White American Christians are the people who start all of America's wars.
They're the gun-wielders, the bomb launchers, the troop level escalators, the provocateurs, the ones wearing the largest American flag lapel pins, the ones who pray and sing the national anthem the loudest.
And they make movies portraying themselves as the persecuted underdogs who are unjustly pursued and attacked for their devotion to Jesus, Prince of Peace.
Movies are fantasy and so is this image of the poor, freedom-loving American Christian being attacked for his wholesome values; his family being terrorized because they lead such clean lives.
And this rancid motif gets the movies it deserves: Left Behind, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, Left Behind: World at War, and winner of winners, Years of the Beast.
In keeping with the tradition of Inside the Hotdog Factory reviews, this one is rife with spoilers. Tread forward at your own risk.
Like the Bible, Years of the Beast is a sterling example of atrocious storytelling.
Professor Stephen Miles is a secular instructor at a secular university teaching nothing less than Faust to his students.
Summoned to his mentor's office after class, Miles finds the brilliant, though slightly dotty, Dr. Carl Klineman packing up his office. Due to budget cuts resulting from an overarching recession that grips the world, Dr. Klineman has been canned. Moreover, the next semester has been canceled.
Dr. Klineman makes as awkward a segue way as can be made from speaking about his career's demise to his religiosity. Oh, he knows the young, progressive, liberal Dr. Miles "doesn't believe" but that doesn't stop Klineman from asking him to read and offer feedback on his life's work -- a hilariously handwritten tome titled Current Events and Biblical Prophetic Literature, which looks like the work of a precocious, sci-fi obsessed teenager.
A moment later there is a clap of thunder, the lights flicker and the room shakes as a tremor moves through campus --
-- and then Dr. Klineman is gone, though his clothes lay in a pile on the floor where he'd been standing seconds before.
A very strange exit from the room, thinks Dr. Miles, for an erudite, self-described "fuddy duddy."
Being secular humanists, Dr. Miles and his wife attribute earthly, scientific reasons for the sudden tremors and disappearances of people around them.
Still, just to be safe, they flee to Mrs. Miles' father's farm.
As they make their way through the sodden city overtaken by anarchy, their car is set upon by hoodlums who proceed to spray soda pop onto the windshield, mug with scary masks in the passenger side window -- considerably upsetting Mrs. Miles in the process!
One brazen lout even puts his thumbs in his ears and waggles his finders, while making a funny face.
There is, apparently, no end to their depravity.
Although he sees that these young hooligans are in desperate need of the guiding hand of a social worker, and that of an educated, liberal thinker, Dr. Miles gets away from them and heads for the safety of rural environs.
Of course, the world is too much with the Miles couple -- they eventually run out of gas. Mrs. Miles, in complete contravention of her husband's myriad rules, is found to have abused her privilege of using the household automobile by using the last of the gas in the spare gas can in the trunk of the car and not refilling it! See where that gets her!
Stuck in the dark on a lonely country road where moonshiners, aficionados of bestiality, Communists, hippies and gawd knows who else dwells.
A truck comes along and Dr. Miles flags it down. By gosh, it's Mrs. Miles's father's pickup truck! It doesn't run on gas, but is fueled by the salt of the earth.
The truck is driven by spunky young free spirit, Gary Reed. He's all too happy to give the Miles couple a ride.
But thoughts of a joyous reunion between father and daughter are quickly dashed. There's dinner on the table, a wrist watch and wedding ring on the table on one side of a full dinner plate, and an empty set of overalls and checkered shirt in the chair.
If any secular humanist needed more proof that the Rapture had occurred ... more proof is offered. If there is one thing Christianity in the movies is all about, it's solid, irrefutable, see-it-with-your-own-eyes proof.
The Miles couple runs outside with Gary to the site of Mrs. Miles's mother's grave. To everyone's astonishment, it's been breached and all that remains in the gaping coffin at the bottom of the hole is a set of empty funeral clothes.
Time for the secular liberal humanists to face facts -- Jesus is coming!
But not before the Anti Christ does.
World events move quickly and before atheistic Communist Dr. Stephen Miles can say "Eugene Debs," there is a one-world leader in place who has cut through the world's bureaucracy and appears communicate directly with local law enforcement the globe over.
The pudgy, pugnacious sheriff in the town near the farm the Miles couple and Gary have fled to quickly becomes a power unto himself, going from farm to farm busting families for hoarding food, taking away their guns. When outraged, gawd-fearing, rural, salt of the earth American people sass his Badgeship, he assassinates them in cold blood.
The sheriff makes the out of control youths who fell upon Dr. Miles car as he and his wife fled the city look like school children when his pure evil is compared to their rakish pranks.
O, the story -- such as it is -- rolls on. Christianity is, of course, outlawed. A new economic model is brought in, which requires all citizens to register for a world census and receive the Mark of the Beast, either on their foreheads or right hands.
At the same time, Dr. Miles finally sits down to read Dr. Klineman's magnum opus, Current Events and Biblical Prophetic Literature. And not a moment too soon, because it explains everything! Before long, Dr. Miles is a believer.
The snails fall from his eyes!
Outrage compounds outrage and the lines of morality become blurred when even some of the remaining, renegade Christians propose that receiving a physical mark doesn't change what's in their hearts. After all, they merely want the mark so they can buy toilet paper and Pringles potato chips.
Interspersed with the heavy theological dialogues, laden with "Yea" and "Thou", are freaky meteorological arrays, as the Anti Christ increases in power.
At one point, it literally appears as though Jesus Christ has forsaken the earth. I shit you not! As unexpected, unjust death is piled upon unexpected, unjust death, it looks like the axle is going to fall right out of the whole fucking thing.
There is nuclear war. Dr. Miles is even shot in the back by the cowardly, evil sheriff -- though Dr. Miles' new found piety sees him through.
And just like the end credits, Jesus can't appear in this movie too soon.
When the Archie comic light show fills the sky, the evil, cowardly sheriff is on hand to take one more shot at Dr. Miles and his dwindling band of faithful -- who manage to spontaneously break into song in the closing minutes.
Dr. Miles is shot, and then the cowardly and evil sheriff actually points his rifle into the sky as though to assassinate Jesus as he assassinated the Dobs family when he took away their baked beans and Bounty paper towel!
Unfortunately, the screen merely fills with the third rate nightclub light show. We don't actually see Jesus. Which makes sense because Jesus would require Santa Claus-styled quantum physics in order to appear to all (few) remaining Christians at the same time all over the earth. That is, unless, Jesus simply favored white Christian Americans more than the rest, which is entirely possible.
When the DVD version of Years of the Beast is released, as it inevitably will be, I hope there is an alternate ending in which the face of Ronald Reagan crests the mountain when all the Jesus-light takes over. And it'd be awesome to have the commentary for the film done by Ted Haggard. Nobody knows about second coming like he does.
Watch Years of the Beast and feel the burn.