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.

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.

Branch Davidians, Gallegher and Personal Testimony

Eugene Gallegher’s essay on the Branch Davidian sect explores the nuances of David Koresh’s interpretive system. Gallegher points out a triangle in which Koresh models his specific hermeneutic of biblical interpretation in the form of a triangle: Text, Interpreter and Context. Gallegher admits that this system, even though fundamentally flawed is quite ingenious. David Koresh, a cult leader to most of society, was a man a man that fundamentally interpreted the whole of Scripture (and life’s events for that matter) as completely centering on the book of Revelation. Furthermore, not only was his interpretation on Revelation generally, but chapters 4 and 5 particularly. He considered himself to be the Lamb of God, opening up the seven seals. The fundamental problem with Koresh’s hermeneutic is the fact that he looks at Scripture through this vacuum of Revelation. Gallegher implies that even with this problematic approach, it strengthened Koresh’s power over his students. In moving from the Text itself, he as the Interpreter found himself in it. In a sense, one could argue that he presuppositions about what the text said guided and lead him to his conclusions. Koresh lacked any sense of objectivity while engaging the Bible. He further vindicated his own interpretation of the Text and of himself (Interpreter) by viewing Revelation only in the Context of where he found himself in Waco, TX. Because Revelation repeatedly discusses and draws on images of the persecuted faithful, when the BATF and the FBI engaged in a standoff with him, it further supported Koresh’s claim to fame. At this point, even in hindsight, it’s hard to see a different outcome than the tragedy that took place at Waco. Koresh, by tickling the ears of his blindly faithful through endless manipulative and isogetical study of the Bible, must have known that a blood bath would undoubtedly ensue. The interactions between government agencies and the Branch Davidians were ridiculous on both sides. Perhaps the side of the government was even more ridiculous. In dealing with an extremist religious sect, the more they are persecuted, the more they hold to their beliefs. Why? There is no stronger element in the human psyche other than that of devotion. These people believed Koresh was the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Christ. The government knew they believed this. In trying to subvert Koresh’s authority, they were also trying to destroy the faith and lifestyle of people who devoted all of themselves to Koresh’s teaching. There is no way this event could have been solved with any amount of violence or the possibility of it. Even today, there are still Branch Davidians out there that are waiting for their Messiah to come back and rescue them. They are still (if not moreso) firmly committed to Koresh’s teachings. Why? Because the persecution spoken of in Revelation is something they truly believed happened to them. In undergoing “persecution” and enduring it, it is unlikely that a person would look back and change their minds, thinking instead that they (but more importantly their leader) caused this tragedy to take place. If they were to believe that all they endured was for nothing, it would shatter their understanding of God and their Messiah, Koresh. Gallegher and the stories of Waco survivors show just how dark life can get merely through one man who took a simple-minded narrow view of Scripture and twisted it to meet the desires of his own selfish and deceptive heart.

“Raping Rome”


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In “Raping Rome,” Stephen Moore explores the meaning(s) and significance behind the feminization of Rome in Revelation. Following previous commentators, he notes that Rome/Babylon “comes already sexed and gendered” through the Jewish tradition (127). Yet Revelation seems to be the only text that elaborates upon this idea with sexualized rhetoric that depicts the empire as a prostitute drunk on her lustful passions (porneia). This arresting image is best understood, according to Moore, as a “counter-imperial representation of Rome,” a parody of the empire’s depiction of itself through its august warrior goddess, Roma (128).

Moore begins with an examination of the cult of Roma in Asia Minor. Long known as the symbol of Rome, the goddess was naturally linked with power: not only did her name itself convey authority (rhome = strength), but iconic representations routinely highlight her martial attributes (e.g., carrying military equipment and wearing armor, defeating enemies, and holding the goddess Victory). The works of poets praising Rome complement this ideological portrait: Melinno of Lesbos, for example, celebrates “the royal glory of everlasting rule” of the goddess and her “lordly might” (134-135). Depictions of Roma in art reinforce this image; as a conquering hero she dominates her vanquished opponents, themselves personified as stereotypical women. Roma thus “emblematizes mythic masculinity” (135).

Moore find this evidence striking because it appears to destabilize ancient gender norms, which identified power and control as visible markers of a person’s gendered identity (“men” exercised these traits while “women” did not). In this system, though, such qualities were never fixed or stable, and masculinity was always something that biological men had to demonstrate. At the same time, biological women might occasionally transcend the weakness of their sex and achieve masculine honor (136, 140-142). Roma, then, appears as “a visual allegory of hegemonic Roman gender ideology”: a goddess whose femininity is constantly moving toward manliness by performing acts of masculine virtus, domination and control (143).

How might we compare this imperial understanding of Roma as “hegemonic Roman manhood encased in female flesh that is clad in hypermasculine garb” with Revelation’s gendered depiction of the empire? Moore sees John inverting the imperial image: the empire’s masculine woman is, in John’s hands, reclothed as a slavish prostitute whose masculine performance fails to convince, and whose seductive qualities threaten Christian identity. The imagery then turns violent, as John predicts that the whore will be stripped, sexually shamed, and ruthlessly destroyed. This “pornoprophecy” heightens the theme of domination and control and reveals that John too has been seduced by Roman gender ideology (146-148). John does not restrict his divinely sanctioned sexualized violence to his external opponents, however; he also targets internal enemies—Jezebel, in particular—with the same tactic (148). John’s wrath against women only ceases when they embody the marks of feminine purity (the mother, the virgin bride).

John’s feminization of Rome shows that he subscribes to the assumptions of sex and gender found in the empire, that men and women could slide back and forth between masculinity and femininity. Like other Roman males, he privileged masculinity over femininity, thus reaffirming the gender binary. Yet Moore also shows that Revelation upsets this stratification through its depiction of Christ as a human-like androgyne, a masculine figure who possesses female anatomy (Moore, 149-150; see Rev 1:13; 19:11-21). If gender is the mark of personhood, then Christ stands outside of the human sphere, a celestial androgyne who moves between male and female and divine and beast (152).

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.



Analysis of “Raping Rome”

Moore’s article explores the complexities of gendering Rome as female (pretending to be male) in its iconography, and how John uses the female gender of the goddess Roma to strip her of her divine status by calling her a prostitute. He points to Judith Butler, who argues that gender identity is a performance of learned behaviors that bear the illusion of natural manifestation. Moore uses a queer-reading approach to examine the cross-dressing goddess, both feminine in form with all the trappings of the masculine warrior. Rome then sees itself (and thus performs under this illusion) as the soft, opulent place of luxury (female) juxtaposed with its desire for violence and conquest (male). Also important is the concept of virtus, which is a female gendered noun to describe the height of masculinity, and is ascribed as a quality of the female Roma. Moore makes the distinction between masculinity and femininity by arguing “masculinity was the quality of being in control of, exercising dominion over, others and also oneself, while femininity was the quality of ceding control of oneself to others” (142).

With this statement, he can then examine how John treats Rome in his apocalypse by keeping with the stylized gendering of the city as female. John strips Roma of her armor and weapons, essentially “emasculating” her, and replacing those with jewels, purple, and a cup of wine. He then labels her the Mother of Whores. John hates Roma, according to Moore, because he secretly loves her for all her splendor; however, he treats her with such animosity because women are not the conquerors. Moore channels Butler again, who points out that those who perform their gender correctly are rarely punished. The Bride, for instance, is not punished, but praised for her submissiveness and purity. John punishes Roma by saying “they will loathe the whore, and they will ravage her and strip her naked, and they will devour her flesh and burn her with fire” (147). Moore argues that the gender binary and violence in John’s writing is a reassertion of the gender hierarchy mentioned above, that men are dominant and women fall into submission.

Moore mentions an androgynous nature of Christ in the Book of Revelation; I fail to see its relevance or its purpose. He implies that the work of scholars and translators in the past has been dishonest in translating mastios as a masculine chest, rather than as a female breast. However, a plain reading of Revelation gives no indication that John was in any way attempting to describe Christ with any kind of gender bias. While there have certainly been a number of people who have picked on John’s choice of words, it is equally likely that he simply chose the wrong word, or that the manuscripts that we have available today bear an error made by scribes. If we want to discount the possibility that anyone could have made such an error, I might point out that even today we might talk about a man beating his breasts (like an ape) without in any way meaning that his breasts had become feminine.

This article is absurd. Moore’s eisegetical approach to interpretation is damaging to John’s original intent when he sat down to write Revelation. Moore makes assumptions about John’s frame of mind and about the attitudes surrounding sexuality and gender in antiquity.

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.