15And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
16And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
If Arizona’s draconian new law has put immigration back in the public consciousness, the proposal for a national “biometric ID” is about to trigger nightmares in this country’s Christian id. The Democrats who drafted a new immigration law aren’t just “tone deaf,” as blogger John Cole says (although they’re certainly that.) The bill’s content and language are going to terrify and outrage lots of evangelical Christians, and could even lead to violence.
Before they try to pass this law, there are a few videos they really ought to watch.
This bill couldn't be more inflammatory in both content and language to those who take their Gospel straight … and literal. A quick listen to what's currently being preached on YouTube and AM radio today will confirm that. And generations of kids from evangelicals families recall their terror at the dictatorship and disasters shown in the End Times films known collectively as the “Rapture” series. In these films, a world dictatorship demands that everyone identify themselves and be entered into a database while being marked with an “image of the beast.”
How will people who take these ideas as literal truth respond to the new law? As Congressional magazine The Hill reports, “Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.” And the “biometric ID” system has been given a name that seems to come straight out of End Times prophecy.
To some evangelicals, the “mark” or “image of the beast” predicted in Revelations has come true through computer technology (called a “Golden calf” in one of the Rapture films). Bar codes were their original object of dread, as shown in this scene from Rapture film Image of the Beast. In it a young programmer discovers the truth about bar codes after glancing down at a book called “Computer Prophecies”:
Bar codes, as this site explains, are believed by some evangelicals to contain a hidden Number of the Beast (666). Today, however, their fear is directed more toward tracking chips (RFIDs) and other biometric technology, as seen in this evangelically-produced “news” clip:
Preacher Hal Lindsey makes the same point:
Don't know who Hal Lindsey is? His Rapture book, The Late, Great Planet Earth, came out in 1970 and was reportedly the best-selling nonfiction book of the decade. We're not talking about an obscure phenomenon: It sold 28 million copies. Then there’s this newsy clip:
It opens with a montage of Orwellian scenes, followed (at about 1m 30 secs) by a reference to “top CFR agent Diane Sawyer” (“CFR” is the “Council on Foreign Relations”). Then comes an Andy Rooney clip where he says he’d happily receive a biochip to show he’s “one of the good guys,” as well other sinister allusions from the world of biometric tracking.
This is the cultural climate, the worldview in which some evangelicals receive every news item. How does the draft legislation look through this lens?
To the evangelical mind, the logical next step is to implant this information directly in the human body. The law sounds, at least to the untrained ear, as if it comes pretty close. It reads in part: ““The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer.”
The Hill adds, “The Social Security Administration has estimated that 3.6 million Americans would have to visit SSA field offices to correct mistakes in records or else risk losing their jobs. “ It sounds like a prophecy fulfilled. Remember: “No man might buy or sell, save that he had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name,” says Revelation 13:17.
The need to “report to field offices” is also likely to remind some evangelicals of UNITE, the one-world dictatorship from the Tribulation films (“UNITE” stands for “United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency.” It will also trigger a long-simmering paranoia toward Federal government (which, some believe, is an agent of the Council on Foreign Relations – today’s version of UNITE. )
It’s not just the tracking or the invasion of privacy that they fear. The Mark of the Beast is specifically an economic tag. The attached clip from Years of the Beast, another film about the End Times, illustrates the dreaded coming of the orders to submit:
“Everybody in this residence will be expected to report and to be registered,” says the sinister lawman. “At that time you will the opportunity to pledge your allegiance to the Prince and to the New World Order … and receive … the economic mark …”
The lawman adds: “Those who refuse to receive the economic mark will be considered outside the New World Order and an enemy of the State.”
The Economic Mark. It may sound absurd to urban ears, but these prophecies are a source for both belief and terror, and quite a few Americans believe in them. Remember the warning from Revelations: “No man might buy or sell, save that he had the mark …”
In language and content, this law almost seems designed to trigger apocalyptic fears. And just when it seems the symbolism can't get any worse, it gets worse. Way worse. What’s the name of the proposed “national biometric ID system”?
That’s an acronym for “Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.” But it might just as well be a neon sign indicating that we’ve just instituting the false One World Church, the Whore of Babylon and consorter with kings described in the prophecies and feared in church communities across rural America.
Some evangelicals voted for Obama in the last election. That's less likely to happen if the Democratic Party is pushing legislation that seems to have come from a 1970's Christian movie.
Could the response to this proposed law really become violent? Consider this scene, from the Rapture film Image of the Beast. In it, the film's protagonist sacrifices a child's life and encourages him to die happily and go to Jesus.
“Now I ask you,” he says after convincing the child to die. “The boy’s free. He belongs to Jesus Christ … (pause) … What can you do to him now?”
Millions of people – no, tens of millions – have seen these films and read these books. The people who believe in this message are virtuous and just, according to their own lights and beliefs. And most of them are benign. But these are the kinds of ideas, images, and beliefs that can trigger violence under the right circumstances.
Some people will argue that these are fringe characters that should be ignored. Others will argue that they can't be convinced to participate in civil society. But some of these people were convinced to vote, or to abstain from conservative voting. And avoiding violence should be a public goal. Besides, it's not as if Republicans can't be “agents of the CFR,” too. Bush was accused of unveiling “the mark of the beast” when he attempted to pass immigration reform.
You don’t have to be Evangelical to oppose this law, of course, which is why the ACLU and other civil liberties groups are against it. I'm against it, too. But the real opposition – the scary kind – could well come from the world of fundamentalist Christianity. Many Evangelicals believe we’re living in the times prophesied in Matthew 24:
7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places; 8All these are the beginning of sorrows; 9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another …
16… flee into the mountains: 17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes … 40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
How do we know the hour of his coming? We don’t. Evangelicals who are vigilant in awaiting the End will see this law as an imposition of Satan’s dictatorship, another sign that the new Romans are here and must be resisted. They’ll stay ready for Judgment Day, understanding that we know not the hour but seeing in this law another confirmation that it's coming soon and without warning.
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” says 2 Peter 3:10. The resistance to this law could come the very same way.