A documentary investigation into surging American religious fundamentalism, and in particular its fetishistic preoccupation with end-time prophecy and the Bible’s Book of Revelation, Waiting For Armageddon is a fascinating look at the intractability of a certain subset of religious thinking, and how seemingly at odds it is with the very idea of modernity while simultaneously peddling a curious, blinkered sort of global engagement. Notably, this First Run Features title doesn’t arrive at its provocation cheaply, but instead through substantive examination of serious questions.
Co-directed by Kate Davis, Franco Sacchi and David Heilbroner, Waiting for Armageddon focuses largely on Israel’s unique status as the blasting cap of religious conflict in the Middle East, and explores the condescending, head-patting triumphalism of much of America’s 50-million strong Evangelical
community when it comes to the Jewish state. In their narrative, support for Israel is but a simple, necessary card to flip on the yellow brick road toward the Rapture; Muslims get evicted from the Holy Land by the Jews, who then rebuild the Temple of Solomon to jibe with Biblical prophecy, so that Christ can then return and trump all others. (As the chosen people, of course, Jews get “last-call dibs” on recognizing the error of their ways, and accepting Jesus as the son of God.)
Interviewees here include investigative journalist Chip Berlet, who
specializes in the study of right-wing movements and other extremism within the
United States, but the film is thorough and fair-minded — there’s no voiceover narration, so a wide range of subjects get to directly voice their beliefs and opinions, allowing viewers to decide for themselves. The picture that emerges — not surprising to those who actually grew up in or around pockets of such fundamentalism, but perhaps a revelation to some of the so-called media elite — is that many if not most religious fundamentalists are not super-ignorant, actually, but rather overwhelmed by the pressures, despair, poverty and manifold injustices of modern life.
There’s the fascinating and of course rather depressing spectacle of bearing witness to a mother who raises her children telling them they most likely won’t live to graduate college or get their driver’s license; in this sort of environment, where’s the personal incentive to learn or grow rather than just blindly embrace prepackaged dogma? (It doesn’t exist, of course.) There’s also a bit of an unseemly voyeuristic thrill in some of these “Rapture junkies,” in the feeling that they on a certain level want to see and/or bask in the suffering of others, perhaps if only a means by which to elevate themselves. Regardless of these unpleasantries, and the particulars of some of the more radical viewpoints espoused, one can certainly empathize with each interviewee’s own quest for centeredness and order, whether fully articulated or not. That yearning is a very human one, in my book.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Waiting For Armageddon comes to DVD presented in anamorphic widescreen, with an English language stereo audio track. Supplemental bonus features include an interfaith roundtable discussion, as well as a scrollable text statement from the filmmakers. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B+ (Movie) C (Disc)