Looking Ahead

HistoryFutureA History of the Future is a great title for a book. Classified, I suppose, as a dystopia, James Howard Kunstler’s novel is set in upstate New York, not too far from now. A war in Israel has led to the destruction of major US cities and our electronic, consumptive way of life suddenly comes to an end. Small pockets of people, such as those in Union Grove, try to reconstruct a way of life where executives now have to become farmers and those who were used to having plenty still can’t manage without thinking of others as servants. It is a quiet and disquieting world. Perhaps the most striking thing about Kunstler’s vision is how prevalent religion is within it. An entire swath of the middle of the country has followed a former televangelist back to pre-Civil War ideals and seeks to make white supremacy national policy. Other pockets of governments resist the growing strength of this backlash, but most people are just trying to get by, uninvolved in large-scale politics.

The most sympathetic group in the novel, at least in my reading of it, is the New Faith Covenant Brotherhood Church of Jesus, run by Brother Jobe, himself a former southerner. This church moves, lock, stock, and barrel, into Union Grove and begins to build a commune that, unlike those of the local Presbyterians and secular rulers, manages to thrive. Brother Jobe has mystical abilities and his heart is in the right place. As things continue their decline amidst the everyone for him/herself attempts to restore order, this fellowship manages to pull itself together through common belief and perhaps a bit of divine intervention. In the future these aren’t so easily teased apart.

Not a typical action-packed dystopia with raging violence, Kunstler sketches a more gentle apocalypse. It’s not a final disaster and big government has not yet reemerged to stamp its will on a malleable people. Women and men relearn what it means to work by hand and to live with less. In some ways the vision is comforting. Still, those who will have been patrician in the past manage to become feudal lords, of a sort, in this new world. Not everyone can fit into that pattern. The overall picture in what seems to be a parable is that pre-industrial society did, in fact, work. It wasn’t perfect, of course. Monasteries and lords embodied different values where no one could truly claim to know what this was all about. The future, it turns out, is mostly the past.


The Reveal

SmallScreenRevelationsThe end of the world as we know it is far more common than reason might suggest. As I’ve been researching the way the apocalypse is represented in popular culture, I’ve been impressed at just how prevalent it is. James Aston and John Walliss have brought together some intriguing essays on the topic in Small screen Revelations: Apocalypse in Contemporary Television. As one contributor notes, it is far more common to find the apocalypse in science fiction, horror, and fantasy programs, but it clearly visible in other genres as well. It is primarily an American phenomenon, although it may also be found elsewhere. It’s pretty hard to pin down the end of the world. On television it comes in both fiction and non-fiction varieties. The constant here is that we know it’s out there.

What I found most revelatory about the subject was a persistent question: why? Why are we so fascinated by the end of the world? I’m no sociologist, so I can’t give any kind of statistical answer. As the owner of a gut, however, I can offer a feeling. It seems to me that a culture of privilege ought to have a measure of guilt. While apocalyptic belief is most common among the poor (sorry, no statistics to back me up here) it also commonly occurs among the affluent as well. At the same time, we know that, as a society, we have far more than our share of the world’s goods. We have a massive military to make sure nobody else shares those goods. We must know, at some level, this is wrong.

At the same time, how can we give up what we’re so used to? An apocalypse wipes the slate clean. The essays in Small Screen Revelations offer more sophisticated theory than my simple observation, but academics have an obligation to muddy the waters. Considering the sheer number of shows cited: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Simpsons, Supernatural, Angel, The Walking Dead, Jericho, Doctor Who, Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, in addition to television news anchors and televangelists, the apocalypse is very easily found. So easily found, in fact, that one can become inured to what is supposed to be the ultimate end of everything. It’s related to what I’ve called elsewhere the crisis of superlatives. The fact that it’s television, however, provides a ready answer for what happens next. After the apocalypse we simply wait until the next season. After all, there’s a market for post-apocalyptic entertainment as well.


Animal Form

Mort(e)The fear of insects is fairly common among people. It is difficult, however, not to appreciate the “hive mind” and how insects in colonies work for the betterment of all, often at the expense of the individual. Now imagine that the hive mind resents what humans have done to insects over the millennia. And suppose that their massive mind allows them to develop a hormone that transforms animals into partial humans with consciousness and, for the most part, workable hands. Then you’ve got the premise of Mort(e) by Robert Repino. A debut novel about a cat (Mort(e)) and his desire to find a friend in the fog of war that follows the transformation of animals into people, the story is as compelling as it is creative. Add in a strong dose of religious concepts (Mort(e) is considered a messiah among the battered human population, and he has a prophet) and you’ve got a captivating story perfect for comment on this blog.

While not all novels I read have a religious element, a surprising number do. And this isn’t because I pick stories with religious themes. It is because religion pervades the human outlook on life. Repino’s novel, however, does go beyond a casual mention of religion. It turns out to be central to the plot in a way that, were I to describe it here, would constitute a spoiler, and since I want to encourage reading of Mort(e), I don’t want to reveal too much. Suffice it to say, without religion a large part of the story would be missing. No matter whether you believe religion is good or bad, you’ll find plenty to think about here.

These days I read novels liberally mixed in with non-fiction reading. Sometimes I’m disappointed after I spent a few hours on a book and find it to lack substance. (Sure, I do read as a guilty pleasure from time to time, but here I mean the kinds of books you invest in.) Mort(e) is a substantial story. The world in which the protagonist operates can be described as apocalyptic, and end-of-the-world scenarios have a way of raising questions about what we believe. The time spent reading Mort(e) is a good return on investment. And once it has been out there long enough, I’ll want to return to that plot spoiler to investigate it further. It’s that kind of book.


Jonahado

SharknadoSome movies are so bad that they become classics. Some are just plain bad. The jury in my head is still out on Sharknado. The story, obviously tongue-in-cheek, is so far-fetched as to be pretentious, and anyone who knows something about either sharks or tornadoes, or both, will likely find credibility waning from the first scene. For those sensible among my readers, who’ve not seen the movie, the title gives it all away. A global-warming-induced hurricane hurries toward Santa Monica with its forever young sun-worshippers. The hurricane floods the California coast, bringing sharks to the city streets. As our protagonists drive around somewhat pointlessly, the sharks attack their car, eventually eating everyone who’s not family. At one point the family tries to buy rations at a liquor store, only to have the news announce that this is the apocalypse. The store owner scowls that it’s the government, not God, that’s bringing this upon them. Then the waterspouts appear, morphing into tornadoes carrying sharks, still hungrily chomping at everything as they fly through the air.

Ironically a biblical theme comes about with the swallowing of Nova. As she falls from a helicopter (don’t ask), a great white shark snaps her up in mid-air, and since she’s about the only character you can care about, the movie seems to have reached its nadir. As the tornadoes dissipate and the sharks coming raining down, the eponymously named Fin is swallowed whole by a huge great white, while still holding his chainsaw. We already know that this latter-day Jonah will make his way back out, and we are supposed to be surprised that this is the very same shark that holds the reborn Nova, who admits her real name is Jenny Lynn. Like Neo in The Matrix, she is the convert to a new faith, this time in the family of Fin, whose only fault, it seems, is that he cares too much for others.

While a made-for-television B movie (although C or D might be more appropriate), Sharknado demonstrates the popular conception of the apocalypse. Not that it will involve flying sharks and destructive wind-storms, but that the end of the world is somehow inevitable. We have convinced ourselves that its a matter of when, not if, the world will meet its demise. Global warming, clearly our fault, is blamed by the movie (as is the government), but the story is that the flimsy culture we’ve constructed is subject to utter ruin by a hurricane and maritime predators. Or I could be reading far too much into this. Religious tropes may be picked and chosen at will. And when things really go wrong, like accidentally switching on Sharknado, we have a ready arsenal of religious ideas at hand to blame. And the apocalypse may be the least of our worries.


Firelands

BayardFirelandsPiper Bayard has been a long-time blogging buddy of mine. She’s kind enough to comment on many of my posts and even kinder to like even more. Piper recently published her novel Firelands, and she sent me a copy that I began reading right away. My schedule this entire month has been unfriendly to literacy, but I was always glad to have a few minutes to read a few more chapters of an intriguing post-apocalyptic future. What’s more, Piper is keenly aware that religion is behind much of politics—a point she boldly makes by constructing a dictatorship based around a miracle-claiming prophet-king who oppresses those who don’t believe—the Seculars, or “Secs.” Interestingly, Piper decided on the name Josephites for the religious rulers, and there are dark undertones here for those who know their religious history. As an unabashed fan of allegorical writing, I saw quite a lot here that was, well, apocalyptic, in the literal sense of the word.

In a misogynic future, the Josephites, who dwell in cities, burn many women for various heretical crimes in autos-da-fé entitled Atonements. These human sacrifices ensure fertility and also help to explain the trials of life in a post-cataclysmic world. The protagonist, Archer, has to not only survive, but to try to save her cousin, a grandchild of the eponymous Joseph, from the flames. The Josephites live in a society of thinly rooted but strongly mandated religion. There is an underground of true Christians, and Archer, although a Sec, acts with more compassion than any of the Josephites, except perhaps her cousin. In a world that has lost its bearings, religion both undergirds and undermines a dystopian society where differences of faith have come to define everyone’s role in a harsh world. (Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.)

In this world where heaven is a fiery hell, I realized that Archer was more familiar than she first seemed. A female warrior, she opens the book by tracking a large stag to feed her starving people. Nevertheless, it took me many chapters to realize that she was a hypostatic Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. No wonder she couldn’t convert to the standard religion! Her example leads the way toward a renewable and sustainable future, in touch with nature, while the “religious” in their urban environment are dying on the vine as they appear to thrive. This is a world where old gods are more authentic than an enforced religion that few believe and that only rules through fear. There is much more I could say about Piper’s fascinating book, but I want you to read it for yourself. Visit Piper’s website for more information, and support the work of an author who really has something to say!


Robotics FIRST

Wired

I knew it! It was right there on the cover of Wired magazine. “The Robots Take Over.” And it is also the very day of the FIRST Robotics kickoff, the day when Dean Kamen and his team announce to thousands of high school kids, teachers, engineers, and interested parents, what the 2013 FIRST robotics competition will be, spurring us into six frenzied weeks of designing, planning, and building a robot to take to competitions. First Atlanta, then the world! It must’ve been their plan all along.

The article in Wired, by Kevin Kelly, does have hints of cheekiness throughout, but for the most part is on target. How many of us already use computers or some kind of robotic devices to complete our jobs? Kelly points to the inevitable: robots can do it better. The upside is that when robots take away jobs they create new ones, like Charlie Bucket’s dad getting a job repairing the robot arm that took his job away at the toothpaste factory. If you don’t want a tech job, too bad. That’s what the new definition of work is becoming, since labor is already being taken over by robots. Those who can look far enough ahead can see robots doing, as Kelly puts it, any job. What makes this sound apocalyptic to me is the fact that we, as a society, undervalue education. What will the undereducated do? Their jobs are the first to go. I feel the tremors of a revolution that hasn’t even started yet. People need something to do.

It is apparently without irony that Kelly suggests that any job people do, including in the service industry, can be done by robots. I am an editor. A robot may be able to find grammatical errors (Word and Pages already do this), but they can’t capture the soul of a writer. We write for the enjoyment of other people who experience being people in the same way that we do. There is an inherent arrogance in the Artificial Intelligence movement that believes (yes, it is a belief) that intelligence and mind are the same thing. There is no room for a soul in this machine. Many biologists would agree: we’ve looked, no soul. But even biologists know that they’ve got an identity, aspirations, contradictions, and emotions. It is the unique blend of these things that make, what we can for convenience call, the soul. There are entire industries built around the care for that soul.

Many scientists are still betting on the end of religion, the ultimate repository of those who believe they have souls. Religion, however, is not going away. When we see robot psychiatrists, robot social workers, robot clergy, robot writers and artists, and robot Popes, we’ll know the apocalypse has truly transpired.


Robot Crossing

With my new job I haven’t been able to be as active on our high school’s robotics team this year. Not that I ever contributed much beyond moral support, but there is a very profound satisfaction at seeing teenagers concentrating on such technological marvels and building self-esteem. Yesterday was spent at a regional competition. Noisy, colorful, chaotic—it was like being a teenager again myself. I overhead engineers talking during the course of the day about the great technological marvels of the future made possible by robots. These people have no apocalypse hidden among their endless optimism. We’ve got robots on the ocean floor and rolling around on Mars, snaking into our bodies even down to the cellular level. No end of times here, only forward motion. I know that computers now define my life. If I miss a day on this blog I grow dejected; one of my biggest worries about going to Britain later this week is how I will continue posting from overseas. But I sometimes feel as if our love of technology will be our undoing.

Experts—of which I am not, I hasten to add, one—tell us that within a lifetime artificial intelligence will be indistinguishable from real intelligence. As I watched the robots playing basketball (this year’s FIRST Robotics challenge), I began to wonder about the motivation of our robot slaves. Humans are driven by biological and emotional needs. Robots, as far as we can tell, do not want anything. It is a vacuous life. Yet as the robots played basketball all day, I noticed they didn’t suffer the obesity problems so evident among humans, nor the weariness that accompanies having to awake before dawn to catch a school bus to the competition. They are built for a purpose and they stick to it. Even as I watched hours of competition, I began to miss my laptop—driven by my own emotional needs as I am. I begin to wonder who is really the slave here.

Last night my family participated in Earth Hour. We try to do it every year with a kind of religious fervor. Turning off all electronics, including lights, we sit in the dark and talk by candle light. There is a profound peace to it. As my daughter commented on how spooky the shadow play could be, I imagined our ancestors who had no choice but to rely on pre-electric light in drafty houses where real wild animals still prowled the dark nights outside. How quickly that would become a trial for us. The same thought occurred to me as I watched M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village again last weekend. We are helplessly tied to our technological advancement. We might like to get away from it all for a few days or weeks, or even months. But we want the comfort of knowing that the robots are waiting for us when we turn back to reality again. Perhaps no apocalypse is needed after all.

Robot crossing


P*ss Says Elijah

As celebrations of the four-hundredth year of the King James Version continue this month, it is time to reflect on how its language has influenced modern-day English. I recently finished my course on the Prophets, and as I was reading the wonderful stories of Elijah, I remembered the shock I first experienced when reading 1 Kings 21.21 as a child. In the words of Elijah: “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel.” I had been raised with the certain knowledge that the “p-word” was cussing, if not downright swearing. What was it doing in the mouth of a righteous prophet? Then I realized even Saint Peter, according to Mark 14.71, “began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak” just before the cock crowed.

The Bible defies expectations. Today it has become a highly politicized document. The “Family Values” camp loves to cite select passages of the Bible but tends to ignore those juicy bits that contradict their 1950’s outlook. The Bible is a book of surprises. It suffers at the hands of its own apotheosis. I know biblical scholars who argue that the Bible should no longer be singled out as a special book, but we do owe it a debt of gratitude. If modern-day people want to revere the Bible, they should do so with an awareness of its context.

Recently a friend posted a comment on Revelation online, wondering why people found it so scary. In the many replies, several worried commenters noted how signs for the apocalypse are beyond ripe and the fruit is ready to fall from the tree. When I interjected that Revelation was a response to first-century Christian persecution couched in the language of apocalyptic literature, I was quickly corrected by others who noted that since Revelation is coming true right now, it must, ipso facto, be a future prediction. We revere the Bible without hearing it. Until we learn to actually read and appreciate the Bible in its context, I’ll have to take my side with the prophets of old. After all, p*ss says Elijah.

Be careful little mouth what you say...


Ring of Fire

It looks so peaceful from above

The great tragedy unfolding in Japan has many Internet pundits wondering if this is a sign of the 2012 apocalypse. In reality it is simply a great human tragedy, a reminder that we are creatures who’ve evolved in a dangerous, often inhospitable universe. Natural disasters may have been one of the stimuli for the development of religion in the first place. Now we can look to seismology and tectonic plates to find out “why” hundreds had to die in Japan, but the human psyche demands a metaphysical reason. Some Christian websites are quick to point out that only a very small percentage of Japanese are Christian. Born with the sin of not being American, well, Shinto happens.

Like last year’s Chilean earthquake, this current disaster has once again shifted the earth on its rotation axis, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. GPS markers on the coast of Japan indicate that the large island has shifted over two meters because of the quake. The world was not made for us, however. We evolved on a planet, peopled it with gods, and decided that they created this place for us. In reality, we survive on the basis of our adaptations to this planet. Any planet dynamic enough to support life will be volatile enough to demand life from its inhabitants.

This is not as fatalistic as it sounds. Religions reflect the impotence humans feel in the presence of raw nature. We’ve shed many physical defenses for the advantages of large brains that require us to piece together a sensible view of an event that has no inherent meaning. The fact is that we are not in control. Once we eliminated the smaller-scale threats of exposure and the dangers of predation, we left ourselves open to macro-scale disasters that no human is large enough to impact. And we know, deep in our psyches, that this is simply part of the price we pay for being human. 2012 will come and go with its own share of natural disasters, but right now we should focus on helping those who’ve experienced their own current apocalypse.


Dating Daniel

Last semester one of my students had an encounter with a literalist. This is not uncommon, but the issue raised ran counter to what we were covering in class, namely, the book of Daniel. Apocalyptically minded literalists use Daniel and Revelation as a two-tiered roadmap to the future, supposing that these books are predictions of the end of time. Scholars who’ve studied apocalyptic literature, however, know that such interpretations misrepresent a fascinating genre of ancient writing that says more about its own time than some unforeseen future (our time). Nevertheless, the myth of Daniel’s foresight persists.

Long ago biblical scholars noted that although set in the period of the Babylonian Empire, the book of Daniel makes several basic errors about that time period. On the other hand, Daniel knows the period of the Seleucid Empire (when it was actually written) in relatively precise detail. We think nothing of it when an author today sets a story in the past, but somehow this is dirty pool in the composition of an evangelical Bible. Apocalyptic was intended to provide encouragement to those under persecution, not to give them a Google-mapped future. It is in the nature of apocalyptic to present the author as a seer, but the future age is a Zoroastrian contribution that gives books like Daniel and Revelation their edge.

Misunderstanding genre is a large concern among literary scholars. A document like the Bible, which contains several distinct genres, must be handled carefully if it isn’t to be misrepresented. I used to point out that if the passages intended to be read ironically were understood literally many Bible-quoters would be in trouble. After all, doesn’t Amos declare, “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more” (4.4)? Learning to place biblical genres within their proper context makes a world of difference. Instead of Daniel telling us to hold tight because the end is near, he is found to be encouraging those who were suffering in his own day. We have no biblical roadmaps for the end times because the end of the story has not yet been written.

Daniel tells the lions a story about the future


Misappropriated Prophets

There seems to be a can of worms lying open on my desk, released by the comments yesterday’s post engendered. I thank all my readers and commentators. The issue most pointedly thrust among the worms appears to be that of prophecy. Teaching about prophecy constitutes a large part of my meager income. And since prophecy plays a large role in many Evangelical associations not only with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but also Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and just about any other major catastrophe, it is worth exposing. In the Bible prophecy is not about predicting the future.

Prophecy was a widespread phenomenon long before Israel appeared on the scene. One of the roles prophets shared in ancient times was the declaration of outcomes to momentous events. Unfortunately that aspect of their duty easily became equated with predicting the future. Its actual milieu, however, was that ancient people believed prophets to be “effective speakers.” When a prediction came true it was not because a prophet could “see the future,” but because the spoken word of the prophet participated in the reality of the world. The belief was that the effective word came from God/a god, and therefore would be true by definition.

Apocalyptic, the familiar literary form of Daniel and Revelation, is not prophecy. Zoroastrianism, the religion of ancient Persia, had influenced many ancient religions, including Judaism. Apocalyptic, like prophecy, has a predictive element. Like prophecy, however, apocalyptic has a different purpose. The books most heavily farmed for future predictions by Evangelicals, Daniel and Revelation, are both thinly veiled accounts of contemporary events of the authors’ own days. Daniel consoles Jews persecuted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Revelation consoles Christians persecuted by one of the early Roman emperors (the jury is still out on precisely which one). Neither book predicts the end of the world. Both, however, declare the comeuppance of the arrogant oppressor. It is here, perhaps, that the true relevance of the Bible speaks to the scars human beings inflict on their own planet and on each other.

sic semper tyrannis


Converting Triffids

“Stupendous as this disaster is, there is, however, still a margin of survival. It may be worth remembering just now that we are not unique in looking upon vast calamity. Whatever the myths that have grown up about it, there can be no doubt that somewhere far back in our history there was a Great Flood. Those who survived that must have looked upon a disaster comparable in scale with this and, in some ways, more formidable. But they cannot have despaired; they must have begun again – as we can begin again.” This quote from John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids brings into focus a number of themes from this blog. Initially, it is another example of the intersection of science fiction and religion, specifically the Bible. In his apocalyptic 1951 novel, Wyndham can find no better example of disaster than the Flood Myth. The Bible and science fiction have kissed each other once again.

Another recurring theme reflects on disaster and how religions deal with it. As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill begins taking on apocalyptic dimensions religion is brought into the discussion in a variety of ways: God will take care of it; it is a sign of the end times; God is punishing us for something; corporate greed must stop. Take your choice. When people feel threatened, religion is quickly brought off the shelf, dusted off, and thrust out as the harbinger of deep solutions. Those of us who deal with religion every day must be forgiven for being a bit more circumspect.

The Flood Myth is a regular theme as well. It crops up in unlikely as well as predictable locations. As mentioned yesterday, it was evident in the Mystic Aquarium (unexpected), and it constantly resurfaces in Fundamentalist rhetoric (predictable). On a previous travelogue entry I mentioned Noah’s Ark being rebuilt in Maryland (unexpected). Seeing the Flood as the benchmark of worldwide disasters in a science fiction novel may be predictable, but the troubling ethical concomitants drawn out by Wyndham are profoundly disturbing. The Flood is not longer the worst disaster imaginable, but the Bible will continue as the measure of catastrophe long after the triffids have vanished.


Alaska’s Temblors

There are rumblings under Alaska. Some people are just a bit nervous after last week’s earthquakes in Mexico – could it be our turn next? Mount Redoubt, remote from human population zones, has been sputtering and steaming and making itself look large. It is preparing for something big.

In apocalyptic literature we see a similar image: the small horn that boasts and makes itself out to be the greatest of the ten that speckle the head of the great beast from the sea. The little horn called Antiochus, so enamored of his own abilities that he surnamed himself Epiphanes, “the manifestation.” And uncritical people, taken in by his bravado, followed him until he started torturing and killing those who didn’t agree with his religion. Those who would not bow to his own personal Zeus would be martyred in nasty ways.

Now an active volcano is sputtering in Alaska. Could it be the sign of the end times? I doubt it. The end does not come ushered in by mere movements in the earth’s crust. According to Revelation there has to be a harlot on the back of a hideous beast. And that’s only if you believe Revelation is predicting something that hasn’t already happened. No, I believe Mount Redoubt is just doing what volcanoes always do – threatening, making noise, and occasionally erupting. They may blanket their surroundings with ash and magma, but these are often only temporary postures on the part of nature. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

More than just a redoubtable mountain?


Book of Eli

Feeling that it is incumbent on a teacher of Bible to stay current with media presentations of my subject, I went to see Book of Eli yesterday. Not really a fan of violent movies, I was a bit concerned about being subjected to gratuitous carnage, but beyond the expected post-apocalyptic context and its attendant, constant menace, there was not too much to worry about on this score. For several years I have been researching the presentation of the Bible in movies. It is my hope to write this research up into a book one day if I ever land a job that allows such a luxury. Book of Eli will deserve a chapter of its own.

Apart from fundie self-praise fests, few movies present the Bible in such a heroic role as it plays in Book of Eli. Eli, like Jake and Elwood, is on a mission from God: to deliver a Bible to the last repository of education in the United States, namely a famous correctional institution. Along the way Road Warrior-style bandits harass him and Carnegie (a kind of deranged librarian with lofty political aspirations) covets Eli’s Bible, the last in existence. Carnegie wants the Bible because, “it is a weapon” of social control. (All quotes are approximate since I couldn’t take effective notes in the dark.) Eli must keep it because of his mission. Along the way Eli explains why the Bible is important to Solara, a young woman who is drawn to his sense of mission and devotion to the book. Explaining that since the last war, all Bibles have been routinely destroyed and that, “some say it [the Bible] is what caused the war,” Eli lovingly wraps the book in a cloth before secreting it in his ubiquitous backpack next to his machete. At this point I could feel the social commentary pressing hard upon me. The Religious Right would love nothing more than to force Armageddon on the planet so that they might go to their wonderful fantasy-land in the sky. Their misreading of the Bible has caused wars in the past and will likely cause them in the future.

As Eli loses the Bible to Carnegie and continues his mission empty-handed he explains to Solara, “I’ve been protecting it [the Bible] so long that I forgot to do what it says.” Again the social commentary was evident as news headlines continue to push hot-button conservative political issues where the heart has been cancerously eaten from the Religious Right and the Bible as idol becomes more important than what it actually says. When Eli brings his mission to its conclusion, however, the viewer is presented with an entirely positive view of the Bible. It is the symbol of civilization in a world of anarchy and Solara marches off as its acolyte into a hostile world as the sun sets in the west.

What is truly remarkable about this film is that it presents the Bible in a way that would make its study cool again (if it ever was). For those of us who’ve spent a lifetime shying away from telling others that we have spent our lives learning about the Bible, we might now walk into the glaring sunshine and have others step back in reverence for our selfless efforts to benefit the human race. Well, at least once the apocalypse is over.