Monday, July 31, 2006

A Fundamentalist's Favorite Def Leppard Song? What else? "Armageddon It"

Last night I stayed up relatively late watching a show I’d recorded on The History Channel about, of all things, the Antichrist.
I watched it mostly to chuckle at some of the end-time theories of various fundamentalists, though it was interesting to see the rather compelling case that various scholars made to show that the apocalyptic stories weren’t really intended as prophetic visions of the future, but rather they detailed the events of the times they were written in while expressing hope for future deliverance.  “The Beast,” to whom the term Antichrist is never actually applied in the bible, it seems likely, was actually the emperor Nero given that using a fairly common coding system of the time 666 translates to Nero Caesar, and Revelations was a prophecy about the fall of the Roman Empire.
Of course, that was the perspective of the people using tools like reason and scholarship and attempting to actually understand what the stories are saying rather than using hope and belief to make the stories say what they want them to say, though that contingent got equal time on the show.
Even Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth, appeared on the show to give his two apocalyptic cents.  The producers were kind enough to not point out to him that, despite his predictions, as far as we’ve been able to determine, that Armageddon did not occur in 1988.
I thought that was awfully considerate of them.
They also had the authors of the Left Behind series – end-times-themed books which Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron has been making into direct-to-DVD movies – chiming in along with the various scholars and ministers.
Speaking of the Left Behind books, which are technically fiction even though they express a belief system, someone at work was talking to Scott about books and he told Scott, “I mostly read Christian fiction,” which prompted me to blurt out “You mean like the bible?”
I thought it was funny.
Anyway, one thing that I’ve always found sort of odd about fundamentalists and end-time stories is that it’s the one part of the bible in which they will make room for metaphors.
Everything else in the bible has to be taken literally, but it’s okay to view the book of Revelations metaphorically.
The creation story as spelled out in Genesis?  Literal truth.
The Flood of Noah?  Literal truth.
The multi-headed Beast of Revelations?  A metaphor.
I find that kind of bothersome.  After all, if it were literally true, at least at the end of the world we would have some cool monster special effects, with like this Godzilla vs. Mothra and Ghiddorah battle going on.
But no; all we get is some smarmy politician who brings us together in a one-world government.  I mean, it’s totally lame.  It’s like the shift from the non-stop action of the original Star Wars trilogy to the whole trade agreement yawnfest of Phantom Menace.
What is the final battle going to turn out to be, a filibuster?  A debate about redistricting?
Beyond the anticlimactic aspects, though, I have some problems with the whole concept of end-time prophecies.
For one thing, if Revelations is a play-by-play of exactly how things are going to go down, doesn’t that mean that the end is predetermined, and doesn’t predetermination invalidate the entire concept of free will, and in invalidating free will don’t you invalidate the concepts of sin and evil and purity and goodness?  After all, if everything you’ve done and ever will do is decided before you’re even born, the whole path laid out for you to follow like a car on a track in an amusement park, you never played any part in determining the path you took in life.  You didn’t decide to cheat on your wife or to steal your neighbor’s goat.  You didn’t decide to eat that fruit that God told you not to eat.  Hell, the snake didn’t even decide to trick your wife into eating it.  No one who ever lived made a decision; all of our decisions were made for us.
I didn’t even decide to write this.
And yet, people who didn’t choose to be faithful will be rewarded and people who didn’t choose to not believe will be punished.
Nice system.
Of course, maybe God works the way a lot of authors do, by simply deciding on the beginning and the ending and letting the middle parts work themselves out.  
Also not a great system when the eternal disposition of uncounted trillions of souls are at stake.
But moving beyond humanity, what about the Devil?  Doesn’t he know how things are going to work out in the end, too?  Isn’t he going into it knowing fully well that he’s going to lose?  Sure, maybe he’s not as fatalistic as I am, but is there any good reason for him to bother?  And I don’t just mean with the final battle, I mean with all of it.  Why bother trying to trick people into ending up in hell?  Sure, there’s spitefulness, but how long can that last, especially when you know that, in the end, it’s pointless?
Putting those questions aside, we get to the more pragmatic side of things.
If millions of avowed Christians the world over suddenly vanish into thin air, leaving their clothes behind, a charismatic world leader arises and brings peace to the Middle East, then starts insisting that everyone worship him as a god and that we all need to be marked, in some fashion, with 666 in order to buy or sell anything, even I’m going to become inclined to start seriously looking into the whole Jesus as my personal savior thing.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  Sure, I’m still going to have some issues with God, and I might talk some smack about him to anyone who will listen, but in the face of compelling evidence, most everyone short of crazy people and conspiracy theorists will accept what’s right in front of them, and when you have conclusive evidence that you’re going to spend the rest of eternity in a giant rotisserie oven if you don’t back the right pony, who’s going to be stupid enough to side with the Beast?
Fortunately for fundamentalists, asking questions about things like that is frowned upon, so they don’t have to bother coming up with any answers.
It’s like the episode of Moral Orel I watched last night.  Orel’s friend asks him what he got for number three on the science test they just took.  Orel, without hesitation, and as if it should be self-evident, responds, “That’s easy:  Jesus.”
That answer, of course, explains everything.
Anyway, those are just a few of my issues with end-time prophecies, and I didn’t really mean to go on about it for so long.  It’s almost as though it was predetermined, but now I’m going to exercise my free will and talk about something else.
Okay, not much to talk about today.  I went to Ashburn to gas up at Safeway and then had lunch at Ruby Tuesday with Kathleen.
While I was sitting at the table waiting for her she called to say that she was on her way.  Then she called to say that I could order for her and told me what she wanted.
So I ordered a Carolina Chicken Salad for her, and, per her instructions, requested no bacon (Blasphemy!) and no onions (Good call.).
For my part, I ordered a Triple Prime Burger, which consists of three kinds of ground beef blended together.
A bit later the waiter came back and asked me how I wanted my burger cooked.
Then he came back again and said, “Just to double-check, you want NO onions or bacon on your burger, right?”
I said, “No, that’s not onions or bacon on the salad.”  
He said, “The salad doesn’t come with onions.”
I said, “That’s fine, but it does come with bacon, and she doesn’t want bacon.”
Already knowing from this exchange that the order was going to be fucked up, I decided to confuse the issue a little further and say, “I also don’t want onions or bacon on the burger.”  I didn’t think this was totally necessary, since neither was listed as part of the burger anyway, but I figured I’d just make sure.
Kathleen arrived and shortly afterwards our food was brought to our table.
Kathleen’s salad had bacon on it, as well as cheese, something that apparently isn’t usually included, which is why she hadn’t told me to order it without cheese (she’s lactose-intolerant).
She sent it back requesting no bacon and no cheese.  The manager brought it out, sans bacon, but with the cheese still in place.
She sent it back again and eventually got it without bacon or cheese.
Though she didn’t put up any kind of stink, I thought that her salad would be on the house, as did Kathleen, but we were both surprised to learn that they charged her for it.
Apparently I paid for lunch last time, so this one was on her.  When calculating the tip she asked if she should go low due to the salad mishap.  I told her that she should because the waiter seemed to be a retard in general and also didn’t have the common decency to be a hot chick instead of a dumb guy.
From there I was going to go grocery shopping, as I haven’t properly done so since before I left for my trip, but I decided that I didn’t feel up to it and just came home.
In a few hours I’m going to see My Super Ex-Girlfriend with Scott and some other people.
Tomorrow morning I have to bring my car in for an oil change and the state inspection.  If history is any indicator that will mean that I’ll be without a car for a couple of days, as I’m sure something will come up.
And that’s pretty much it for today.  No news on the job front, though the official strategy announcement and earnings statement is set for Wednesday, so most likely that will be when I find out.
In any case, I need to do a few things and so I will bring this post to a close.

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