I was born in 1941. When the A- bombs exploded over Japan, I was 4, and acutely aware of the progress of WW II. My father and both maternal uncles were in the service, and my mother and grandmother were glued to Drew Pearson every Saturday night with the latest war news.
My mother, a history teacher, greeted the news of nuclear weapons with a mixture of relief that the war was ending, and horror. She told me that the world would never be the same again. I felt it, at age 4. I felt a dark cloud settling over the planet.
Knowing that we have the means to commit planetary-wide suicide has changed human consciousness. We all have the mushroom cloud image buried somewhere deep in our brains. An ancient Hopi prophecy calls it “the gourd of ashes”, and says after the gourd of ashes is sent to earth, humanity has the choice of two paths, material/outer or spiritual/inner. The first leads to disaster, the second to peace and prosperity.
In the 50’s, we were kept conscious of the danger of nuclear holocaust, with movies like Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach. As a child, I had to participate in air raid drills at school. We would crouch under the desk with our eyes closed and our hands clasped behind our necks. We knew that our desks offered no protection from a nuclear blast, but as soon as the drill was over, we suppressed the mushroom cloud and went out to the playground for jump rope.
International treaties prohibiting the use, spread and atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons were negotiated in the 60’s and 70’s. We were lulled into “forgetting” about the danger, and play our adult games of love and work, though the mushroom cloud is never totally forgotten. Its image always remains lurking in our brain, a sword of Damocles threatening to annihilate us, making all our activities a sham at some level.
Nuclear weapons, unlike other “weapons of mass destruction”, destroy future as well as present generations. Radiation attacks the DNA, the very stuff of life itself. It causes mutations which lead to spontaneous abortions, malformed infants, lethal childhood cancers. And the radiation stays around for thousands, millions, billions of years. These facts are widely understood, and ignored.
How did they do it?
With books like The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey and the Left Behind series by LeHaye and Jenkins (all writers close to the Bush White House) , the radical “Christian” right has co-opted the mushroom cloud. Bringing it to the forefront of consciousness, they offer believers a way out of nuclear terror. The rapture cult promises believers that they will go directly to heaven with Jesus, while planet earth is slowly destroyed by the tribulation (overpopulation, ecodisasters, wars- as we are now experiencing), and then finished off with a nuclear holocaust. There are variations, but this is their basic scenario.
Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, written by Jerry Falwell in 1983, welcomes a nuclear war: "'Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ' - the one brings thoughts of fear, destruction, and death, while the other brings thoughts of joy, hope, and life. They almost seem inconsistent with one another, yet they are indelibly intertwined." (Introduction)
The rapture cult offers people a way to deal with nuclear terror that is sanctioned by their church, by their politicians, and by popular fiction. Variously called dispensationalism, dominionism, and prosperity theology, it is a uniquely American point of view. It promises believers that if they join the cult and support the Bush administration, they can have lots of money, have their sins forgiven, and still go to heaven.
This “Bible – based” point of view,- which is totally contrary to Jesus’ message of love and peace,- has turned the mushroom cloud into an instrument of “psy-ops”- psychological operations- for the Bush regime. For those in the cult, the fear of being “left behind” keeps them in line. Children are told that if they’re not good, they’ll be “left behind”.
At least 20 million people are fervent believers, and form Bush’s political base. Even now, with all the evidence of lies, mass murder, torture, many of these cultists continue to see Bush as anointed by God to save America.
Christians who don’t believe in the rapture cult usually ignore it as an embarrassment, instead of taking on the false theology directly. The US Presbyterian Church did label it a heresy in the 1920’s, but that was before rapture believers gained political power. Christians who are not strict believers in the Bible as the inerrant word of God tend to ignore or dismiss Revelation, the prophetic visions of Daniel and Ezekiel, and other passages which the dispensationalists have twisted to fit their political goals.
For many nonbelievers, this noisy sect which calls itself Christian has sullied and discredited the Bible, churches, and even Jesus. Nonbelievers now tend to reject our Christian heritage, the wellspring of our culture and values, thereby depriving us of the sort of inspiration which Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to provide.