In March 1997, 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide believing that they were going to meet a UFO which was hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet. A total of 21 women and 18 men between the ages of 26 and 72 neatly packed their bags and took lethal cocktails of sedatives and vodka in anticipation of leaving for a better existence in another world.
While this was a shocking news story at the time, people have been predicting the end of the world probably at least since the first civilizations came up with the concept of religion. Somewhere in the deserts of the Middle East long ago, shepherds gazed up at a starry night sky and tried to make sense of their place in space and time. Down through the many centuries since the first religion was created, religious figures have warned their followers that at any time, the end would be there, and that they must be prepared for a reckoning before god(s).
In recent years, America’s religious right has been convinced that due to our country’s changing beliefs on issues like gay marriage, the End Times are nearly here. Led by political figures like Michele Bachmann and talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, the apocalyptic rhetoric has traveled from backwoods snake handling churches and Midwestern tent revivals and slithered its way into the United States government. Part of the current opposition to the Iran nuclear deal is based on the belief that a regional nuclear war between Israel and other nations is necessary to unlock the chain of events which lead to the return of Jesus.
Nobody has probably screamed more about impending judgement than former rodeo clown and shock jock radio host Glenn Beck. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, Beck proclaimed that at least 10,000 Christian pastors were willing to die opposing marriage equality. Since then, he has continually ramped up the rhetoric saying that America faces the punishment of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, and that the misleading Planned Parenthood videos were a blessing in disguise. Now Beck has stated that all of his focus has been on these things because the world is almost out of time.
Via Right Wing Watch:
“We, as people, I believe are seeing a red line put down by God,” Beck said, “and He is saying we are a covenant nation; the only one that has ever been this is ancient Israel … We will be His people if we choose Him as our God. He has made these things so clear that people must stand together and choose him as our God.”
People sometimes ask why we pay attention to the pundits and politicians of the far right, and the answer is that we have to. The charlatans and grifters of the world depend on the rest of us to be too distracted by the latest celebrity gossip in order for them to carry out their business undisturbed, and Glenn Beck is no exception. All of this rhetoric is designed to ramp up to his big event in two weeks in Birmingham where he will try to cast himself as the Martin Luther King Jr. of persecuted Christian patriots across the United States. His next step is to create a cult of sorts, but the people who follow him are more likely to kill others in the name of religion instead of going quietly by themselves like the Heaven’s Gate cult members did.
As for Glenn Beck, I am not sure that he believes in much of what he is saying, or at least he didn’t when he first started out – but there are hundreds of thousands of people (if not millions) in this country who do. Evil and willful ignorance will not go away if we ignore it; it has to be dragged out into the light of day and exposed for all to see.
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