Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Beginning of the End

".. one edifying thought experiment (there are many such) consists of William Tyndale paying a tumultuous visit to Tyndale House, publishers of the inane Left Behind series. One pictures broken windows, crying secretaries, sirens, a major scene, an arrest, and a board meeting the next day with the suits and haircuts trying to decide if they should press charges against this very troubled man. At the end they decide to just make him pay for the damage he did to the sign out front -- the sign that had his name on it. This is an obvious point, but a certain kind of mind still misses it. This is because a certain kind of mind couldn't hit a bull on the ass with a banjo" (A Serrated Edge, p. 40, Douglas Wilson)

"Left Behind" as Evangelical Pornography by Kenneth R. Morefield For most readers who are not evangelical Christians (and for many of us who are), the representation of reality in the Left Behind series can come across as oddly distorted. I have adopted the term "Evangelical Pornography" to describe the Left Behind franchise because its methods of representing its characters, particularly those who differ from its target audience, fit the description of what psychoanalyst Louise Kaplan calls a "perverse strategy" (123). A perversion, according to Kaplan, is a ....continued here

APOCALYPTIC BABY : FOUR HORSEMEN RIDE THE MOTHER OF ALL PARADOXES: How to Definitively Dismantle the Death-Bomb in 14 (!) Simple (!!) Steps Chapter 2 of a Fun Theological Roundtable Around U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”

U2 is a sign of the end times.

Now, don’t shut me down yet. This is decidedly NOT proposing the U2 disc as the fitting 348th installment of “Left Behind,” and by now you sure I am not among fundamentalist Pharisees who lambast U2 as antichrists due to their “secular” Christianity. And neither am I suggesting that U2’s latest contains a secret encoded message about who “666” is.

Uh, oh. Actually, I take that last one back. Now that I think of it, “Bomb” actually does contain a very revelatory message about the identity of said “beast” ; I’m serious! But maybe it’s more a “what” than who; maybe it’s “death” as system and worldview whose “mark” we are to avoid at all costs! Just maybe that’s what the writer of the Revelation-Apocalypse intended for is to envision and spell out all along!!


U2 is a sign, then, of the end times; inasmuch as their mission is the same. Inasmuch as they are messengers of the dethroning of death as ultimate lord. Let me unpack what I connote by “sign” , and then what’s implied here by “end times.” All I mean by U2 being a “sign” is what Jesus meant by the word (in the biblical Greek: “semeion”): “a distinguishing mark by which something is known.” U2 don’t hold signs, they are signs; they are a “distinguishing mark by which something is known.” In fact they name the very mark of the beast, and point us to the One who overcomes and overwrites it. This definition of “sign” causes Charles Swindoll(He Gave Gifts, p. 55) to paraphrase “semeion” , and thus (though I am guessing he would argue with my application) U2 , as "a super-human ability which authenticated God's spokespersons by convincing people that they were, in fact, bona fide servants of God" What better definition of U2 could you ask for (You’ll notice that Swindoll, as a fundamentalist and cessationist, is unfortunately bound to relegate “sign” to past tense. I believe signs from God, especially people/groups/ rock bands are still around.

And all I mean by the “end times” is all that Jesus meant by it: the eschatological reality and Kingdom era that Jesus inaugurated in his first coming; more simply put, the God-haunted times we live in, even if we are still (hold on to your hats, “Left Behind” fans) a million years from the Second Coming! When Peter preached at Pentecost, citing Joel 2, he was clear: the end times have begun, and they are evidenced by the Spirit being poured out on all flesh (Hey, it doesn’t say “just on the Christians”, or “only on traditional Christian music!”). Folk of all ages and stages prophesying is the main “sign” of the beginning of the “end times.” This means even (!) U2 can prophesy, as even (!) a leading Presbyterian pastor has gladly admitted: “If we are lucky, a prophet shows up…For many these days, it is U2 that shows up..(to) purge our imaginations of the culture’s assumptions on what counts in life and how life is lived.” (Eugene Peterson, forward to Beth Maynard’s “Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog”) . U2 are end-times prophetic signs . Apocalyptic even.


Now there’s a word that needs defining and demantling, at least of its commonly understood denotation: “The whole damn world is going to hell in a Doomsday Basket Fireball, any Armaggedon day now.” . Well, for one, take Armaggedon… please. The word is mentioned in Revelation, but only once, and not even then as a literal; once-for-all, “end of the world as we know it” battle that we have always been told is spelled out in Revelation. Win thousands of dollars by betting “Left-Behind”- inundated Christians that the “battle of Armageddon” is not mentioned at all in the Bible. They will think you are nuts, but you will be right and richer! All the biblical book says about that locale is “the “kings gathered” there. It never specifically predicts or depicts a battle actually happening, and nowhere describes it at all, let alone in the multi-volume mega-graphic detail of the million-selling series of novels. Check this out, doubters, in the Bible volume, it’s all of one verse: Revelation 16:16. This sentence mentions, almost in passing, about kings “gathering” , maybe for an event; one that may or may not happen….at least in the way we’ve been taught. Now, there may well be a literal Battle in the end of the end times, but perhaps even more importantly and apocalyptically, we are even now waging an “apocalypse now,” an actual and practical proleptic armageddon against death and devil’s dominion, in all aspects of faith and life. That’s a very practical, “everyday,” here-and-now and not just “then-and-there,” end-times battle/job/vocation we have all signed up for. Armageddon, and all apocalypse, is best understood as a process and way of life more than a definitive event. U2 simply calls it “dismantling an atomic bomb.” David Dark, coins it “everyday apocalypse.” Hang onto that apparently unlikely and oxymoronic linking of “everyday” with “apocalyptic,” as we let Dark enlighten us:

We apparently have the word “apocalypse“ all wrong. In its root meaning, it’s not about destruction or fortune telling; It’s about revealing; It’s what James Joyce calls an epiphany-the moment you realize your so-called love for the young lady, all your professions, all your dreams, and all your efforts to get her to notice you were the exercise of an unkind and obssesive vanity…The real world, within which you’ve lived and moved and had your being, has unveiled itself. It’s starting to come to you. You aren’t who you made yourself out to be. An apocalypse has occurred, or a revelation, if you prefer…Apocalyptic maximizes the reality of human suffering and folly before daring a word of hope. The hope has nowhere else to happen but the valley of the shadow of death. Is it any surprise that we often won’t know it when we see it? -David Dark, “Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons and Other Pop Culture Icons”, p.10

Besides the fact that that quote amazingly described U2; it reveals that apocalyptic, end-times, is “simply” about revelation. And as a subset of that revelation, it’s about the explanation that death is not the end; though life’s hope “has nowhere else to happen but in its shadow.” U2, in the past (1990s, hallmarked by the song “Until the End of the World,”) looked at life and faith through the shadow and perspective of death and unbelief. Even such “darker” treatises were “meditations on life.” Now they are focusing more clearly on ditching irony and pitching life directly. Same message: Life wins. Though death is still visible, it is not victor. What a revelation. U2 then, fits extraordinarily well, the biblical definition of apocalyptic:

As a literary genre, “apocalyptic” is a way of investing space-time events with their theological significance; it is actually a way of affirming, not denying, the vital importance of the present continuing space-time order, by denying that evil has the last word in it. -N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God

This continual “denying that evil(death) has the last word” is an everyday end –time dismantling of old ways and wineskins. One could make the case, and one (Beth Maynard) basically has, that nothing less than the whole point of U2’s “Bomb” is to effectively and affectively, through apocalyptic and prophetic song, “dismantle the lie that death and destruction hold the cards.” All I can say is “Amen, Beth!” And I may add “Apocalyptic Baby!

Dave Wainscott

a few more links below for good measure..uh, is Tim LaHaye still reading?

Church Still Sells Indulgences:EveryDayApocalypse

Wimpy Jesus and the Rapture Exposed

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