American Fundamentalist Christianity and the EU
American Fundamentalist Christianity confronts analysts and layman alike with a
puzzle. A millenarian dogma adhered to by millions of non-black Baptists, Pentecostals, and Born-again New Religious Right Fundamentalists in the USA and anglophone Canada identifies a future President of the EU or Europe as the coming Antichrist.
He will mark all people with the number 666, the mark of the Beast.Revelation 13:17
The Antichrist is conceived of both as an external force that will threaten or attack the righteous and as something that will come from within the righteous themselves, even from the believer’s own heart. The Antichrist will decree that no one who does not have the computerized barcode 666 marked on his or her forehead or right hand will be allowed to buy or sell. This, the Antichrist will do to convince people to allow the mark to be branded on (or implanted in) their bodies. The Antichrist will issue a universal credit card that will be necessary for all transactions.
While the seal Of Jesus-God in spiritual rebirth promises salvation, the Mark of
the Beast is a sin and will bring damnation and eternal torment in the afterlife.
To allow the mark of the Beast on one’s own body is the ultimate, unique, and sole
eternally unpardonable sin, besides suicide, within the otherwise redemptive and
conversionist system of Fundamentalist Christianity.
Also, any person refusing to kneel to and worship the Antichrist’s “speaking image”
will be slaughtered on the spot by the Antichrist’s troops. Anyone who accepts the
mark Of the Beast or worships his “speaking image” — even if this is only an
external gesture — shall drink of the cup Of God’s wrath’ after Christ’s second
coming and the eternal defeat of Satan and the Antichrist at the Battle of Armageddon. The “speaking image,” which has troubled Christian millenarians for centuries, is identified by American Fundamentalists as the television.
The question that has interested many scholars is how it can be that such apocalyptic fantasies can find so great an echo in the most powerful country on post-Cold War earth. Contrary to much-received wisdom, apocalyptic Fundamentalism in the USA does not result merely from people finding the modern world’s present situation confusing. Europe becomes the American Fundamentalist
Christian icon of “secular” power by Europe’s assumed control over modern technology, such as computers. Yet. American Fundamentalists use ultramodern technological inventions in communications, mass media, and televangelism. Information processing and industry. These occupy center-stage in the so-called “Prosperity” and “Health-and-Wealth” Gospel. Their use is not seen as conflicting with the demonization of technology. The Prosperity Gospel is concerned with the material rewards for virtue that accrue in this world rather than the next.
Rather, Europe is demonized because it is the locus of the production of cultural objects of difference and conspicuous consumption (luxury cars. fashionable clothes, high culture, taste, and discernment) that confer distinction on their possessors and envy on the have-nots. It is envy that will bring discord and the Antichrist from within the heart of every person in nonblack North America’s cultural frontier. The reference to computer technology wonders in Fundamentalist ideology, thus testifying the power of European culture in America.
The case of American Fundamentalist millenarianism is used to show that modernity is not a homogeneous process. Europe is iconized as the subjugation of people to the spirit of discord. On the other hand, America is ritually re-created as the Christian Leviathan as a symbolic and experiential landscape of homogeneous consumption, which is, at the same time, the sole alternative to an antidote for a perceived Hobbesian war of all against all. The Prosperity Gospel is itself part of this cultural Christian Leviathan that compromises internecine conflict.
American Fundamentalist Millenarianism
As Seymour Martin Lipset has observed, statistics tell the story of a continuous ‘boom’ in American religious adherence and belief. Thus, eight Americans in ten say they believe they will be called before God on Judgment Day to answer for their sins (Wills 16). Contemporary American Fundamentalism is made up of various strands of evangelical/conversionist Baptist Holiness. Pentecostal (both Trimtarian and Jesus-only), and Charismatic religion (but not Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons). These movements overlap in their emphasis on atonement, on the complete authority of the Bible in matters Of faith and morals, on conversion, that is, the necessity Of personal faith in Jesus Christ and repentance for sin as a prerequisite for salvation and evangelism. The perceived obligation to effect the conversion of others. These also stress personal and intensely emotional experiences with the Holy Ghost to initiate and sustain a genuine spiritual life (Maguire 1981:167). Their common nucleus is the conviction that all people must strive to be born again’, according to Scripture passages like John 3:3-7:
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again.”John 3:3-7
Fundamentalists refer to rebirth as the ‘seal’ of God, to describe the psychomachic experience of being “saved” (cf. W. James 1987). Fundamentalists make up the largest number Of Christians in America, and 40% of the country’s population called itself “born again” in response to a 1989 survey (Wills 1990:19).
Many American Fundamentalists adhere to a millenarian dogma known as “Premillennialism” or “Dispensationalism.” From the 19th century onward, American missionary strategists have been pointing out that. According to Biblical prophecy, Christ will not return until all the world has heard the gospel. Although Christians could not determine (or know) the exact date of the Second Coming, they could speed it along by aggressive proclamation to all the earth’s people (Bendroth 1993:42). According to the New Testament, as interpreted by 19th century Anglo-American Darbyists and contemporary Pentecostals and Fundamentalists, Christ will come to reclaim the “Church,” his true followers (Christ’s bride), in the rapture, which is imminent, when all true believers will be snatched into the air:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
According to Fundamentalist apocalyptic eschatology, ‘hard-hearted’ impenitents risk both the prospect of eternal torment and years of satanic tribulation after Christ comes to reclaim his true followers. Anyone unfortunate enough to be unprepared (i.e., living in sin), whether a convert or not, will have to face the seven years’ rule of the Antichrist. The latter will be Satan’s agent in this world.
This ideology is particularly appealing to middle-class non-black men and women in the strongholds of Protestant Christianity in the Midwestern and Southern United States. and rural anglophone Canada. California, particularly the city of Angeles, is also a major Christian Fundamentalist center, urban centers, and even university towns.
This millenarian ideology claims perhaps 40 million adherents in the United States of America and anglophone Canada. Of these, 20 million are “hard-core” apocalypticist Southern Baptists and Pentecostals. Non-black Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Born-again. and New Religious Right Christian families make up the congregations where they are being communicated. There is a stream of audiotapes of sermons and testimonies performed, recorded, sold by American Pentecostals and Fundamentalists (cf. Degh 1994), in addition to printed sources, On the subject Of the rapture, the Antichrist, and the •last days’. There is a growing number of movies on the same subject. In his essay on American Christian filmmaker Donald W. Thompson and his apocalyptic movie, ‘A Thief in the Night,’ American cultural historian Randall Balmer locates the growth of this particular form of millenarianism in the early 1970s. The plot of this movie reaches its climax when the rapture occurs:
The inevitable occurs. Suddenly on a summer afternoon, people find that their friends, the true Christians, have disappeared. To deal with the crisis, UNITE, the United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency, takes command. This sinister one-world government soon demands that all citizens take the mark of the beast described in Revelation (Balmer 1993:60).
The prediction in Apocalypse 13 that the Evil Antichrist will mark his followers and that those without this mark will be forbidden to buy and sell casts fear into the hearts of Christians. According to John the Revelator, the Antichrist will attempt to mark or implant the number 666 on the right arm or every person’s forehead to make them his own. All industrial products are electronically identified based on a barcode computerized system, which uses as its basis the combination “666”, and is proof of the Antichrist’s coming. He will have an electric-eye chip popped right into each person’s forehead or hand; it will program people’s whole life. It will operate instruments and open doors and start each person’s automobile, and nobody will be able to steal anything. Taking the implant would make it ‘easy,’ but hell would be waiting in the end (H. James 1993:82-3).
The Antichrist will issue a universal credit card necessary for all transactions (McGinn 1994). Additionally, any person refusing to kneel to and worship the Antichrist’s ‘speaking image’ will be slaughtered on the spot by the Antichrist’s troops. The Antichrist’s ‘speaking image,’ which has worried Christian millenarians for centuries (cf. T.D.R. 1860′, McGinn 1994), is identified by contemporary Pentecostals and Fundamentalists as the television.
These Premillennialists believe that God’s prophetic clock stalled in the times of the Gentiles, following the rejection of Jesus Christ by the Jews. Of the powers prophesied in the Old Testament by Daniel, i.e., Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. The last is the most crucial. For it will be exerting its power when Christ comes back. As head of the ‘Revived Roman Empire, the Antichrist’s deeds will center on his relationship with the newly restored nation of Israel, as actually prophesied in the Bible. After allowing the Jews to reconstruct their ancient Temple. The Antichrist will enter it and declare himself to God. To carry out his blasphemy, the Antichrist will delegate much of his authority to a ‘false prophet’ who will compel the Beast’s worship through force and clever utilization Of miraculous powers. Sometime toward the end of the Antichrist’s seven-year reign, his supremacy will be threatened by a northern confederacy of nations, Often identified with Russia. Though begun as a conflict between the Antichrist and the northern confederacy, the situation will become a united effort on their part (the forces of “Gog” and “Magog”) to destroy the people of God (Israel): ‘When the armies begin their final assault, Jesus Christ will return and destroy the combatants in Armageddon, a valley northwest of Jerusalem. With Antichrist, the false prophet, and their allies destroyed, Jesus will set up the kingdom’ (Weber 1983:108).