For those of you either too young to remember them—or perhaps not raised in the Bible Belt—among the very top best-selling books of the 1970s were Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth and its sequel Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. These books are literalist readings of the Book of Revelation, presenting a fanciful, goofy paranoiac eschatology comparing vaguely worded end-time prophecies written over 2000 years ago (and reworded an unknown number of times since) with (then) current events. They’re about as intellectually serious as Chick tracts.
Nevertheless, The Late, Great Planet Earth was marketed as non-fiction Bible prophecy predicting and decoding last days milestones—the USSR invading Israel, the coming of the Anti-Christ who would rule over the European Union, famine, plagues, etc, etc, etc—before the Rapture and the subsequent return of Jesus. One of Lindsey’s main themes was that Jesus would come back “one generation” after the state of Israel was established, so by the 1970s, this was a very hot topic in what we now refer to as red states. (If you have ever wondered WHY Southern evangelical Christians are so obsessed with Israel, wonder no more, Hal Lindsey’s books were—and still would be, although I think people forget this—a huge, huge part of this strain of American Christianity. It was there already, but he brought it to prime-time, so to speak and amplified it culturally.)
Hal Lindsey’s books (co-authored by Carole C. Carlson) rivaled the sales of titles like Jaws, The Godfather and The Exorcist as the books most likely to be read by people who didn’t read very much. These books were staples of nearly every garage sale back then. Apparently over 28 million copies of The Late, Great Planet Earth were sold.
Among the known fans of Lindsey’s books in the 1970s was California Governor Ronald Reagan.
In December 6, 1983, during an Oval Office interview, Reagan informed two stunned reporters from People magazine:
“There were times in the past when we thought the end of the world was coming, but never anything like this.”
Tea party nitwit Pat Boone was one of Reagan’s closest friends. He said of the President:
“I believe that Ronald Reagan would make no decision that would run counter to his understanding of God’s direction and what God says is going to happen and what God says he wants to happen.”
(Reagan said this of Boone to a group of evangelicals at the kickoff of his reelection campaign: “And Pat Boone stood up, and in speaking to this crowd, he said, in talking of communism, that he had daughters, they were little girls then, and he said, ‘I love them more than anything on earth.’ And he said, (and I thought, ‘I know what he is going to say,’ and ‘Oh, you must not say that,’ and yet I had underestimated him). He said, “I would rather that they die now believing in God than live to grow up under communism and die one day no longer believing in God.” Big round of applause for Pat Boone, father of the (20th) century…)
Among Reagan’s cabinet members were men known to be to some degree influenced by Christian millennialist beliefs that we were living in the end times. Reagan’s notably asinine Secretary of the Interior, James G. Watt didn’t believe in ecological conservation because Jesus was coming back. It is known that General John Vesse, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Naval Operations, James Watkins, would meet regularly inside the Pentagon with Herbert Ellingwood, deputy Counsel to the President and Attorney General Edwin Meese III to discuss their common faith. I think it’s safe to assume that talk of Bible prophecy and a nuclear end of the world was on the menu at such meetings!
Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, an Episcopalian, told students at Harvard:
“I have read the Book of Revelation, and, yes, I believe the world is going to end - by an act of God, I hope - and every day I think that time is running out.”
Yep, these were the folks who had their mitts on the fuckin’ nukes. This was our side! (It should be noted that the Soviets were atheists! WHAT must the KGB have thought of these guys???)
When the great Texas progressive muckraker Ronnie Dugger penned the article “Does Reagan Expect Armageddon?” for the Washington Post in 1984, the frightening prospects of the crazy Americans bringing an end to the human race became a cause for alarm all across Europe. I lived in London then and there was a lot of anti-American sentiment at the time. I can vividly recall being quizzed about HOW?!?!? HOW?!?!?! could these (or did they say “you”?) idiot Americans believe in this stupid shit from three exasperated French guys and a perplexed English punk rock couple at a party once. I tried to explain it as best I could, but I don’t think my shoulder-shrugging “Look, that’s just the way it is over there, what can I tell you?” rationale for “my peeps” was in the least comforting to them!
Something I read this morning made me think back to those halcyon Cold War days of the almost quaint-seeming batshit crazy Republican Christianists of the 1980s: According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, one of the principal reichwing pressure groups architecting and advocating for the current Tea party-led GOP government shutdown was founded by none other than Tim LaHaye, the author of this current last generation’s mega, mega apocalyptic best-sellers, the “Left Behind” series. Tim LaHaye is basically today’s Hal Lindsey.
Lee Fang writes at The Nation:
The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.
Guess who else has his fingerprints all over this shutdown mess? Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III...
The Council for National Policy, the Conservative Action Project and Ed Meese himself know all too well that racial—not to mention religious—demographic trends in the US mean that there is a very strong likelihood there “their type” will probably never get their hands anywhere near the nukes again, but not content to merely fantasize, sidelined, about the end of the world (and their own perceived ROLES in this cosmic battle between good and evil, like the Reaganites who actually carried the nuclear football for eight fuckin’ years), this cabal of numbskull, dumbshit apocalypse-obsessed morons want to bring it on by destroying the world economy!
You have to give these Teahadist types some credit, they know how to fight dirty. These Republican economic suicide bombers are willing to shred the Constitution to bits to “save” the country from majority rule, aren’t they?
Yo’ dawg, they’ll end the world to save it. It makes perfect sense. TO THEM. Because Jeebus is on their side, of course!
This latest news introduces a whole new level of apocalyptic weirdness into the mix. I encourage you to read “Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown” by Lee Fang at The Nation. The implications of what he’s written there are fairly staggering if you ask me.
This is a battle between good and evil. It is if at least one side sees it that way. The Tea party jihadis want a Christian theocracy and they don’t really care if they have to force it on everyone else. In this way, how is the Christian Right in any way different from the Muslim Brotherhood they fear so much? Their brain-damaged beatific vision of a theocratic America, a country cleansed of gays, Muslims, liberals, illegal immigrants, science and where non-white people don’t get to vote will never, ever come to pass absent a massive genocide occurring in North America, which I don’t think is going to happen anytime soon. The concept of “the American Taliban” is becoming more real with every passing day and the rest of the world (especially the business community and China) is starting to notice it, too. And they are alarmed at what they see. Even the Taliban are brutally mocking us for being stupid!
Holy shit. Literally.
“I reveal my innermost self, to God.”