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Ronald Reagan

End times speculations have occasionally been made the subject of political controversy, especially in the United States when conservative Christians seek national political office. The implications of the prophecies that turmoil in the Middle East is inescapable, that nuclear war is predestined by Scripture, and that it will supernaturally lead to a divine utopia, give rise to some misgivings among unbelievers in the prophecies. James G. Watt, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, once remarked that "my responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns;" this was interpreted by political foes as meaning that we did not need to take care of the environment because Jesus was returning soon. Ronald Reagan himself was quoted in 1980 as saying that "we may be the generation that sees Armageddon," suggesting that he was familiar with the prophecies. Similar controversies have followed United States Attorney General John Ashcroft.—From the definition of "end times" at Word IQ

I grew up expecting World War III. From a very early age well into my teens, I just kind of expected that I would die in a nuclear blast. My fears were a confused mix of The Day After, apocalyptic Christianity, and the prophecies of Nostradamus. My fears were fed by late-Cold War nihilism and sensationalistic TV. My fears were Ronald Reagan's fantasy.

Reagan sold visions of destruction because he hoped to preside over Armageddon. I imagine that it wasn't religious conviction that compelled him, but showmanship. Leading God's own chosen people through fire and plague into glory: could there be a better role for the B-movie actor who promised a new "morning in America"?

Dreams of the end times informed the Reagan administration's policies on Israel. It was with the assistance of the Reagan regime that fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews set aside their seemingly insurmountable differences in order to make Jerusalem ready for the Messiah—for his first visit or his second, depending upon one's point of view. Reagan stoked our collective anxiety about the crumbling Soviet empire, but he always kept an eye on the Holy Land, just in case his cue to greatness might come not from incoming ICBMs but from God.

With Reagan's death, politicians and historians pause to assess his legacy. Some of them remember Iran-Contra and American aid to the muhajaddin. Some of them recount the lessons we should have learned from the economic experiments of the 80s (lessons clearly lost on the current administration). Others hale the man as a hero who gave our country back its pride and its strength. Myself, I remember that the Reagan era was a shitty time to be a kid—were American children ever so resented, neglected, and mistrusted as they were when I was young?—and I can't help reflecting on the morbid religious fantasies that Reagan entertained, fantasies that continue to haunt us.

June 7, 2004 | Permalink


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