Saturday, December 25, 2004

Yuletide Markings on The Beast

The word "antichrist" appears in just three passages in the Bible (in the New Testament letters known as 1 John and 2 John); it does not appear at all in the Book of Revelation. Nevertheless, the idea of an Antichrist is central to the apocalyptic world view that sees human history as a struggle between God and Satan for the fate of mankind.

According to most Christian prophesies of the End Time, the Antichrist will act as Satan's chief agent on earth during this period. The Antichrist - a sort of evil twin of Jesus in many ways, captured by many High Renaissance painters in cataclysmic tones and serving as a mnemonic to Dante's Inferno - will forge a one-world government through promises of peace. But when Jesus returns, he will expose the Antichrist as an impostor, defeat him in the battle of Armageddon, and reign with the Christian martyrs for a thousand years on earth.

Robert Fuller, in his book Naming the Antichrist, notes that modern apocalypticists believe the Book of Revelation "contains much information about the Antichrist - who will emerge as a 'beast from the sea' to be Satan's ally in a last, desperate assault on Christ and his church." This "parody and mirror opposite of Christ" will be identifiable in a number of ways:

1. Promising peace to those who follow him, he will rise to a position of great power.
2. With the help of his own false prophet, the Antichrist will gain control of the world economy, by forcing each person "to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name . . . six hundred and sixty-six."
3. One of the heads of the beast also "seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed the beast with wonder."

Myths, hearsay, urban legends and delusions die hard in America the Beautiful. We depend on them for the extra magnitude they offer, the antidote to explaining the entire breadth of anything, only because we have no capacity to look beyond the narrow tunnels of most people's reality. Strange folk heros, freakish public figures and genius-level champions live on in our demented pantheon as living proof to the simple among us, because they need them to soothe the reality that the utter domination of the high-capitalist working model is not seen as the last exit to the ad-infinitum of American life. Look at O.J. Simpson, they admonish; he got away with a double homicide and beat the justice system like it was a poker tournament at The Sands. Or Dick Cheney, the Al Capone of our time. And the preznut - Dubya - who has played the part of vile demon and idiot at the brink of salvation so well, like a defrocked priest in some kind of degenerate tragedy, that even if he wasn't The Beast he couldn't quite turn down the role now because he has been marked Chimperor of the Damned. Some would even call him Amerikkka's Apocalypse Preznut - but these aren't the straight and narrow among his flock of degenerate lobbyist freaks and corporate zealots and frightened security moms, who instead have joined the ride for nothing less than sheer wonder if the anti-christ should ever show his or her face.

Most wingnuts take the question of survival at face value, a pretty sure bet these days, but it's becoming apparently clear as the GOP fills with more angry rednecks and faith worshippers, that there is just not enough good old radical puritanism to push the evangelical agenda further. A saving grace may come from a new fundamentalist cadre called the "Muggletonians," who have been termed "God's Pathetic Answer" of the American Theological Movement and the "inconspicuous freaks" of the Administration. The Muggles are typically young and completely brainwashed believers; they have been busy organizing christian based community centers, free income tax advice fellowships, free home schooling programs and pseudo-political indoctrination clinics designed to motivate support of right-wing candidates. They scour local communities heavily during the holiday season, preying on depressed and wayward citizens down on their luck, and ask for everything from spare change to day-old bread to canned goods to lumber and plumbing supplies. The Muggles' agenda is posted in every church fellowship center - often with a Third World child or shanty town pictured in black-and-white with a red question mark through it - asking for donations of clothing, hammers, screwdrivers, shoes, winter coats and anything else that vagrant fundamentalists could use to erect self-supporting right-wing communes.

The idea and mission statement spring from a pair of 17th century English counter-revolutionary groups, called the Muggletonians and Fifth Monarchists, who shared a number of disturbing parallels with today's morality play in national politics. Muggletonians had a two part history into the seventeenth century. From 1652-58, under the primary leadership of John Reeve (1608-1658), or Reeves, the "Prophet of God" and his cousin Lodowick Muggleton (1609-1698). The second period from 1658-98, under the general leadership of Lodowick Muggleton. According to the Book of Revelations, Chapter XI, in the latter days God would appoint "two witnesses" who will preach to an ungodly world in preparation for the beginning of the final days. Reeve and Muggleton were celebrated as the "two witnesses" according to their followers. The Millennium theme was a powerful biblical message during the Interregnum. The Fifth Monarchy Men or the Fifth Monarchists were a quasi-political religious movement which was prominent from 1649-1661. Based on a strong millennium message, they hoped to reform Parliament and the government for the imminent coming of Christ's' Kingdom on Earth. The movement was prominent throughout the Commonwealth and was organized. The "Fifth Monarchy" or the "Fifth Kingdom" is a biblical reference. The reference is based of the Old Testament (Daniel 2: 44) of a prophesy in a dream by King Nebuchadnezzar. He envisioned five kingdoms in history, and the last, or Fifth Kingdom would usher in a new kingdom on earth. Millenarianism was a popular message of the Interregnum (1649-1660). "The godly being in league with God ..." (1626) wrote Thomas Gataker.

* * *

Political and religious mumbo jumbo is not a purely American invention, unlike rhythm and blues and the zone blitz. But in only 228 years we have raised the bullshit meter to a place where the Richter Scale now could pick up the tremors along the West Coast. Day after day in email we are presented with the utterly meaningless assessment of the Democratic Party's current fact-finding endeavor and election recount efforts and future strategic positioning vis-a-vis the 2004 Presidential Selection operation, hoping that just one nugget of truth would win the soothsayer instant recognition in the Washington power circles responsible for the Semantics and Bullshit Hall of Fame.

The Democrats' action script, all along, was to lay in the weeds and talk like Mighty Mouse on crack - just a great bunch of guys and former beauty queens who got punked by the gutter incompetence of Dubya B. Moron - and then emerge at the midterm elections with a boatload of real-world answers with a progressive slant and three or four rising stars from within the party establishment who could beat down the Rethug gates in 2008.

But now the preznut, often given to delegating his affairs to used-car salesmen from Houston with enough petty cash to feed the DC area's stripper population, had looked the other way while his Defense Secretary and civilian Pentagon authorities ran a War Crimes and Disinformation factory from the basement sector of the White House, and very few Democrats have sat up and taken notice while a general uneasiness and blinding culpability has ushered the holiday season.

The tone feels completely out of place, like Martha Stewart running for Congress or Larry King with his own show on the Food Network. Never mind that Dubya is too dumb and too guilty to duck the charges. In the face of general Democratic pessimism, there has been movement in the Vegas book numbers: the freaks in the numbers game and in the sacred halls of power in places like London, Beijing and Moscow are making serious adjustments in their early approaches to the preznut's failure to secure a January Iraqi election. Fresh events have already changed "the political landscape," as they say in the public opinion research business, and the names on the organization chart are more than rumbling on their pegs.

After all, Donald "Redrum" Rumsfeld cannot be explained away as God's inherent Plan, and he is not a Cuban burgular or even a rogue Marine lieutenant colonel, although his chances of seeing tax day in 2005 are getting very grim ... And all it would take is a quiet ceremony, like LBJ did with McNamara perhaps, with Dubya pinning the Medal of Freedom on his barrel chest and then whisking him off to another World Bank creation where he could never hurt a Humvee or an Iraqi citizen again. Now he's looking at a Sammy "The Bull" Gravano moment, and potentially utter disgrace or a prison term, once Redrum turns on him for federal immunity, and many gray-haired distinguished gentlemen with rodent-like features start pushing administration insiders off the cruise ship.

Perhaps Cheney should bow out first, so Dubya can invoke his own Gerald Ford model to whom he could hand off the duty roster - maybe John McCain or Dick Lugar - but don't overlook the truth, they should both resign due to the utter waste that has been our Iraqi excursion. This one is not going to get any better for Americans wanting a quick resolution to this mess, and Dubya should sneak out the back gate before the Democrats wake up and their new soldiers start smelling blood. In a holiday season filled with images of apocalypse and recollections of the beast, animal sacrifice seems like child's play and the media is starting to sharpen its knives.


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