Apocalypse Now

Some Democrats may have lost faith that they'll be electing another president in the year 2000. But a host of evangelical novelists seem to think a liberal president in the new millennium is a near certainty. They just expect his stay in office will be a short one. And his downfall won't come by scandal, character issues, or a Republican Congress, but by the end of the world.

Such soothsaying is the currency of Christian apocalyptic novels, an increasingly popular genre of Grisham-type thrillers that serve up a heavily fictionalized version of the Book of Revelation with a strong fundamentalist slant. With millennium fever at a pitch, they're also selling millions. These thrillers have all the plot points you'd expect--floods, famine, locusts, Satan's return to earth. And one more: a liberal president.

A typical example of these apocalyptic page turners is The Illuminati, by Larry Burkett. On page one, readers are introduced to President Mark Hunt, a "radical liberal" whose pet causes include gun control, legalizing drugs, and harvesting the organs of crack babies. Along with an organization called the "National Civil Liberties Union," Hunt's liberal policies portend the Second Coming. His presidency culminates in a one-world government, Christian death camps, and nuclear war in Israel.

Not to be outdone, televangelist Pat Robertson's novel The End of the Age includes not one but three liberal presidents. Robertson quickly kills off two of them, the first in a nationally televised suicide, and the second with a cobra. Robertson's third president, Mark Beaulieu, is an "ex-campus radical" and former Peace Corps volunteer who expands big government, advocates drugs and orgies for schoolchildren, and names as attorney general a militant black feminist whose passions are abolishing the death penalty and shutting down prisons.

In The Third Millennium, Paul Meier trumps all with the subtly named Damian Gianardo. This liberal president is no mere pawn of the Antichrist--he is the Antichrist. As commander in chief, he brokers a peace between Arabs and Israel, raises taxes, and forms the requisite one-world government before engaging in the Final Battle.

In Watergate felon Charles Colson's novel Gideon's Torch, the morally corrupt President J. Whitney Griswold is a liberal disguised as a Republican. Griswold's political convictions quickly become apparent when he creates a police state to crack down on anti-abortion demonstrators. Colson's plot centers on gay activists who convince Griswold to establish "regeneration centers" where tissue from aborted fetuses is used to fight AIDS.

Taken together, these vindication fantasies seem to suggest a bold new fundamentalist eschatology. When the Rapture comes, there will be not four butfive Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Death, Famine, Pestilence, and Liberalism.