The Armaggedon Porn of NBC's Revelations

by Sunsara Taylor

Revolutionary Worker #1275, April 24, 2005, posted at

On April 13 NBC began pumping Armageddon pornography into the homes of millions— Revelations, their new fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping, mystery/thriller mini-series based on an extremely dangerous interpretation of the last book of the Bible.

Whatever their intentions, NBC is marking a major leap into the mainstream by the ministers of Christian fascist propaganda. This series does more than simply dramatize metaphysics or even Christianity in a general sense. When asked, "Why not [a] 'Touched by an Angel'-type [series]? Why Jesus ?" executive producer Gavin Polone answered that the majority of Americans believe in a Christian God and that making it "more specific is more real" to viewers.

Writer/creator David Seltzer explained, "It's about how we live our lives, our responsibility to what's happening to the planet socially, politically, physically and what we have done really to create a scenario that looks like what is described in the Bible as the End of Days. We have a character that believes that man still has a responsibility and that it is conceivable that mankind can step in and find a way before that happens."

But this comes at a time when a born-again president claims the "jury is still out" on evolution and cloaks his international invasions and restrictions of civil liberties in biblical double-speak. It comes as his crew of Christian fascists are using religion to grab for themselves more and more unchecked power. It comes when a growing population of millions is being cultivated and unleashed to accept and serve this agenda as non-thinking true believers. Into this moment, this new mini-series and its creators consciously come down on the side of all this.

On NBC's own website, the blurbs about this film set up the two main characters as unlikely allies—"one who worships God and one who worships Science." Excuse me? Since when did any real scientist ever capitalize the word "science"? Since when does the word "worship" have anything to do with a scientific method for understanding the world around us?

The premise is false in this series, just as it is in all the Armageddon fiction that I have encountered. They take the Ivy League, college-educated brainiac (in this series it is a Harvard professor, oh my!) and then they break his "faith" in "Science" through the unfolding of fictitious events which "Science" cannot explain.

Now, I am all for fiction. As one very funny New Yorker quipped while walking past a group of us who protested at NBC the first day this aired, "You have a problem with the Bible? What, you don't believe in fiction!?" Well, not only do I believe in fiction, I happen to be a fan of it. But not fiction which poses as reality.

I am ready to suspend disbelief and go along, for the sake of a story, with a man not bleeding when his finger gets cut off. I could even handle a girl channeling some kind of spirits while in a coma. But anyone who has ears to hear (to paraphrase the book of Revelation) has heard that millions in this country don't realize things such as this are fiction. And, again, the creators of this series are all too aware of this. When executive producer Gavon Polone was told that 60% of Americans believe the Book of Revelation will come true, Polone upped the ante by responding: "40% believe it will come true in their lives."

But the manipulation and misrepresentation of science is much deeper than the more obviously fantastical elements of the series. The backdrop of this series, which poses as "reality" and not fiction, is where the more insidious assault on science and rationality takes place. Everything in the way the film is set is stacked. Science is presented as a false religion that some stubborn intellectuals narrowly cling to. The most powerful scientific arguments are not presented. The very first words of the episode are from a "scientist" lecturing that the emergence of life was "inevitable" but essentially unexplainable and that life emerged and evolved "into the hands of man." In fact, the emergence of life was not inevitable. And evolution does not have an end goal—life is not evolving towards anything. Evolution is the adaptation of living organisms based on their own naturally occurring variance from one generation to the next and the reproductive competitive advantage that some variants may gain in different and changing environments.

So this film sets up a false argument. It brings in a thoroughly unbelievable Voice of Scientific Authority to set up such simplistic and false terms about what it would take to discredit science, and then goes on to fictionalize conditions which fulfill those terms (miracles, murders, and supernatural possessions).

The NBC website provides resources for "both sides"—as if there is a legitimate debate between the view that biblical prophecies can explain the world (links to prophetic biblical resources are first on their list) and biblical skeptics (at the bottom of their page there are some links to some good websites which criticize biblical literalism). But here again, the argument is stacked. On one side, the audience is offered a religious, air-tight worldview, and on the other they are offered criticisms of religious literalism but not an explanation of a scientific worldview. All this as if there haven't been hundreds of years of history of science battling against religious dogma and being proven correct, repeatedly. As if it is all still just "up for debate," and "who is to say" which is right!

There were a couple things that surprised me about the first episode of this series. First was the degree to which suspicion and sinisterism was cast on the medical professionals. Apparently, doctors just hover like vultures, evilly scheming to "harvest" the organs of innocents who are stuck in a "persistent vegetative state."

Second, Sister Josepha Montafiore (the "true believing" nun who is the protagonist of the series), is much more abrasive and rigidly dogmatic than I had expected. The message seems to be that it actually is a good idea to scream and quote the Scripture at people who are confused or trying to think. No, don't give someone space. Quote the Bible. Keep hammering. You are right. Never pause. You will be vindicated.

Speaking of the Scripture, there has been a certain amount of buzz about how various leading "experts" in End Times and biblical prophecies have criticized the way the NBC film strays from a strict reading of the Bible. The authors of the Left Behind novels, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, have ridiculed the notion portrayed in the series that Jesus returns as a baby in need of human protection or even the idea that man can intervene in the playing out of End Times prophecy. But, even with this, forces like Jenkins and LaHaye (and others, like Pat Robertson's 700 Club) have clearly welcomed this series as an opportunity to bring Christianity—and in particular a literal interpretation of biblical End Times—further into public life, giving openings for "true believers" to preach over the water cooler at work and sparking public debate. Already the series has given the green light for people like Fox's Scarborough to hold an entire show dedicated to discussing whether things like the recent major tsunami in Asia are signs of the End of Days.

This series is not harmless entertainment. No less than the propaganda that associated Jewish people with rats in Nazi Germany, films and other cultural works like this do great harm. The slick packaging and flashy ads are part of "softening up" society to accept things people never would have before. They foster a hurtful morality that excuses horrors done to "non-believers" and promotes an airtight worldview that hardens itself to reason, facts, or rationality. In a time of unjust war, deep divisions in the world, economic insecurities, and great moral questions, this is propaganda for a Christian American Taliban.