[ by Charles Cameron -- with an extended riff on the apocalyptic significance of Chernobyl, as mentioned by the Idaho curmudgeon, Walt Bayes ]
This may be the most remarkable piece of political theater I have ever seen
It’s the debate between four Republican candidates for Governor of Idaho — “a cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker, or a normal guy, take your pick” as the biker claims — and although the whole video runs close to an hour in toto, I found it riveting.
I’m not alone: Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri headlined it as “surreal, magical”, and termed it “incredible” and “everything that you ever wanted and more”.
Why? Not because it featured the sitting Governor and a State Senator, who utter their focus-grouped speaking points, but because of two of we-the-people, Harley Brown and Walt Bayes, who speak their minds.
It’s the last four minutes or so of the debate — from 54.25 to be exact — that contain the apocalyptic reference to Chernobyl that caught my attention:
At 54.25, candidate Walt Bayes (the “curmudgeon”) begins his closing statement. Earlier in the debate he had made it clear that
You remember Chernobyl where the Russians had a little problem with their atomic energy? Chernobyl, when you translate that into English it comes out Wormwood. Wormwood is mentioned in the Bible a whole lot where your studying these Last Days, and it’s radiation.
and then after a brief discussion of potassium iodide, Fukushima, and US nuclear power plants, he closes on the words:
and my Bible says it’s going to get worse and worse and worse! We’d better get some
Our curmudgeon is correct, BTW, insofar as it’s true that the Ukrainian word Chernobyl corresponds to English Wormwood.
Michael J. Christensen presented a paper on The Russian Idea Of Apocalypse: Nikolai Berdyaev’s Theory Of Russian Cultural Apocalyptic at one o the Center for Millennial Studies conferences which I attended. I’m quoting his paper in the extracts which follow here.
Revelation 8. 10-11 reads:
Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it was made bitter.
The Orthodox Study Bible comments:
Wormwood (in Slavonic, “Chernobyl”), an extremely bitter plant that would make water undrinkable, symbolizes the bitter fruits of idolatry…
The association of the Chernoby the place with Chernobyl the devastating apocalyptic star has history to it:
Chernobyl is first mentioned in twelfth century manuscripts as a settlement near the River Pripyat in Lithuania (later Poland and Ukraine), and was settled by an apocalyptic sect of Old Believers in 1775, under the headship of one Illarian Petrov. The “Chernobylites” preached the arrival of the Antichrist and the imminent end of the world. Whether they migrated to Chernobyl because they believed the end centered around that town, we do not know. Illarian Petrov, according to Russian journalist, Andrey Illesh, “bore the rather strange nickname ‘Cows Legs’ and was known for his extreme fanaticism.” The Chernobylites were persecuted because they “refused to pray for the tsar, acknowledge passports, forbade military service and oaths, and behaved in a contrary manner.” At the end of the nineteenth century (when the end did notcome), the sect emigrated to Austria.
In the refectory of Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos, there is a fresco illustrating the falling Wormwood star. During the 1950′s, the monks interpreted the Wormwood prophecy in terms of a [sic] atomic bombs
Then the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 happened, and was interpretetd…
On a widespread and popular level in Ukraine and Belarus, according to documentary evidence, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is considered “an act of God” and assigned religious significance. Chernobyl is interpreted as prophetic (fatalistic or predictive) and apocalyptic (cataclysmic or revelatory) in harmony with a long, popular tradition of Russian apocalyptic.
During my initial visits to the Chernobyl region in 1990-91, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of Chernobyl, I often would ask Belarusians: “Do you have a religious opinion about Chernobyl?” They typically answered “yes,” and proceeded to rehearse the long history of suffering in Belarus. Frequently, they would cite the “Wormwood star” in the writings of Nostradamus and in the Bible as referring specifically to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
And the results?:
Applying Berdyaev’s Russian apocalyptic eschatology to the Chernobyl Prophecy in Revelation 8:10-11, it can be argued that the Chernobyl catastrophe of 26 April 1986 was a decisive apocalyptic event in the history of Rus, marking the end of an age. It fueled the reformist policies of glasnost and perestroika, broke the back of Communism. It serves an eschatological marker for the end of the Soviet Union, the end of the modern age of the “peaceful atom” and fail-safe technology, as well as the beginning of a postmodern age in the newly independent states.
Regardless of authorial intent and historical-critical interpretations of Revelation 8:10-11, the Chernobyl prophecy is understood widely, in the context of post-Soviet Ukraine and Belarus as pre-ordained and prophetically fulfilled, presenting a fascinating case study of Russian apocalyptic eschatology.
From Richard Landes, ed., Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, p. 133:
In the aftermath of Chernobyl, popular calendars in Minsk and Kiev distinguished the years before and after Chernobyl. Digital clocks in Belarus continued to flash the current time, temperature, and radiation level. Citizens remembered their former life and anticipated future sufferings. The passing of time had not changed apocalyptic consciousness as much as it changed the meaning of the End for different segments of the population. In striking apocalyptic language, Russian journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya writes how Chernobyl has changed the course of personal histories, national history, and perhaps even sacred history:
…this ancient wonderland, this forest, these fields and meadows, our whole lives…from now on life on earth would not only be divided into epochs and eras, civilizations, religions and political systems, but also into “before” and “after” Chernobyl. The earth would never be the same as it had been before 26 April 1986 at twenty-four minutes past one….
I can’t really leave the debated without a quick tip’o’the hat to the biker, Harley Brown, one of whose central concerns on behalf of his fellow Idahoans is “getting our lands back from the Feds”. He explained:
The key is getting our lands back from the Feds … Here’s my plan of attack. You go in there, and your use spiritual warfare. Everybody talks about the natural, but this other realm … you bind the evil spirits that are behind the fights with the blood of Jesus, the name of Jesus, and the power of [??] of the Holy Spirit, the power of agreement, the word of God. Take air superiority and then go in with your tanks… blitzkrieg.
To which the reporter who had questioned him responded, “The question was about taxes.”
Spiritual warfare? That’s the territory of C Peter Wagner and his New Apostolic Reformation, featuring Rick Joyner and Gen. Jerry Boykin among others — and including such views at that Japan is under demonic influence because the emperor slept with the Goddess Amaterasu-?mikami at his coronation…
And for the record, the particular talk of spiritual warfare at the Idaho debate comes from a proud biker who has also been a Navy SeaBee, a long haul trucker — and a taxi driver, who also says:
I’ve picked up my fair share of the gay community. And they have true love for one another. I’m telling you, they love each other more than I love my motorcycle.
Consider me amazed!
And Harley Brown is both “reach for the stars” and humble with it. Reaching for the stars…
I said, God, how about putting me back on active duty and making me a battalion commander? Long story short he says, “No son, I got a higher rank for you, I’m gonna make you the commander-in-chief.” And I staggered not at his promise….
After God told me he was gonna make me president, I went out and got the presidential seal tattooed right here on my shoulder, my morale went from negative-500 to off the scale, and I started a presidential campaign right there. [ … ]
For three years I had the credibility of Chicken Little, you know, the sky is falling? And finally, one time, one day, this bishop from Africa comes over and he says, “I am a prophet of the most high God, and in that office I here authenticate that God told you that.”
I says, “Yeah? You mind putting that in writing? He said, “Sure.” And he put it in writing, and I’ve got the original at home. And I was able to go up to all my detractors and say, “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.”
That’s more than a touch apocalyptic too, to be frank. But fortunately, Brown is also humble…
I need practice! Practice! I don’t wanna say stuff [when I'm president] like, “Sorry if our bombing caused you any inconvenience.” So I wanna work in the Little Leagues as a governor.
A “cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker, or a normal guy” — these were the candidates for Governor of Idaho in the debate.
Idaho has a $2.78 billion budget for fiscal 2014.