Close Readings: Michele Bachmann declares End Times
Our fine furloughed friend The Cure sent me a link to this radio interview Michele Bachmann did with a show called Understanding the Times, in which she declares that we are in “God’s end times.” “Maranatha come Lord Jesus,” the Minnesota congresswoman said, “His day is at hand.” You can read a distilled version of her gibbering godspeak here. “Maranatha,” by the way, is an Aramaic expression that either means “our lord has come” or the imperative “come, lord.” It is also a brand of nut butter. Close reading of Bachmann’s particular brand of nut butter after the jump.
Here she is speaking to host Jan Markell about the President’s waiver of Arms Control Act restrictions to send gas masks and other non-lethal equipment to anti-Assad rebels in Syria:
This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me—I’m a believer in Jesus Christ—as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this: these days would be as the days of Noah.
So everybody get some animals and grow a beard. Clearly, Bachmann knows her apocalypse talk. Don’t read that quote aloud, or your dog will bark for hours. Those of us who have not spent a lot of time reading about what people who lived 2000 years ago thought the end of the world might look like need a glossary of terms, which is probably Mm-Bach’s point. Whatever the content of her disquisition might entail, the meaning is that she is big-time church people.
For the rest of us, Bachmann’s images sound like inscrutable radio code. Consider “the leaf is on the fig tree” which, in addition to bearing a comical resemblance to “the eagle has landed,” refers to the so-called fig tree prophecy that begins in Matthew 24:32. Here’s Jesus:
Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Jesus puts forth an analogy: just as the leafing of trees indicates that summer is coming, you will know that the end of the world is coming when you see a bunch of signs. As prophecies go, it’s kind of bogus. Obviously when we see the signs of the end times, they will indicate that end times are upon us. A really useful tip would be what those signs are, so that we don’t have to dig a bomb shelter every spring when the crabapples go.
Fortunately, Matthew 24 gives us all manner of historically unprecedented events that signal the end times, such as famines and nations rising against nations. That’s why the end times business is so lucrative. You can say the leaf is metaphorically on the fig tree in pretty much any situation: the fig tree is Israel, the fig tree is fad diets, whatever. Bachmann uses “the leaf is on the fig tree” as synecdoche, making it shorthand for “the signs of the end times are evident”—in this case, the US ostensibly arming terrorists.
We’re not doing that, and Bachmann is once again playing fast and loose with the truth. But more importantly: what kind of elected representative tells her constituents that we’re in the end times?
That’s the kind of thing that discourages responsible citizenship, right there.. Particularly in the context of the House’s ongoing refusal to fund the federal government, it is alarming to hear that Representative Bachmann believes we’re going to hit apocalypse any day now. It suggests she may be unconcerned with the long-term fiscal health of the United States.
Or she’s lying. You will notice that the congresswoman from Minnesota does not say “maranatha” when she is not speaking on craze-balls end times radio, and probably she trotted out this gobbledygook to impress an audience of virtually guaranteed social conservatives. Really, why wouldn’t she declare the biblical apocalypse at every opportunity? If she’s wrong, it’s not the end of the world.