able to see the congruence and incongruences, and peak hills and valleys in human consciousness through the last 2000 years regarding this issue.

Stephen Moore’s “Raping Rome”

Moore’s Raping Rome explores why and how Rome is represented as both woman and prostitute in Revelation. His central thesis involves uncovering gender hierarchy (specifically man’s dominion over woman) in Imperial Rome and Revelation’s affirmation and inadvertent sublimation of this.  Moore argues that Rome as prostitute simply isn’t a matter doubling-up of the Rome-as-Babylon motif found in the OT (that would simply supply the essence of the analogy of Rome as woman) but rather this derogation of Rome is more fully captured in a Rome-as-Roma-as-Babylon Motif. To use Judith Butler’s fem and queer theory to give an analogy, this city-in-drag-as-god-in-drag-as-classic-derogatory-emlem-as-antitheisis-to-God-in-drag provides the essential link needed to represent Rome as a prostitute. To follow the wave of Moore’s analyses, Roma, the cultic mighty warrior goddess provides Rome with a powerful masculine ideology: strong, powerful and successful in battle—thus, she displays hegemonic masculinity: virtus. She is the “very embodiment of the central imperative in roman masculinity.”

Moore explores the inverse of this dynamic by bringing in Judith Butler and queer analyses, to recapitulate and further examine the idea that Rome in her outward appearance is masculine but her essence is female: Thus she is in “drag.”  Quoting Seneca, Moore explains that virtus is antithetical to women’s vices: “sexual profligacy, unchastity, shamelessness, weakness for jewels and riches.”  Thus, is it any wonder that John depicts Babylon as a prostitute? Moore says, “Babylon epitomizes female vice as Roma epitomizes masculine virtue.” Roma is the pinnacle of women’s vice. She is grammatically feminine but rhetorically masculine. Bringing in Butler again, Moore makes the argument that gender and ethnicity need a “constitutive other” to be constructed— this thought further lends evidence to Moore’s argument of John’s formulation of Rome as prostitute. Moore explains that the “hegemonic gender script of masculinity” that dominated Rome was one of rigidity, control, and excessive dominion both over oneself and others— a product of critical self-conquest. He notes that primal femininity was always in danger of morphing into masculinity— “Femininity is a priori”— it is a given; masculinity, however, must be “attained and controlled.” Thus, his argument is that Roma “guards” the sex/gender ideology of Rome.

Moore argues that Roman masculinity is brittle and demands constant watch, which than sets up the question, “Is Rome armed against herself?” This loop in Moore’s analysis further serves to elicit the idea and quantify the polemic: Roma is clothed as man, embodied masculine (her demeanor/stylized attitude) but nonetheless female (essence). Revelation strips Rome of her military apparel and re-clothes her as a prostitute. Moore argues that by stripping of her military clothing and dressing her up as a prostitute, Rome represents the epitome of “fallen femininity.” He says Babylon is Rome in triple drag: first “phallic masculinity masquerading as female flesh masquerading as hegemonic masculinity and then phallic masculinity re-clothed as degenerate and defeated brothel slave.” But the question Moore is really trying to get at in his analysis, is why are sex/gender coterminous with empire in Revelation in the first place? Here, he notes that Roma in her drag-splendor is only part of the answer. The other half of this answer lies in the manifestation of social hierarchy in the Roman world.

Interesting, Moore notes that while resisting the sex/gender system, John actually replicates it so that sexual violence in Revelation appears to be an affirmation of gender hierarchy. He says this happens in both inward and outward directed aggression and sexual violence. The first (inward) toward Jezebel the second (outward) toward Babylon. Here, he notes that the female is the object of sexual violence except where she “assumes patriarchically preapproved forms: virgin bride and self-sacrificing mother.” This then raises some eyebrows as the reader observes that the hierarchical gender binary isn’t itself called into question in Revelation. But then, in the last refrain, Moore brings in the depiction of Jesus, “one like a son of man”— an ambiguous being. This raises one last question for Moore, as the depiction of Jesus in Revelation is ultimately ambiguous, troubling the established gender system.  Thus Moore’s argument concludes that Revelation symbolizes the deconstruction of Roman gender causing trouble to the gender binary while simultaneously drawing Jesus into an androgynous figure, much like, coincidentally, that of the goddess, Roma.



Cohn, “Biblical Origins”

The earliest of apocalyptic writings can be seen in the book of Daniel, which was written in response to the Antiochan persecution of Jews and the Maccabean uprising in 160 B.C.E. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid monarch of Judea, entered the temple of Jerusalem, stripped it of its gold, desecrated it with statues of pagan gods and in an act of sacrilege, built an alter to sacrifice pigs— taboo animals; later he pillaged the city, burned it down, and killed most of its inhabitants including women, and children. It’s no wonder the book of Daniel was written as a response to these atrocities.

The book of Daniel validates the chaos, oppression and destruction occurring under the rule of the Seleucid monarchy and symbolically ties it to the villainous and corrupt King, Nebuchadnezzar (dating back to 6th century) who can be likened to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The book presents a linear progression of events starting with Nebuchadnezzar’s rule; his certain downfall; the rise of other corrupt empires; the prolonged persecution of the Jews, and a final establishment of God’s kingdom and an end to the righteous’ suffering. The story interpreted in the context of 1st century B.C.E gives hope and encouragement to the Jews: That in all this chaos there is hope, and that this too shall pass. Daniel concludes that God ultimately will judge and condemn the Jew’s oppressors, establish peace and justice, and will inaugurate his sovereignty on earth.

Daniel is orchestrated with references to the oppression of the Jews under the rule of corrupt kingdoms. In chapter 7, the four beasts that come out of the sea symbolize the imperial powers that have ruled over the Jews. The fourth beast that rises out of the sea— the ugliest, and most depraved— is representative of Alexander’s Empire; its horns represent Alexander’s successor states. The vision of the “one like a son of man who appears as on clouds of Heaven” is symbolic of future vindication and exhalation of the Jews. Whereas all past and present earthly empires are successively dominated, controlled and passed from ruler to ruler; the opposite is in store for the Jews, whose Kingdom shall remain standing and “shall never pass away.” This allegory serves to further elicit hope and encouragement to the Jews facing persecution, and shows itself as resistance literature, both explicitly (“to the man,” or rather toward the oppressors) and implicitly (in the form of mental resistance, or rather in a manifestation of certain mechanisms of self-preservation). The vile, wicked, and corrupt rulers of this era will face a pyrrhic and meaningless end— all their self-indulgent efforts, futile and worthless. But the Jews, enduring the difficulties of this present life, will know no such end, because their kingdom will endure strong and steady, and will last forever. For the Jews living at the time that the book of Daniel was written, it gave them a sense of justice, and hope and provided a context with which to frame and situate their oppression. It substantiated their experiences, and provided depth and gave meaning to their sufferings.

The Jews who had experienced martyrdom and who were remarkably holy were expected to inhabit a new god-like body after their resurrection. There was also an expectation of a reformative transformation of the world, and a newly established order. Jewish apocalyptic writings foretold of tribulation and hardship, natural disasters and wars preceding this. This further situated the experiences and expectations of the Jews living under the rule of the Seleucid Empire. Later, Jews living in the first century C.E. believed Jesus to be the referenced “son of man;” this belief permeated their understanding of his moral teachings.

The book of Revelation was written for Christians who identified as the “only true Jews” pit against those who “belonged to Satan.” The book was inspired by more than 300 Jewish scriptures, many coming from the book of Daniel. The 144,000 elect in the book of Revelations are Jews (not yet called Christians) who belong to the twelve tribes of Israel. Symbolism borrowed from Hebrew texts is re-interpreted through a Christian worldview, and these Hebrew Scriptures are used to reinforce an understanding of the prophetic and certain, linear unfolding of events. The book of Daniel is reinterpreted to give credence to the imminent victory of the Christian church. Revelations is presented as the fulfillment of the prophetic traditions of Israel.

The beast that stood for the Seleucid monarchy in the book of Daniel, now stands for the Roman Empire in the book of Revelation. The second beast in revelation symbolizes the priesthood of the official Roman religion; also, John’s view of cosmic order was in direct contrast with that of the Roman Empire; thus, he eagerly waited for God to put an end to it, and for his Kingdom to be established. This shared ideological viewpoint is layered with borrowed symbolism from Daniel and thus functions in the same way as resistance literature, albeit toward the Roman Empire.

Revelations ends with the death of the beast, and its armies—symbolizing the destruction of Rome. After satan has been bond for a thousand years and is set free, he and his legion of demons are conquered by God and his angels. Then there is the restoration of God’s kingdom on earth—the New Jerusalem. This imagery and signification, like that in the book of Daniel, serves to encourage and inspire Jews to live righteously and morally in this life, despite persecution and difficult circumstances, so that they may inherit the blessed kingdom of God.

by. S.S.