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The end is nigh

by
02 November 2006

ARE YOU ready for the Rapture? Tony Robinson was a first-rate guide tThe Doomsday Code (Channel 4, Saturday), exploring the alarming worlof those who believe this bizarre reading of the book of Revelation. Ifollowed on from last week's blockbuster about fundamentalists, but was perhaps because of its tighter focus on only one religion - far morsatisfactory TV.

The truly worrying things about the phenomenon are, first, that the "onreligion" is supposed to be ours, Christianity; and, second, that the "alarminworld" is also ours. Tony Robinson's investigation made it absolutely cleathat this literal application of Revelation to contemporary events is not thharmless idiosyncrasy of an obscure sect: these doctrines have serioupolitical clout in the United States, and actually affect the superpower'foreign policy - for no US politician can afford to ignore the huge Evangelicablock-vote. And exported to countries such as Uganda (where Doomsdayism habeen espoused by its President), the concepts have a devastating effect.

Teaching that prayer and conversion is the only thing that will ensure youeternal salvation, and that Judgement Day is just around the corner, means thachildren give up college and farmers don't bother to plant crops. To fanaticaUS end-timers, global warming and the conflict in the Middle East are seen aGood Things: because they are all foretold in Revelation, and they are all parof God's plan, they must be hastened, not reversed.

Mr Robinson heard from liberal academics how originally the book oRevelation barely belonged within the scriptural canon, and how its apocalyptisymbolism clearly refers to Nero's persecution of the Early Church - not to twmillennia later. Perhaps cleverly, Mr Robinson didn't base the programme'rejection of Doomsday on these intellectuals, but on his own common sense. ThUS Evangelicals whom I know are the most generous and self-giving people. Whdo their Churches espouse such hateful doctrines, so greatly at variance witthe person of Christ?

We could always sort ourselves out by going on a spiritual quest. ITVfacilitated two actresses' mystical aspirations in Zoe Lucker and SaraBarrand's Date with the Dalai (Tuesday of last week).

The hopeless title gives it all away. The crucial thing that excited thprogrammers is that both actresses have lead parts in Footballers' Wives. Hocould they be interested in religion? The director tried his best to make theconform to a stereotype, constantly placing them in inappropriate situations athey travelled around India, and trying to make them look stupid. The womewere far more genuine and mature than the programme wanted them to be.

Blackbeard (BBC1, Sunday of last week and this week) provided aastringent antidote to evensong. A hybrid kind of docu-romp, the narration tolus the story of the historic pirates of the Caribbean, while the two programmeacted out the life and death of the real Blackbeard, Edward Teach. It had aintelligent and authentic script, superb and accurate costumes, and brilliancamerawork. The violence and brutality were not glossed over; Teach wapresented sympathetically, but was not romanticised.
 

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