Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Christian lunacy

Aristotle, Pliny the Elder and others in those ancient of days pioneered a peculiar notion that the moon can adversely affect function of the human brain, giving rise to the term "lunacy," honoring the Roman goddess of that reflective natural satellite --- Miss Luna.

One of the headlines that caught my eye this morning, "Christian Pastors Warn 'Blood Moon' Is An Omen Of Armageddon And Second Coming of Christ,"  suggests that there may be something to that idea, at least so far as the minds of some fundamentalists are concerned.

"Blood moon" is another term for a total lunar eclipse, which causes the moon to take on a reddish cast. What's got these born-again astrologers so excited is the fact that early Tuesday's eclipse was the first of four that will occur in an 18-month period, a celestial occurrence known as a "tetrad."

This, the preachers have determined after considerable conjuring, is a sign of the impending Rapture (everyone you like will be swept bodily into heaven) followed by a battle called Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. During the latter two events, everyone you don't like will be cast into hell to writhe in eternal torment.

There are at least four recent books on the topic, all selling briskly and one on various best-seller lists --- authored by Texas megachurch preacher and certified wingnut John Hagee.

None of this is exactly new --- the whole end-times scenario is for the most part an American invention, born into fevered protestant minds after too much exposure to the biblical book of Revelation. A highly imaginative version of scripture called the Scofield Reference Bible spread these various lunacies nationwide.

Back when I was a pup, evangelists bearing Scofield Bibles and elaborate charts detailing imaginary end-time scenarios roamed the land. Today, books, movies and other media aimed at the gullible are far more profitable.

I've told the story before of riding when I was a kid into Des Moines with a carload of kids --- old enough to read; not old enough to understand what we were reading --- with a redoubtable matron at the wheel who had planted on her dashboard a sign that read, "Warning, the driver of the car is leaving with the Rapture."

I, at least, was left with the impression that Gladys might fly away at any time, leaving the rest of us bloodied and broken in a ditch. My parents carefully explained later that the driver had merely overdosed on biblical prophecy and that there was nothing to worry about, but it was too late. I've been skeptical of most things Christian ever since.

That, I think, is a healthy thing --- but of course others would disagree.

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