Waiting for Armageddon
Dir. Kate Davis (2010, USA, 74 mins.)
Rapture, tribulation, millennialism, Armageddon – Director Kate Davis has her work cut out. Waiting for Armageddon attempts to shine light onto one of the most nebulous and convoluted social movements of recent history: Armageddon theology as prescribed by American Christian fundamentalists. Davis achieves this by focusing mainly on the mentality of the sort of people of preach this particular brand of fatalism and lets other topics remain peripheral. This documentary will not give a full account of Middle Eastern geopolitics, it will not entirely explain the significance of the Dome on the Rock, and it will not completely describe Christianity’s versions of Armageddon – these topics are too complex for one documentary to handle. What Waiting for Armageddon will do is explain how Armageddon theology impacts these topics – as it turns out, this is enough to make a stirring and informative documentary.
Wisely, Davis lets her subjects – the American Christian fundamentalists – explain themselves. The very first couple to do so are meant to break our preconceived notions of what an American Christian fundamentalist looks and sounds like – they are aerospace engineers, they are obviously intelligent, and one was initially an atheist. In short, they are not the sort of people you would expect to tell you that the “blood from the final battle [ie, Armageddon] will be as high as a horse’s bridle.” This is a surreal moment, to be sure.
We also meet a housewife who does not believe that her six-year-old boy will graduate high school, a pair of university professors who expect that Jerusalem will be attacked by an army mounted on horseback and armed with swords and spears, and an American pastor who takes his flock to the Dome on the Rock in order to loudly describe to the how the building with be destroyed – his Israeli tour guide is not impressed.
However, the point Davis is making is that this group of people – oddball though they seem – are not harmless. The pastor in question is keen to explain how American foreign policy can be used to facilitate his vision – to prop up Israel as the American Evangelicals imagine it, to destroy the Dome on the Rock, and to provoke a ‘final battle.’ As the pastor puts it, “America is a large enough country and the way we do business that we can essentially do what we want to that respect.” Davis holds that this is not a lot of smoke, either. She points out that Evangelicals donate millions to Israel each year, and that a number of prominent American politicians buy into this mentality – a peace process cannot exist if the parties in question don’t care for peace.
Waiting for Armageddon is certainly food for thought, irrespective of whether you consider Armageddon theology to be a threat or a curiosity. If you are of the former camp, this film is a neatly articulated wake-up call. If you are of the latter camp, this film is an interesting window into the American Bible belt. Either way, Waiting for Armageddon comes recommended to documentary lovers everywhere.
– Dave Robson