Goose-stepping Morons Banning Books

Yesterday TheStream published my first article: “Mohammed’s Koran: The Book Amazon Won’t Let You Buy” (a review thereof).  This site is conservative, both politically and theologically; and in terms of the latter, aims to run content that evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians can rally behind.  Look for more offerings over there from yours truly going forward.

Since I open the piece by mentioning Dr. Henry Jones, I’ll take the liberty of posting a pic of me from Halloween 2017 attired as the famous archaeologist’s father:

MeasHenryJonesnoumbrella

A Fab Forum on Hoda Muthana and Ilhan Omar

“Mean Hoda Muthana thought she was a woman/But she was an ISIS bride/All Yazidis around her said she’s got it coming/’Cuz shari`ah love she’ll hide.”

My apologies to the Beatles, but something about the greatest band in rock history compels me to use their songs to introduce two radio interviews I did this week:

one on the aforementioned Muthana, suing to get back into the US after consorting with various and sundry ISIS husbands;

and another discussing Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and her repeated slams of Israel and Jews.

Despite Nancy Pelosi repeatedly telling  Omar you can’t do that, the latter continues to act naturally as a Muslim, articulating ages-old Islamic biases against adherents of Judaism. Perhaps the voters of Minnesota’s 5th district, and the Democrat House leadership, should have known better before they, respectively, elected Omar and placed her on the Foreign Affairs Committee–but they didn’t, and so can be treated to several more years of she said, she said.  Will Pelosi and Schumer be consigned to fixing the hole created in their party by Omar’s constant appeals to revolution?  As long as she tells Jews “baby, you’re a rich man” and accuses them of never giving her their money, it’s doubtful that the party can come together.  But sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Omar wants to go back to the USSR–or to Mecca.

I will mercifully stop now….but only because it’s time to go to the range, and happiness is a warm gun.

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The Beatles from one of their little-known gigs in Istanbul: John, Paul, George, Ringo and Clarence-bey. (From Wiki, public domain, “Ottoman Classical Music.”

Where’s Your Muslim Messiah Now?

For the last several months I’ve been a thespian trapped in a man’s body–playing the rogue, Shakespeare-imitating highwayman named Robert Middleton in a local community theater production of  the Bard-era comedy Thee & Thou.   Now that that’s over, and I’m on spring break from university teaching this week, ’tis time to get back into the blogging saddle–with a devil’s brew of Islamic topics from the first quarter of 2019.

Back in January,  the Turkish government began cracking down on a man claiming to be the Mahdi: Iskender Evrenesoğlu. (But he got off easy, compared to the two other major self-styled Turkish messianic leaders: Fethullah Gülen, who long ago had to flee the country, and Adnan Oktar, who has recently been arrested.)

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Pictured: Not Evrenesoğlu but Sultan Suleyman I  (from Wiki’s open source entry on Ottoman sultans)–but he does sport a similar turban, almost as large as Uranus, which you can see here.  

As I observed on this site last year, President Recep Erdoğan–who is vying for the leadership of the entire Sunni world–loathes these pretenders to the throne of Islam; and well he should since, as one of Erdoğan’s staunchest defenders said just a few days ago, “Erdoğan has earned the title of Caliph.”

Where does this leave the only overt caliph in the world today–ISIS’ Ibrahim al-Baghdadi? Out in the cold–and not just as far as the Turks are concerned, either: last month reports surfaced of discontented jihadists trying to stage a coup against their self-styled leader.  Maybe President Trump’s tweets–but more likely his unleashing of the US military–had something to do with the decapitating caliph’s demise. So if al-Baghdadi is not dead yet…he soon will be.

Meanwhile, over in the fantasy land part of the Islamic world–the Islamic Republic of Iran–a senior ayatollah recently reminded us infidel Great Satanists that “until we turn the White House into a Hussainiya [Shi`ite Islamic center], we will continue to shout ‘Death to America’,” after which “the one global and just rule of the Mahdi will be established.” (And in case you’d forgotten: the 12th Imam al-Mahdi will arrive in a spaceship,  and institute sex romps in which his followers will be allowed to carouse with numerous infidel slave girls.  Who won’t want to party with the unHidden Imam?!)

This being Ash Wednesday, as a Christian I must state that my answer to Chief Wiggum’s question is: nowhere in Islam–but in the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ of the New Testament.

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The true Messiah: Christ from the upper level of Hagia Sophia Church (Haya Sofya Mosque), Constantinople (Istanbul)–from my 2008 trip there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ottomans and Albums and Trump–Oh My!

My plans on a grand, retrospective final 2018 blogpost having been shattered by Christmas trips and stage rehearsals (I play the Elizabethan highwayman and aspiring thespian Robert Middleton in a local production of Thee & Thou), I shall finish this year with a whimper, not a bang–by posting this hour-long interview of me discussing Ottoman counter-insurgency, Trump’s counter-terrorism strategy, classic rock albums, and my Middle-earth book(s).  I’ll be back with longer takes in early 2019!

And just for fun, here’s a pic of me as Dr. Henry Jones at Halloween (which allowed me to exclaim “JUN-yah!” more than once):

MeasHenryJonesnoumbrella

It’s Only Rock and Roll–But I Like (To Judge) It!

My friend Pete Turner hosts an Internet radio program, “The Break It Down Show.”  Pete did time in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and often opines about geopolitical and cultural matters. But he also regularly does a segment called “Album Fight,” in which Pete and a panel of “judges” weigh the respective merits of two recordings.  He’s asked me to participate four times–despite my thin qualifications, which consist primarily of lots of experience listening to rock, and being opinionated. But it’s been a helluva lot of fun, and I thank him for roping me in!

Here are those album fights:

Lennon v. McCartney, “Imagine”v. “Band on the Run

Aerosmith v. Boston (eponymous debut albums)

Led Zeppelin v. Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy” v. “IV

U2 v. The Doors, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” v. “The Doors” (debut album)

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U2 playing in Cleveland, OH, summer 2017, on “The Joshua Tree” tour. My wife and I were there. (Picture credit: me.)

 

 

 

 

“Radical” Islam: Livin’ on the Edge, or Stuck Squarely in the Middle, of the Religion?

My friends at Three Kraters Symposium asked me to write something for them–and I responded with this article which exposes the vacuity of the term “radical” Islam, as well as the fatuousness of the claim that anti-Jewish attitudes in Islam derive from the Nazis.

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There is absolutely NOTHING “radical” or “extremist” about this flag, even though ISIS and similar groups use it.  The flag says “there is no deity but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” That’s the credo of 1.6 billion Muslims. 

Gondolin After the Fall: History, Myth or Legend?

As some may know, I like writing about Middle-earth almost as much as the Middle East—more, in fact, since for all its horrors the former is fictional.

Or is it?

In 2016 Oloris published my High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle-earth.  (The companion volume, Bright Swords and Glorious Warriors: A Military History of Middle-earth, should be out next year—Eru willing.) I’ve also published several related articles: one on Tolkien’s Middle-earth story which discusses the Incarnation taking place there; and another on why he has Men (not Elves or Dwarves) killing dragons.

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Not Gondolin–but Osgiliath (Gondor’s capital before Minas Tirith). 

The underlying premise of both my Tolkien books is to treat the Secondary World of Middle-earth as realistic enough to merit Primary (Real) World treatment.  Tolkien himself made a number of statements justifying such an approach: “This history is supposed to take place in a period of the actual Old World of this planet” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 220); also “Mine is not an ‘imaginary’ world, but an imaginary historical moment….” (Ibid., p. 244).

Most directly, in terms of embedding Middle-earth’s history into that of our world, he said the following:

[I]f it were ‘history,’ it would be difficult to fit the land and events (or ‘cultures’) into such evidence as we possess, archaeological or geological, concerning the nearer or remoter part of what is now called Europe; though the Shire, for instance, is stated to have been in this region. I could have fitted things in with greater verisimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question occurred to me. I doubt there would have been much gain; and I hope the, evidently long but undefined, gap in time between the Fall of Barad-dûr and our Days is sufficient for literary credibility, even for readers acquainted with what is known or surmised of ‘pre-history.’ (Ibid., p. 283).

Tolkien goes on to elaborate, in a footnote on that same page, on the “gap” between the fall of Sauron’s fortress and the 20th century:

I imagine the gap to be about 6000 years: that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the same length as S.A. [Second Age] and T.A. [Third Age—at the end of which, in the year 3019, the War of the Ring was fought.] But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh. 

I had thought I had read everything Tolkien had had to say on relating Real World history to that of Middle-earth (besides all of Tolkien’s writings, peruse the legions of others listed in the 11-page bibliography to High Towers).

But I was wrong. In the latest (and probably last) volume of his works, The Fall of Gondolin (2018), there is this striking passage:

Glory dwelt in that city of Gondolin…and its ruin was the most dread of all the sacks of cities upon the fact of Earth. Nor Bablon, nor Ninwi, nor the towers of Trui, nor all the many takings of Rum that is greatest among Men, saw such terror as fell that day…. (p. 111).

Gondolin was the grandest Elf city of the First Age, a hidden fortress armed against the might of Morgoth, the satanic and original Dark Lord of Middle-earth with whom the Elves were at war (and for whom Sauron, the scourge of the Second and Third Ages, was but an aide-de-camp).  Its location was betrayed by an Elf traitor and an enormous army of Orcs, Balrogs (one of which dragged Gandalf off the bridge in Moria) and dragons then destroyed it, along with most of its inhabitants.

It is fascinating that Tolkien’s narrator for this epic story—set some 6500 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings—refers to events from the Real World: the fall of Troy (Trui) to the combined Mycenean Greek forces, which took place about 1200 BC; the destruction of Nineveh (Ninwi), the capital of the Assyrian Empire, about 612 BC;  the conquest of Babylon (Bablon) by the expanding Persian Empire in 539 BC; and the capture and sack of Constantinople (Rûm) by the Crusaders in 1204 AD, and its final demise at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  As far as I know, this is the only time in Tolkien’s writings he so straightforwardly connects the histories of Earth and Middle-earth.  Why would Tolkien write this (and his son and editor, Christopher, include it) except to imply that Gondolin was as real a place as Troy, Nineveh, Babylon or Constantinople?

“Rûm,” by the way, is the Arabic name for the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire–for Constantinople writ large, as it were.  Tolkien’s usage of the Muslim Arab, and later Ottoman, term for this city and empire is another fascinating aspect of this passage from The Fall of Gondolin.

As noted above, Tolkien dated the fall of Sauron in Third Age 3019 to about 4000 BC.  That would date the Fall of Gondolin to approximately 10,540 BC.  The Göbekli Tepe civilization of southern Anatolia is dated to around 9000 BC.   Perhaps the fathers of Men did have dealings with the exiles from Valinor.

Trump’s New Counter-terrorism Strategy: The One-Eyed Man is Still King

Last week the Trump Admnistration released its new “National Strategy for Counterterrorism,” [NSCT], a 25-page document outlining the President’s plan to “secure our Nation and prevail against terrorism.”

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In order to understand its content and significance, we need to know context—first and foremost the Obama’s Administration’s analogous agenda, disseminated in 2011 (which was, in its turn, a modification of the George W. Bush Administration one put out in 2006).  This 19-page text focused almost exclusively on “al-Qa`ida and its affiliates and adherents” (passim) with only a few one-off mentions of other groups (Lashkar-e Tayyiba, al-Shabab, Hizbullah, HAMAS and Colombia’s FARC).  The main methodology for defeating AQ was said to be via “broad international coalitions” (p. 4) focusing on Pakistan; in fact, it claimed that  “[w]e will defeat al-Qa`ida only through a sustained partnership with Pakistan” (p. 13).  Perhaps the most glaring flaw was the misplaced hope that AQ and its ideology had “met a devastating rebuke in the face of nonviolent mass movements” (p. 9) in the Middle East—the predicted once-and-future “Arab Spring.”  The most striking element of this Obama-Brennan concoction is that the word “Islam” is mentioned only once in the entire document—and that only to disparage AQ as “a distorted interpretation of Islam” (p. 3).

Although the Trump plan does share a few key points with Obama’s (protecting America and the homeland; stopping terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction or WMDs; countering terrorist ideology), it differs significantly in several aspects—for which we should be thankful, because as Obama’s second term wound down even liberal foreign policy outlets could discern madness, and not much method, in his CT program.   In an implicit rebuke of Obama’s drone-them-all-and-let-Allah-sort-them-out approach, Trump’s states that “we must do more than merely kill or capture terrorists. We must dismantle…networks and sever the sources…that sustain them” (p. I).   The current administration also classifies the need to defeat “radical Islamist terrorism”  in the same category with our success over “oppression, fascism, and totalitarianism in previous wars” (p. II). And in fact this document mentions “radical Islamist terrorism” 16 times throughout—a welcome change from the Obama-Brennan pretense that Islam has nothing to do with the 76% (51/67) of terrorist groups waging jihad fi sabil Allah on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.  But that phrase “radical Islamist terrorism” is problematic in its own right: it is not “radical” to fight and kill non-Muslims (as I explained at length in an explicatory blogpost earlier this year); and “Islamist” is a misleading and indeed redundant term, insofar as it commonly means “an advocate or supporter of Islamic militancy or fundamentalism”—since the literal meaning of Islamic texts across space and time, as well as the vast majority of Sunnis (Islam’s largest branch), support Islamic fundamentalism and, often, militancy. “Islamist” in this sense truly simply means “Islamic” or “Muslim”—but even this John Bolton-inspired CT agenda won’t say that.

In fact, Trump’s CT “strategery” too often echoes Obama’s dhimmi attitude.  Besides the plentiful parroting of “radical Islamist terrorism,” we read of such terrorists’ “depraved goals” (p. 1) and the vacuous “violent extremist ideologies” (passim), as well as, in the President’s introductory letter, “twisted ideologies that purport to justify the murder of innocent victims” —all phrases which should be cast back into the oblivious and mendacious chasm whence they came.  How on earth can “strategic communications” (p. 2) aimed at undermining terrorist “radicalization and recruitment” (p. 5) be successful when our leadership—even in a maverick, non-PC administration—cannot bring itself to actually name our enemy? Our enemy is not a distortion of Islam—it is literalist Islam itself, as spelled out in the Qur’an and Hadiths and used for centuries as the motivation to wage jihad and conquer Christians, Hindus and anyone else unwilling to convert.

The chart on p. 5, illustrating “strategic objectives,” “end states” and “lines of effort” is clear and useful.  And this NSCT is adamant that the primary goal of the Trump Administration is to protect the USA itself and her citizens, while not neglecting working with allies to help them protect themselves from the likes of ISIS, AQ and Iran, which “remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism” (p. 9).   Other groups also pose a threat, notably Boko Haram, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e Tayyiba—but, seemingly in an effort to include non-Muslim groups, the Nordic Resistance Movement, National Action Group (UK), and the Sikh Babbar Khalsa movement in India (p. 9).  It is worth noting that none of these three organizations appears on the State Department FTO list; and while Babbar Khalsa has enaged in violence, even killings, in the past neither the NRM nor NAG seems to have done so.  Perhaps these three groups are indeed CT problems; but there is scant data to suggest that any of them constitutes a threat even remotely approaching the aforementioned Islamic ones.

Trump’s NSCT also makes clear his intentions to keep Gitmo open as a terrorist detention facility (p. 14).  It also, logically, lays out the need to protect “critical infrastructure” from “cascading effects” across infrastructure types (p. 19).  The document’s penultimate section is on “Counter Terrorist Radicalization and Recruitment” (pp. 21-22), which states that the US will “seek to promote voices of pluralism and tolerance” (p. 21)—here, let me help you, Mr. President, with a plan for this I devised nine years ago—and “demonstrate that [radical Islamist terrorists’] claims are false….” (p. 21).  But, as I said earlier: when you can’t, or won’t, truly understand those claims or the context whence they arise—how can you possibly refute them?

In its “Conclusion,” Mr. Trump’s new CT agenda trumpets that “[t]his [document] marks a shift in America’s approach to countering and preventing terrorism” and that henceforth “[w]e will lead with our principles and a clear-eyed understanding of a constantly changing operating environment” (p. 25).  I have no doubt the folks in his administration will foreground American principles far more than the ones under Obama did. But this latest NSCT is far from clear-eyed—in fact, in its stubborn refusal to acknowledge the civilizational clash that Islam engenders with all the rest of the world, particularly the Christian parts, Trump is at best one-eyed.

But in a  world of blind leaders, the one-eyed man is still king. Hail to the King, baby!

 

Misunderestimating Mahdism in Malaysia

Six years ago I broke down the latest Pew study on the planet’s Muslims, pointing out that a large minority–as much as 42%–professed belief in the imminent coming of the eschatological Mahdi.  (This minority included Sunnis as well as Twelver Shi`is–contra conventional “wisdom” that only sects of Shi`ism adhere to Mahdism.)  My bottom-line take was this:

Several real-world policy ramifications for the U.S. State and Defense departments, as well as the IC (Intelligence Community), can be drawn from this Pew study. First, a civilization laden with eschatological expectations AND a historical track record of militant movements motivated by messianic leaders, infused with intolerance toward its own schismatics, convinced of ongoing problems with demonic entities and witches and in thrall to a literalist reading of a violent religious text might not be amenable to rational actor theory in international relations. Second, political consolidation and/or jihadist movements led by self-styled Mahdis should be considered as real possibilities in the twenty-first century, especially as we approach key dates such as the hundred year mark from the dissolution of the Ottoman caliphate (2024) or the year 1500 of the Muslim calendar (2076) — since Mahdism, historically, clusters around such important dates which spark attempts to create rival caliphates, often violently. 

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Iranian Muslims praying for the Mahdi to come (from my trip to Iran, 2008).

I could say I hate being right–but that would be a lie.  Earlier this month, according to “Channel News Asia,” Malaysian authorities arrested members of a group called “Asoib” (Arabic `asa’ib, “gangs, troops, bands”) who “planned to team up with another terror group in a Middle Eastern country to launch attacks….” Police Inspector-General Mohd Fuzi Harun “said that the Asoib group had misinterpreted the hadith…on Imam Mahdi, an Islamic redeemer who is believed to appear before the end of the world. ‘They…believe Imam Mahdi will appear in Mecca this year. This group will then team up with Imam Mahdi’s ‘army’ to fight secular countries and fight ‘the evil person,’ said Fuzi.” Another source said that “the men had planned to head to Yemen before proceeding to Saudi Arabia.”

Malaysia is 61% (Sunni) Muslim and has a reputation for being “moderate“–despite officially banning the practice of Shi`ism.  Yet even there, apocalyptic Islamic beliefs are clearly extant. And it’s amusing that that country’s top gumshoe takes it upon himself to explicate Islam–and in doing so gets things wildly wrong.  Having read all the relevant Arabic hadiths on the Mahdi, I can attest that his appearance in Mecca and subsequent formation of an army to battle secularism and a major “evil person”–by which was probabably meant the Dajjal, the “Deceiver” (Islam’s antichrist)–meshes almost exactly with “prophet” Muhammad’s sayings on the topic.  Asoib’s contention that the Mahdi will manifest this year is more edgy prognostication than a “misinterpretation,” for Islam’s “rightly-guided one” will come; it’s just the timetable that’s moot.

This Malaysian Mahdist movement may appear more of a nuisance than a real threat; but as I also pointed out a few years ago, it’s just a matter of time before the variegated strands of eschatological thought in the world’s second-largest religion come together to pose a definite danger to the rest of the world.

Addendum (9.29.18): Here’s a story entitled “Malaysian state to cane a third woman for infringing Islamic law,” which further undercuts the claim that Malaysia is somehow “moderate” in its Islam.

 

 

 

 

 

Six Rock Songs about The End of the World

Eschatology has been the be-all and end-all (pun intended) of my academic research for some two decades now.  My Ohio State Department of History doctoral dissertation (2001) and two of my four books have dealt with Islamic beliefs about the apocalypse. But I’d been fascinated with the End Times long before learning about the Mahdi and the Dajjal—probably since I was about 10 years old, when I used to gaze in fear at the 10-headed beast of Revelation illustration found in the back of my great-grandparents’ King James Bible.  Besides, what’s of more ultimate importance than when and how the world ends, and our eternal fate after death?

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The Last Judgment (from Orthodoximages.com).

I’m also a huge fan of rock music, from classic to hard.  Two of my favorite Sirius XM stations are “Classic Vinyl” and “Classic Rewind”—along with the “70s,” “Deep Tracks”  and of course the Beatles channel.  For the last several months, however, the U2 channel mainly played in my truck—until Sirius swapped it out for the “Dave Mathews Band” one. Damn you! Damn you all to hell!  (And I mean both Sirius and DMB.) However, “Ozzy’s Boneyard” also sometimes makes my presets, and listening to the heavy metal songs there introduced me to music about the apocalypse to which I’d never paid much attention.

Herewith, then, are my six favorite eschatological rock/metal songs, based on lyrical content and on music. Why only six? Because 666 would just be too damned many.

  • Iron Maiden, “The Number of the Beast.” Released in 1982, the single was a top ten hit in many European countries but not in the US, although the album of the same name reached #33 on the US Billboard chart, hitting platinum (at least 1 million in sales) status. The song starts with verses from the book of Revelation spoken by the late actor Barry Clayton (supposedly because Vinent Price cost too much). The salient reference is from Revelation 13:18: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: his number is 666.”  (The numbering derives from applying numerical values to Greek letters; in so doing John the Apostle may have been referring covertly to the Christian-persecuting Roman emperor Domitian.) The lyrics supposedly resulted from a dream one of the band members had after watching one of the Omen movies about the Antichrist: “In the mist dark figures move and twist/Was all this for real, or just some kind of hell?” “666 the number of the beast/Hell and fire spawned to be released.” “I’m coming  back/I will return/And I’ll possess your body and make it burn.” “I have the fire/I have the force/I have the power to make my evil take its course.”  Sung by Bruce Dickinson, often in his operatic voice, over pulsating—if repetitive—guitars, the song might make you take St. John’s apocalypse seriously, even if you aren’t a Christian.  By the way: I’d always wondered about the difference between “hard rock” and “metal.” A few years ago, a co-worker (at US Special Operations Command, of all places!) who moonlighted as the bass player in a metal band told me the difference: in hard rock, you can understand the sung lyrics; in metal, you might understand some of them; in heavy metal, there’s just screaming. (But then, where does that leave “thrash metal?”)  So by that metric, Iron Maiden is doing hard rock.  Also: lead singer Bruce Dickinson fences epee—quite well. And of course he’s sinister (left-handed)!

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The “Four Horsemen of the Rock Apocalypse,” from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH (my picture, July 2017): Mick, Elvis, Jeff and Keith, I believe.

  • Metallica, “The Four Horsemen.” This song was from the band’s 1983 debut album, Kill’em All which, despite peaking at only #66, sold over 3 million copies. (Why did I choose this tune, and not the band’s “My Apocalypse?” Read the lyrics.  “My Apocalypse” is not about the End of Time, but a personal catastrophe.) Metallica turns the Horsemen of Conquest, War, Famine and Pestilence of Revelation 6:18 into Time, Famine, Pestilence and Death—although referring to them as the “quartet of deliverance” does seems to put the band squarely on the side of evil.  There are some other, great lines in this song: “The sound of hooves knocks at your door/Lock up your wife and children now/It’s time to wield the blade.” “Now is the death of doers of wrong/Swing the judgement hammer down/Safely inside armor, blood guts and sweat.”  Much of this 7:13-long song is guitar work; but while the (allegedly) “Sweet Home Alabama”-inspired middle solo is engaging, the rest of the “solos” are high-speed, thrash-mode riffing—which is not my cup of tea.  And face it: James Hetfield is just not the quality lead singer that Bruce Dickinson is.  Still, the subject matter of this song is dead-on for my tastes, and thus for this post.
  • Black Sabbath, “After Forever.” This track came from the band’s third album, the 1971 double-platinum Masters of Reality.  Perhaps Black Sabbath’s most explicitly Christian song, it severely undercut their reputation as Satan-friendly.  “After Forever” failed to chart as a single—but then, Black Sabbath never had a single that hit the US top 40 (although a number did in the UK).  Really a hard rock, not a metal, song, Ozzy sings Geezer Butler’s lyrics: “Is Christ just a name that you read in a book/When you were at school?” “Would you like to see the Pope/On the end of a rope/Or do you think he’s a fool?” (A good question, here in 2018, with the ongoing revelations of Pope Francis failing to act against sex predators in the Roman Catholic clergy.) “I think it was true/It was people like you/that crucified Christ.” “Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone/Open your eyes just realize that he’s the one/The only one who can save you from all this sin and hate.” OK, it’s not explicitly, or even primarily, about the Apocalypse—but it IS about the Last Judgement and how to escape consignment to the Lake of Fire.  And the flip side is “Fairies Wear Boots!”
  • Wishbone Ash, “The King Will Come.” This was a cut from the progressive rock band’s third and most successful album, Argus—which reached #3 in the UK but failed, like every other Wishbone Ash album (despite selling over half-a-million copies, and stellar reviews), to hit the top 40 in the US. I came reluctantly to admit the talent of this band—having to overcome some deep-seated prejudice. Back in 1974, my high school chum Mark Gray and I drove to a record store in Covington, Kentucky (just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) to get copies of Elton John’s (first) greatest hits album. The dude working at the store must have come from Hippie Central Casting: long hair and Lennon-esqe glasses, emerging from behind a bead curtain.  And there was also a miasma of incense in the air.  (At least I think it was incense.)  When told we were looking for Elton’s latest album, Sir Tokes-A-Lot grimaced and implored “have you ever tried Wishbone Ash?” We declined, purchased EJ, and backed away slowly, never making bloodshot eye contact.  Well, thanks to Sirius XM’s “Deep Tracks,” I’ve come to see the error of my ways and the unintentional wisdom of that gentle, if addled, holdover hippie. Wishbone Ash is a damned fine band, with excellent musicanship and profound lyrics—especially on the topic at hand. “The King Will Come” opens with 1:30 of guitars, layering up from acoustic to electric, and reaching rather hard status before the lyrics finally begin. (Indeed, the band was seminal in developing “twin-lead guitar harmonisation later adopted by bands such as Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden.”) While there are no overt references to Revelation, the End of the World is described in just a handful of exquisitely harmonized lyrics. “In the fire, the king will come/Thunder rolls, pipe and drum/Evil sons/ overrun/Count their sins—Judgement comes.”  “The checkerboard of nights and days/Man will die, man be saved/The sky will fall, the earth will pray/When judgement comes to claim its day.” Like Metallica’s 7 minute-plus offering, much of Wishbone Ash’s is guitar work—but whereas the former wields a musical Claymore, the latter brandishes a rapier and dagger.  Metallica’s apocalypse screams in like an asteroid, Wishbone Ash’s sneaks up like a thief in the night—which makes it no less threatening.  Addendum: I called my old high school buddy Mark tonight, and he reminded me that the name of the aforementioned record store was the Lemon Starship.  Groovy!
  • U2, “The Wanderer.”  This was the last track on U2’s 1993 #1 album Zooropa, with Johnny Cash singing lead. On this album, continuing their practice on the previous Achtung Baby!, U2 veered heavily into electronic/Euro-dance music.  On this specific song, accordingly, there’s a (synthesized) bass part, minimal drumming, almost no guitar and some electronic instrumentation. The Man in Black sings about wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, “under an atomic sky/Where the ground won’t turn/and the rain it burns/like the tears when I said goodbye.”  Some of the lyrics clearly reflect the still-resonating end of the Cold War, while others refer to Biblical themes. “I went drifting through the capitals of tin/Where men can’t walk or freely talk/And sons turn their fathers in.” “I went out walking/with a Bible and a gun/The world of God lay heavy on my heart/I was sure I was the one.” “Now Jesus, don’t you wait up/Jesus I’ll be home soon/Yeah I went out for the papers/Told her I’d be back by noon.”  In the middle of the song is a spoken part by Cash, reminiscent of St. Augustine’s Confessions: “I went out there/In search of experience/To taste and to touch/And to feel as much/As a man can/Before he repents.”  This song will make you think—about mortality, and about The End.  It’s Ring of Fire meets A Canticle For Leibowitz (one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written).  And not only did it relaunch Cash’s career—the year after this he released American Recordings—but, as my sons told me, “The Wanderer” was used as musical background for one of the Fallout post-apocalypse video games.

MtofOlivestreesandstonefences2003

The Mount of Olives’ Garden of Gethsemane, from my trip there, 2003.  When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, it probably wasn’t this manicured.

  • U2, “Until the End of the World.”  The single greatest song referencing the topic ever written—although, to be fair, the lyrics are not actually apocalyptic; rather, they describe the betrayal of Christ by Judas, building from the Last Supper to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. The track is found on 1991’s Achtung Baby!, U2’s second-best selling album (18 million).  It was never released as a formal single, although it did come out as a “promotional single” on the US Rock and Album track charts.  “We ate the food/We drank the wine/Everybody was having a good time/Except you, you were talking about the end of the world.”  These lyrics reflect Judas’ presence at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-26; also Mark 14:12-21 and Luke 22:7-16).  “In the garden I was playing the tart/I kissed your lips, and broke your heart.” (U2 also sings about the betrayal of Christ in “Pride:” “one man betrayed with a kiss.”) The Gospel reference is Matthew 26: 47, 48 as well as parallels in Mark and Luke. The last verse sounds like a heartfelt, albeit belated, regret by Judas for his damned perfidy: “Waves of regret, waves of joy/I reached out for the one I tried to destroy/You—you said you’d wait till the end of the world.”  This is also one of U2’s best rock songs, with The Edge going more for a rock guitar sound and less the quasi-acoustic effect.  Although clearly Christian in content—as is to be expected with U2, several of whose members are overtly Christian—the first verse makes me think, every time I hear it, of Islamic eschatology.  “Haven’t seen you in quite a while/I was down the hole just passing time”–which could easily be referring to the Twelfth Imam of Shi`i Islam who will emerge from a well behind Jamkaran Mosque in Qom, Iran.

MeJamkarancropped

The hole/well whence the Twelfth Imam al-Mahdi will emerge is behind that Jamkaran Mosque.  Pictured also: Infidel Great Satanist researcher. 

There you have it: my half-dozen favorite rock and metal (?) songs about this topic.  What say you?