My only actively religious family (my paternal grandparents and their copious siblings) are staunch, old-time religion Evangelicals. And though their church is marked by a fear of women, queer folks, Catholics, and virtually anyone outside of their own insular community, there are some unexpected strengths in Evangelical culture. For example, we have a very, very literal belief in the apocalypse, which we embrace with utter joy. While perhaps not an overly healthy perspective on life, our belief in the imminent end of the world tends to give us a devil-may-care, come-what-may kind of insanity that is not without its charm. It’s an oversimplification, but the old joke, “What’s a redneck’s final words?” (“Hey! Watch this!”), has some grounding in our cultural reality. We’re just not that worried—the Lord will protect us until He’s ready to take us home.
I cannot tell you how how many family meals have been graced with the blithest of reminders, “Jesus is comin’ back, you know. Any day now. You want some more potatoes?” It’s why we’re obsessed with Israel—gotta’ get them Jews back to the homeland so the world can end! It’s why we panic over major changes and/or progress—it’s obviously a sign, and we have to warn those strayed from the flock! It’s why we tend toward disaster-based scenarios, often leaning libertarian and perusing bomb shelter catalogs while cleaning our guns. The world is going to end, and we want to be ready. (Before our souls ascend, of course.)
So I wasn’t at all surprised when (during one of my regular investigative searches on atomic culture), I found these old religious pamphlets using nuclear warfare as Biblical fodder. Nowadays, we’re less concerned with the bomb itself, but fears of warfare (nuclear, chemical, or otherwise) have always been a popular theory for Evangelical catastrophists. Moreover, I’m very familiar with what may be the most resilient artifact of Evangelical nuclear scare—The Louvin Brothers’ 1952 gospel classic, “Great Atomic Power.” In addition to being a truly killer song, it’s got the “all doom, no gloom” sentiment down pat. I advise you to have a listen to the track at the end—your very soul may depend on it.