The Doomsday Code
Tony Robinson investigates the people with powerful political
friends in the White House, who are trying to bring about the
end of the world.
Channel 4 Documentary - Runtime 100 Minutes
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Revelation, the last book in the New
Testament, is filled with bizarre, violent and terrifying
images. Its origins are unclear and its content is
controversial. Some say it is the work of St John but many
others believe he could not have been the author. But whoever
wrote it, described apocalyptic visions of plagues, famines,
wars, devils, wild beasts and rivers of blood. It is so strange
and complex that scholars down the centuries have continually
reinterpreted its message and meaning.
Today, though, a growing number of American evangelical
Christians reckon they have cracked the code. These End Timers
believe that every weird word of Revelation predicts real
events. Like a Hollywood sci fi movie they say that any time now
the world will end. And when it does, true believers in Christ
will be whisked up to heaven in an event called The Rapture
while non-believers are left behind on earth to face famine,
war, terror and destruction as the forces of good and evil fight
to the bitter end.
If this was confined to the personal beliefs of a few
fundamentalists it would be of little significance but, says
Tony Robinson, the leaders of the End Time movement are rich,
well-connected and very powerful. Though the USA constitution
enshrines the separation of church and state End Timers are
frequent visitors to the White House. No one knows if George W
Bush is an End Timer himself, but his policies are at one with
those of the evangelical Right and his language is often
apocalyptic, such as when he describes the 'war on terror' as
'the epic struggle of good and evil'.
According to the prophecy, Jerusalem is where this final battle
is to be played out. No stranger to conflict and violence, this
city is the focus of End Timers' dreams of eternal paradise,
because, according to their beliefs, this is where Christ will
come back to earth. But first, they say, the Jews must return.
End Timers believe that the establishment of the State of israel
in 1948 was a fulfilment of the biblical prophecy and that since
then 'the last days clock has been ticking'.
Many of them interpret the US government's policies on Israel
and the Middle East from a biblical point of view. Before the
war in Iraq, the USA supported a negotiated settlement in which
Israel would return the Occupied Territories to the
Palestinians. By 2004, after a torrent of criticism of the
Roadmap to Peace, Bush's position had changed and now there is
no call for a large-scale withdrawal from the West Bank.
End Timers parade through the streets of Jerusalem and take
large amounts of cash to illegal West Bank settlements to
encourage the residents to entrench themselves more deeply on
this Palestinian land. In Jerusalem itself, Jews are being
bankrolled by Christian fundamentalists to reside in Arab
houses. The End Timers think that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon suffered a stroke ('was removed from the scene') because
he wanted to give back some of the Palestinian land.
Many Israelis are very worried about the kind of 'support' they
are being offered. One journalist says that this is not based on
Israel's needs and that there is no support for peacemaking. On
the contrary, the agenda of the Evangelicals is war, so as to
fulfil violent prophecy of Revelation.
Provocatively, some End Timers have joined forces with a
fundamentalist Jewish group who want to rebuild the Temple of
Solomon – touching on the ancient Jewish yearning for their
destroyed Temple. But the place where they plan to build it has
deep meaning for the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism,
Christianity and Islam. The Temple Mount, where Islam's 3rd most
holy site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, is situated, is the spot where
Muslim, Jewish and Christian believers think that God created
Adam, Abraham prepared his son Isaac to be sacrificed, and
according to his vision, Muhammed was carried on a winged horse.
Mainstream Christians in the locality are appalled. They say
attempts to rebuild the Temple are inflammatory and threaten to
unleash even more bloodshed in the Middle East.
Predictions of war
Could it be that this is precisely what they are trying to
provoke, in order to hasten the end of days? According to End
Timers, when the believers are whisked up to heaven those left
behind will face the ultimate battle between good and evil. It
will take seven years to count the dead, they say – the time of
Tribulation, a hell on earth. Israel will survive, according to
this story, but will have a sudden victory only after a long
war. Some say this means nuclear war and they support the war in
Iraq because they believe that will bring it closer. Megiddo is
the Hebrew name for Armageddon: the town where this carnage will
For some End Timers, all this is big – very big – business. Tim
LaHaye's Christian fiction series, Left Behind, has sold 63
million books, and movies of the books have been made by Cloud
Ten Pictures. The internet is awash with websites which tell you
how to prepare for The Rapture, and there are American shops to
sell you everything you need to survive (for around $3,000) if
you're unfortunate enough to be left behind.
The concept of the Antichrist originated in Medieval times, and
is not found in the Bible. Nevertheless these evangelical
Christians believe that the Antichrist is 'walking among us
right now', the incarnation of evil, luring people to his cause
with false promises of peace. For End Timers, the United
Nations, whose role is to seek and maintain peace across the
world, fits this description perfectly.
Now End Time beliefs are now spreading to Africa, with dire
consequences. Uganda's President, Yoweri Museveni, is a born
again Christian who is lionised by American End Timers. An
American preacher in the capital, Kampala, says that the answers
to Uganda's problems are not political, economic or educational,
but can be found in the Bible, which he describes as 'God's
constitution for the planet'.
Newspaper editor Andrew Mwenda is appalled by these Doomsday
preachers, who he believes are converting young people and
diverting them from fulfilling their potential and pursuing
their careers. He says: 'This country is on a highway to hell.'
Uganda was a model in Africa of AIDS education and prevention
and the rate of infection was falling. Now Museveni is promoting
abstinence rather than safer sex, the number of cases is
rising.Teacher Julius Othieno describes children being taken out
of school, and not taking medicine when they are ill, in order
to hasten their death.
What is the real source of these ideas that so many people
attribute to the book of Revelation? Whoever wrote it sheltered
in a cave on the Greek island of Patmos, probably a refugee from
Roman occupied Palestine. He is also likely to have consumed the
local hallucinogenic magic mushrooms. So rather than taking
these bizarre visions literally, it might make more sense to try
to understand them in their historical context.
There are some 40 apocalyptic books from this era but this was
the only one that made it into the Bible. If the author was
writing about the hated Roman Empire, it could be that the seven
heads of the beast meant the seven emperors. The mark of the
beast could be the head of the emperor on the coins. The dreaded
666 very likely represented three letters indicating the Emperor
Nero – representing letters by numbers was, and is, common in
Hebrew. If so, instead of being a description of a world in
chaos, it could be seen as a book of morality, optimism and
Let's hope the End Timers start to see it like that before their
actions really do bring about the end of the world.
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