At the end of a hard day’s work, I like to unwind with whatever TV show I can find. I tend to like supernatural drama series, but not really shitty high school drama ones.
The latest series that has caught my attention is CW’s “The Messengers” – which is, basically, the Book of Revelations but on TV. As someone who understands the Apocalypse Story as a vindictive minority group’s wish-fulfillment future where all their enemies get smoted (smitten?), I’m not likely to enjoy most fiction of the genre – for example, the Left Behind series are just plain awful: to me they’re identical to that Christian video game where the left behind believers go around with shotguns killing off the unbelievers to win their own salvation. (I haven’t played it, but I think that’s how it goes).
And I’m absolutely fascinated by the fact that in nearly every other dystopian/post-apocalyptic or near-apocalypse setting (even some Christian ones), the bad guys – sometimes ‘satanists’ are trying to destroy the world, and the good guy is trying to save it.
Which isn’t, at all, what happens in the Bible, which clearly has God and his angels attacking earth and killing off all the humans, and they are fighting off the Antichrist, who is leading the armies of men against God, in defense of the earth. So in the apocalyptic fiction I plan to write, the Antichrist will be the hero of the story.
The may sound demonic and twisted to you, but consider the alternative, a movie or series about God coming down with plagues and war or disease and famine, killing all the humans, and the good guys are the ones who say “Thank you God for ending humanity!” Even though that scenario is theologically more aligned with the religious majority, it would make very bad entertainment (which is why most Christian entertainment is so bad).
This new series starts off with a bang: a meteor crashes into the earth and knocks out 5 special and demographically diverse persons, who come back to life with special powers.
The meteor turns out to be a fallen angel of some kind, and his first move is trying to get a lady to kill some other lady in a coma. We may assume he’s the bad guy, and we’d probably be right, because this series isn’t about gray moral areas like Supernatural (although even Supernatural has depressingly trivial, orthodox responses to Satan rather than any attempt at authentic dialogue – perpetuating a stereotypical violence against an ancient voice once regarded as a savior of mankind, unjustly punished for giving humanity technology and wisdom).
“You experienced things today you don’t understand. You’re trying to deny it, but you feel it. Nothing is random. Nothing is a coincidence. Everything is happening for a reason, and you have an important part to play.”
Interpretation: Life has meaning, and you are important.
But then it continues, and this appears to be the guiding mythology of the series; note its consistency with Christian dogma:
“I bring you a warning. The devil is here, with us. In flesh and blood. He knows our secrets and our fears, and he will use them against us. He is temptation and sin, he is evil incarnate, he is Lucifer, the prince of darkness, and I’m here to tell you – whether you believe it or not – he is coming, for us all.”
Interpretation: all evil in the world is the Devil. All your fears, your worries, your inadequacies, even your sins, are just the Devil’s magic. You are a GOOD person. When you’re not – the Devil made you do it, but it’s not your fault.
Interestingly, I’ve also recently been reading “All Things Shining” – which suggests that the only way to find meaning in a post-meaning world is to find reverence in making things well, poiesis. Atheists or agnostics can find some value in life by making things, by being productive, artists, creation.
Meanwhile, the faithful – people who believe in angels and the devil, I would posit – spend much more time consuming. This is a TV show for them. If you’re a believer, The Messengers is entertaining fiction that will reaffirm your beliefs without challenging you to stretch yourself or make you feel guilty for not doing more with your life.
You are perfect, just as you are… as long as you keep sitting there and watching this TV show.
In the beginning of Episode Two, just in case you weren’t 100% on board with the plot, all the messengers accidentally show up together at the same time in the same church, and get told exactly what’s going on.
“Different religions call it different things but God’s message is pretty much the same no matter how you slide it. This is the beginning of the end. You thought it was a meteor, but that was Satan being cast out of heaven again.”
“Hi, I’m an atheist” one of the characters interjects. The response,
“We shouldn’t doubt the devil’s presence, he’s a wicked son of a bitch. And he will play on every last one of your fears and insecurities.”
And this, right here, is the important bit: the appropriate response to Atheist’s lack of belief is not “God Loves You” but “You are afraid, and that fear comes from the devil.”
God, you see, leaves no tangible, credible proof. But the fact that we fear can be used as evidence of Evil Incarnate; and the fact that fear can be relieved through belief and prayer and gratitude is used as proof in God.
(And if that doesn’t work… there’s always Hope. The one atheist character says, “I don’t believe in God, angels or the devil, OK?” The preacher asks her, “Do you believe that your son is alive?” With hope comes wishful thinking, desire, a bargaining chip. Something wanted. A lack, a void that can be filled.)
At the end of Episode Two we get the plan for the series: this is all a test from God to see if humans are worthy.
“If people like us can figure out a way to work together, maybe the world deserves to be saved.”
“Saved from what?”
“The Rapture – when God reclaims the faithful and leaves the forsaken behind.”
“But how are we supposed to stop something like that?”
“By using the special gifts that he has given all of us.”
So they all have different superpowers, and they are trying to save the world… from God’s destruction. And God gave them these gifts… to stop Him. It’s basically like Heroes but with absolute moral boundaries, and the whole thing being orchestrated by a puppet master – there is no real conflict. There is no real possibility for failure
Does this sounds confusing?
It’s also totally Satanic. Christians are supposed to trust that God’s entire plan, from Creation through to the Temptation of Eve through Jesus’ Crucifixion is all leading up to an eventual Day of Judgement. The Rapture, if you believe in it, is when all the good people go to heaven, while all the bad people stick around… possibly with a slim chance at redemption.
God can’t change his mind and decide not do the whole End of Days thing. He can’t mature and get PC and liberal and democratic (well, of course he could – and I’d much prefer a God who was capable of that – but that isn’t the Christian God.) I have to wonder, if Christians are capable of accepting a scenario where the good guys are trying to stop the Apocalypse, whether there are really any Christians left or if they’ve all been too liberalized to condone the barbaric God of the Bible).
The preacher says, “God has every reason to be angry at us. School shootings, the financial crisis, global warming, the world has gone to Hell in a handbasket.”
Interpretation: it’s OUR fault that the world is ending. Because for some reason God can’t just, you know, fix shit himself.
They split up but are magically and coincidentally brought together again in a bar. By whom, God? Destiny?
“We need to find, and stop, the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But they’re regular people, just like us, except the devil is tempting each of them to commit some horrible sin and once they do, they’re no longer human.”
It makes it sound like the devil is trying to bring about the apocalypse by tempting the four horsemen into action… but why would he do that? The end of the world would be a respite for the devil: he’s being punished. He wishes he could be unmade to stop the suffering but God won’t allow him that. The four horsemen are on God’s side – War, Famine, Pestilence and Death are God’s Curses for humanity. The devil has nothing to do with it.
God shows them all visions, and they have to work together to decipher the clues and save humanity, “or they can kiss humanity goodbye.”
But here’s the other glaring problem: God has chosen to put the fate of humanity in the hands of 5 misfits? Why take such a huge risk? Why let their success or failure dictate the results for all the rest of us? What kind of God would take such a bold gamble with the 8 billion humans on earth, leaving little clues for these chosen few to figure out?
What you need to understand
This looks like a bad, Christian, television show, but it’s the exact opposite.
The show’s tagline is:
Stop the Apocalypse, Save Mankind
That’s not God’s motto, or Jesus’s (Jesus is going to come down with a sword shooting out his mouth and lead the angel armies against the armies of Man).
The motto above can only be the Antichrist’s call to arms.
In fact, in my fiction, it will be.
My guess is they made Messengers to appeal to the roughly 50% of Americans who identify as Christian – but if that’s you, think very carefully about what you believe and what the Bible actually teaches. If in doubt, talk to your preacher about this TV series and what the Bible says about the End of Days… I’m pretty sure he’ll agree with my reflections here, and tell you that, if the apocalypse starts and some humans beings band together to try and stop it, you shouldn’t join them.