post archive

Superstition


Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“Satan bound for 1000 years” from The Great Bible of Pieter Mortier (circa 1700 A.D.)

 

When I have been calling Donald Trump’s roster of cabinet members and advisors “The Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” I have meant this term both metaphorically and literally. The metaphorical part has to do with the doom, chaos, and destruction I believe they are planning to unleash on national institutions, groups, individuals, and even the globe. The literal part has to do with the end times Evangelical Christians in their ranks. Trump’s cabinet picks are a mix of craven business leaders looking to enrich themselves and their friends as they pillage the public commons, and Evangelical Christians with perhaps similar goals, but a different world view. I have been focused on this aspect of the cabal because I was raised in an Evangelical Christian church and household so this cult is familiar. (Here’s a poem that talks about the anxiety this caused me as a child.) It turns out that 81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump.

 

END TIMES THEOLOGY

 

What is their “End Times” theology and how does it mesh with Trump’s worldview? In an op-ed from September 2016, history professor Matthew Avery Sutton explained it thus:

 

Trump’s ideas meld perfectly with evangelical apocalyptic expectations as the battle of Armageddon nears. He promises to seize power and to use it for them. He claims he would restore religious liberty to evangelicals. He would prohibit Muslims from entering the country. He would defend Israel at all costs. He would fight abortion by adding conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. He would rebuild the American military. He would destroy the nation’s enemies. He would keep individual citizens well-armed and prepared for battle.  

This is a man, in other words, who is not just seeking to beat Clinton. He is seeking to wage a real-world battle against evangelicals’ enemies and a spiritual battle against the Antichrist.

Vice President elect Mike Pence is an Evangelical Christian. He belongs to the College Park Church in Indianapolis. (You can read a transcript of a 2011 sermon delivered at the College Park Church that covers the Second Coming of Christ.) Betsy DeVos, who was named as Trump’s choice for Education Secretary and is the sister of Blackwater founder Eric Prince, is an Evangelical Christian. Some of the other prospective cabinet members are somewhat cagey about the specific brand of Christianity they practice, but based on my experience and understanding of the dog whistles and “secret signs” used in this particular cult it seems that Nikki Haley (UN Ambassador) and Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency), Tom Price (Health and Human Services) are also adherents.

What are the real world impacts of this theology? For one, Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate-denying Environmental Protection Agency pick, has publicly stated his intention to dismantle the Obama Administration’s climate agenda. It turns out that many End Times Evangelicals are not concerned about Global Warming because they believe the warming of the planet and concomitant disasters are either caused by God’s direct intervention or are signs pointing towards Christ’s Second Coming and the end of the world. Why worry about melting ice caps, calamitous hurricanes, drought, famine, flooding, and war when you believe it is all part of God’s Biblically ordained plan and a sign of your imminent ascension to heaven?

 

ANGLING FOR ARMAGEDDON

Another fairly alarming aspect to this End Times theology has implications for U.S. policy towards Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. Evangelical Christian-Zionist groups such as Christians United for Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (in the occupied West Bank) champion unconditional support for the Israeli government because it fits into their vision of what needs to happen in order to hasten the return of Jesus.  Right-wing Zionists in the U.S. and Israel receive Christian Zionist support for Israel and for Jews with enthusiasm, but the underlying belief system of Christian Zionism is at best utilitarian in its vision of Jews. The founding of the state of Israel has been interpreted as one of the first signs of the nearness of Christ’s return, fulfilling a prophecy made in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  The only way that Jews can be “saved” is if they abandon Judaism and convert to (Evangelical) Christianity, so during the Apocalypse, most Jews will suffer the terrible fate of all other non-believers of either eternal hellfire, the Tribulation, or both. (At one point, I was fairly familiar with at least one version of the Second Coming timeline, but it is complicated and based on arcane interpretations of both Old Testament and New Testament Prophecy.) End times theology predicates Christ’s return on the destruction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Third Jewish Temple. Right-wing Israeli settlers have plans to rebuild the Temple that would provoke a violent uprising by Palestinians and an international crisis. Christian Zionists are playing with proverbial fire in their support for Israel’s settlement enterprise, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Judaization of East Jerusalem. In their designs on the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, they are literally angling for an apocalyptic battle of Armageddon in the Holy Land.


From the Archive: The Rapture

A Jesus Sky portending the Second Coming of Christ

A Jesus Sky portending the Second Coming of Christ

This poem from the archive, which was published in the Spring 1988 issue of The Graham House Review, has been on my mind lately as the incoming Trump Administration has announced its cabinet picks, with “End Times” Evangelical Christians among them. I was raised in the Armenian Evangelical Church, and a copy of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was on the end table next to my father’s armchair. As a child I had been coached to ask Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior, but I was never entirely convinced that my attempts had been successful (I have a poem about this experience as well). One New Year’s Eve I went to church with my grandmother where we watched a film that enacted what would happen in the during Christ’s Second Coming. Fortunately, the movie didn’t cover the more terrifying aspects: The Tribulation, the Anti-Christ, or Armageddon. It just showed The Rapture, the taking up of believers. A pilot disappeared from his seat in the cockpit. A man rolled over in bed to find his wife gone. A Christian singer disappeared from a performance on a television talk show, the microphone fallen to the stage floor. “The Rapture” was an account of the fate I had envisioned awaiting me.

 

The Rapture

 

 

I imagined coming down the back walk

after school, swinging my lunch box

and the thermos shifting inside.

 

Today was different, something odd

about the light breaking

from behind the clouds in ribbons.

 

My grandmother was not on the back porch.

The kitchen table was spread with flour

and dough rising under its towel, dirty bowls

in the sink, my mother nowhere to be seen.

 

And then I knew: the Second Coming.

Jesus had taken them, the believers,

from the fist of the heart to the tips

of the fingers and shining eyes.

 

The whole family, snapped up

in broad daylight while I walked home,

uninvited, unasked, abandoned.

 

I sat on the back step with the cat,

another unbeliever, waiting for the Beast,

the bloody water, the Tribulation.

Nancy Kricorian


Lucky Penny

1956 Wheat Penny

1956 Wheat Penny

 

“Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck.” 

 ~ American proverb

 

 

A long time ago my mother told me a story about her brother, my Uncle Gene, who when I was growing up worked as a superintendent in a luxury building in Manhattan. The story went like this:

The night that Gene’s wife June was in the hospital in Concord, New Hampshire giving birth to their first child, my uncle wandered the streets and along the railroad tracks looking for bottles. At the time, each bottle could be turned in for a penny deposit. My uncle stayed up all night collecting bottles and by morning he turned them in, being given in return a lump sum of money. He went to a florist and bought a bouquet of roses that he brought to the hospital for his wife in celebration of their newborn son.

I always thought this a most romantic tale, imagining the devotion of my fierce and dark-haired uncle for his beautiful young wife. But the story also reminded me of the hardscrabble early life of my mother and her sixteen siblings, and impressed upon me the value of a penny.

For some reason this story also translated into a superstition about pennies that developed into a complicated set of behaviors. Walking over a penny lying on the sidewalk implied the wastefulness and arrogance of the wealthy, and it would bring down the ire of God, who hated above all pride and vanity. So if I saw a penny on the sidewalk, even a nasty penny in a dirty gutter, I had to pick it up. To me retrieving the penny was no guarantee of good luck, as promised in the American proverb, but it was the only way to stave off calamity. On the other hand, if I dropped a penny, I reasoned that I should leave it where it had fallen so someone else might pocket a bit of good fortune. I’m not sure why the penny was only a way to prevent misfortune for myself and for another person it was a potential boon, but that’s the way it was.

Funny that I should put that all in the past tense, as though I had outgrown a childish superstition, because to this day when I see a penny, on the floor of a taxi or in the middle of a busy street, I am compelled to pick it up. Both Uncle Gene and Aunt June have passed away, but that story stays with me the way a beloved old movie might—I can see Gene lugging a heavy sack of bottles through darkened streets, and I can imagine June’s face in the morning when he presents her with a dozen hard-won red roses.

 

 

Nancy Kricorian