American Evangelism Looks Like an Apocalyptic Death-Cult
On Tuesday, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Leaders of Christian communities in Jerusalem have written their fears that this move will not bring about peace but will instead bring “increased hatred, conflict, violence, and suffering in Jersulam and the Holy Land.” Despite these worries by religious leaders in Jerusalem, Muslims, and even concerns and prayers voiced by Pope Francis, American evangelicals are cheering this move by the president.
Why? BECAUSE OF THE PROPHECY, YOU FOOLS!
End-times Evangelism focuses on key verses from the Bible regarding Jerusalem and Israel to herald the end of days. Despite these prophecies all coming from different parts of the bible, and most being allegorical in nature, end-times evangelists have strung them together in a narrative to preach an apocalyptic ideology. As a kid, I remember sitting in on a friend of my parents’ make a power-point presentation about how we were all living in the end times and Bashir Al-Assad was the anti-christ (he would later go on to change his beliefs in favor of making Barack Obama into his religious villain).
To summarize, End-times Christians are set on a timeline in which every Jewish person in the world (yes all of them) return to Jerusalem and we see the start of WWIII in which every country attacks Israel for some reason or whatever, and God takes every Christian and child to heaven to escape the next seven years of tribulation and horror. This is referred to often by right-winged evangelicals as the “rapture.” So to answer the question of why Jerusalem is so important to the religious right, many American Evangelicals ascribe to the idea that not only is this a herald of the promised end times, but that it puts America on the right side of the coming conflict.
It’s very easy to feel good about plunging the entire world into war when you are confident that your side will be victorious.
A famous look at the ideology of end-times evangelism is through the Left Behind book series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The series follows a group of survivors who convert following the loss of their family members after the rapture. It’s smug torture-porn where Christians get to read about unbelievers suffering violence and grief for the crime of not believing their weird apocalyptic fantasies. It communicates a cult-like ideology — anyone who doesn’t believe, who doesn’t belong, who doesn’t join is going to suffer, and they will deserve all their suffering, even after they have converted. This series was so popular, it spawned a movie franchise starring Kirk Cameron!
Left Behind hits every end-times evangelical talking-point, even to the antichrist being a foreign figure who comes promising peace. The religious right sees the promise of peace as a looming threat that cannot be trusted, and in fact must be destroyed. A peace-bringer takes the role of the ultimate enemy because that would mean co-existing with one’s ideological opponents and political dissidents, and for the religious right, that is simply unacceptable. They demand total dominance.
The promise of a doomed world, an apocalyptic future in which they escape while their enemies remain behind to suffer, is a cruel vision more reminiscent of a doomsday cult than the typical image of a happy Sunday School bible lesson. Watching the religious right cheer a blundering political move that is certain to bring harm and bloodshed, I am reminded of their true motives. They don’t actually care about the people or state of Israel and certainly not those suffering in Palestine. If they actually cared about the plight of Jewish people they wouldn’t still be praising and defending the actions of literal nazis and anti-semites in their circles. Instead, they’re holding up their books of prophecy like a religious bingo card, eager to set the ball rolling on the apocalypse.
Growing up in a highly religious community, I was subjected to every end-times conspiracy and promise of the rapture and the coming apocalypse. I’ve seen at least a dozen end times Christian propaganda films, skits, slide-shows, and heard ten times as many lectures. For as long as I’ve been alive, the religious right has been convinced of a coming apocalypse always just around the corner.
There’s a reason doomsday cults have such powerful propaganda: fear. The end is always coming. The end is always nigh, and unless you sign up and help spread the message, you and your family are doomed. If you join our church and pass out our pamphlets, you can save yourself and your loved ones. Most importantly, you can help save others, and you must, for a fiery fate awaits them.
The prophecies they’ve strung together have to come true in order to justify the actions they take to oppress minorities, restrict control over women’s bodies, and even voice support for violent white nationalism. The world has to literally be ending, and they are the only saviors warning us all about the end-times. In order to seize dominance and look like heroes, there needs to be a greater threat, always just on the horizon that only they can see.
For the religious right, every war is a sign of the return of Jesus Christ, and the chance they’ll get to say, “I told you so. I was right. I was right all along.” Even if they have to burn down the world to prove it.
Dorian Dawes is the author of the queer horror anthology Harbinger Island. Their non-fiction work has appeared on Bitch Media, Your Tango, Gay Pop Buzz, and the Huffington Post. You can support their work at patreon.com/doriandawes