A Secular View of an Apocalyptic Event :: by Don McGee

In December of 2010 The History Channel aired a docudrama, After Armageddon, a story about a family in Los Angeles trying to survive a pandemic pathogen and the resulting total breakdown of society. About 75% of the film is drama and about 25% is input and commentary from experts from various fields of study. It aired again recently, and since most people get their information about the future from such sources it is worthy of a few comments.

The acting itself left something to be desired, and the screen writers really dropped the ball a couple times regarding reality in such a situation, but a critique of the technical aspects of the film is not the purpose of this newsletter. The purpose is something of far greater importance.

What I mean is that the secular world itself understands the reality of a coming doomsday; they just refuse to believe it will happen in the biblical context. Many of the very people who are so quick to lampoon Christians and the Bible are the same people who actually believe global devastation of some kind is coming and that it will bring western culture back to a way of life not seen since the early 19th Century.

Once again, in order to not be misunderstood, we must frame this in context that the church will not be on earth during the Tribulation. At the same time, however, we must also keep in mind that the church could, indeed, see some very difficult times as the return of the Lord is prolonged.

We have no guarantee that global events will not morph into situations similar to that portrayed in the film. In addition to the pandemic portrayed, there are other events that could leave a similar result; major earthquakes, eruptions of calderas, droughts, crop pestilences, an economic crash, an Islamic nuclear/biological/chemical attack, etc.

The film centers around a particularly virulent flu strain that begins in Southeast Asia “sometime in the future”. Because of modern rapid transportation systems the disease cannot be detected quickly enough to quarantine the first victims, thus it spreads to the U.S. and around the world very quickly. In order to escape the spreading disease and the disintegration of social stability the family from Los Angeles leaves their home and heads for Idaho, which they view as some sort of safe haven.

There are several facts that must be part of any evaluation of such situations, and it is the ignoring of those facts that will lead to much suffering and death. Further, though some people are aware of these facts, some of them cannot be wholly dealt with simply because many people have little choice regarding where they live and thus have little control over the resources available to them. That is not good.

First is the fact that large groups of people will migrate in the face of present or imminent danger. Remember South Viet Nam in 1975? It was pointed out in the film’s commentary that mass migrations have never been peaceful. From disease and starvation to the thugs who loiter along the routes, there is no safety in the movement of people, especially in small groups.

It does not take long for order to breakdown and to be replaced with survival of the fittest. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath does not come close to fully portraying that kind of migration.

A second factor is that whether the cause is disease, geo-physical, etc., the sick-care system of hospitals and clinics will not be able to handle the massive influx of patients. People will die on the streets. Some are appalled by this statement and some are even insulted. That does not matter. It will happen. Related to this is the fact that sick-care providers will abandon patients in the interests of family and self.

Sounds hard but that, also, will happen. In fact, it did happen during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Further, some hospital administrations will choose to not allow infected people to enter their facilities for reasons that do not require a lot of common sense to figure out. The law will have no bearing on the matter.

After utilities and social services break down the three big causes of death will be cholera, dysentery, and famine. And that leads to a third factor: burial of the dead. Burial services will be curtailed, and when the power is out and generator fuel runs out and cannot be retrieved and/or delivered there will be few, if any, make-shift morgues.

Many of us can remember the nine-day 1968 NYC garbage strike and the 100,000 tons of refuse on the streets. The point is it was a hay-day for rats and other vermin, and it threatened the very health of the city. According to the Daily News that was the last in a series of public-service strikes that included—you guessed it— gravediggers.

This happened, though to a lesser degree than what was portrayed in the film, after Hurricane Katrina when body locations were simply marked for retrieval at a later time. Corpses lay out for days and sometimes weeks. Some were never recovered. Further, this situation will happen in Israel in the future (Ezekiel 39:11ff), so why would anyone think it can’t or won’t happen here?

Another factor has to do with security. Urban areas will have none due to the loss of food, water and power. The police cannot effectively exist in those conditions any better than the general public. Even if citizens are armed they cannot remain in their homes without water.

The rural areas will fare better with the availability of natural resources (livestock, the ownership of weapons along with the knowledge and will to use them, wild game, private water sources-think: pitcher pumps, etc.). It is then that civility will be seen for what it really is; a very, very thin veneer.

By the way, private water sources will quickly be confiscated by the government. As to how effective the government will be in actually gaining and maintaining control of those private sources is another question entirely.

Some people are preparing to “bug out” when something like this happens. They have bug-out bags, 10 gallons of gasoline stored away, some cash on hand, 3 or 4 cases of bottled water and sundry items they believe will guarantee, or assist their survival. But, many of those same people have not considered what they will do when tires go flat, gas runs out, the SUV breaks down or crashes, someone blocks the road in order to take what they have, etc.

Food and water are heavy and a person can’t carry enough to take them very far. Add to that a couple of weapons and sufficient ammo and the ease-in-movement dream fades very quickly. The fact is, if people live in urban or even suburban areas just getting out of town will be next to impossible.

The film’s expert commentators agreed that in such a situation no matter where people go it will be dangerous and many family members will die. Even if the initial disease outbreak or earthquake or whatever might be at the center of the problem subsides, major damage will have been done and people will continue to die for a long time.

To escape from a band of thugs in the morning does not guarantee that a person will not suffer a broken leg in a fall in the afternoon. Just the lack of antibiotics will contribute to debilitating and deadly infections. Feeble family members will inhibit movement. Both cover and concealment will be hard to find. Even back roads leading out of town, or to wherever will be prime targets for thugs. Cash (easy to carry) will not be as valuable as commodities (difficult to carry).

It reminds us of Amos 5:19, “As when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him.” This means that the toll taken will not only be physical, but will be emotional and psychological. Mental fatigue can be as deadly as physical.

One of the film’s greatest failures regarding reality is its treatment of weapons. The family portrayed tries to escape without a firearm(s), and when one is eventually found it is used hesitantly and with uncertainty, as if it is a liability. When something like this actually happens it will be easy to identify those who are weaponless: they will be robbed, raped and/or killed. There just simply is no delicate way to put it.

Eventually, perhaps, reality will set in and the politically-correct dream of a disarmed citizenry will not only be seen as the nightmare it is, but also as the foolish thinking of people who have no real-world experience. Pacifism might work well in non-desperate situations, but it is not worth a rip when a man has to defend and provide for his family.

Interestingly, both the secular view of what Hollywood calls an “apocalyptic” event and the genuine biblical apocalypse are being ignored. And the reason for their being ignored is that most people have never seen, much less experienced such events. Thus, people foolishly push aside such possibilities and label them as fear mongering. And that leads to an inevitable fact: many will die because they did not believe it would happen, and to aggravate the situation they will not know what to do once it does happen.

The script of the film was written in a way similar to most run-of-the-mill disaster movies. That is, at the end it all works out, even though one of the main characters dies from an infection. Still, his family survives and the concluding scene is his now-grown son standing at his father’s grave 25 years later.

The narrator says that though things have not returned to what was once “normal”, the country is recuperating and life itself is not so bad. People, he says, are living simple lives and the environment is cleaner with less industrial pollution and lessons have been learned and on and on he goes about how mankind and life will once again flourish.

The film’s secular narrator duly notes that desperate situations prompt the rise of religious fervor. The idea is that every time there is something of this magnitude “religious fanatics” (his words) come to the forefront with their firebrand preaching.

The tenor of that portion of the film seems clearly to treat any biblical response with contempt, as though none of what happened really had anything to do with God and sin and anything else spiritual.

Then, as if to punctuate the above, the narrator reminds viewers that the human race has gotten down to low numbers before, but, “we’ve always come back.” Yes, it got down to 8 people once before, but that was not mentioned. And the “coming back” was by the hand of God and not because of the strength and force of Man.

Part of the film’s objective, it seems, is to leave the viewer in awe of the tenacity and resilience of humans. It also seems to point to man’s ability to learn and apply lessons from tragic experiences. At times people can, indeed, be resilient but the truth is that to think we have learned lessons from our failures and are applying them to present and future conduct is laughable.

The narrator says that going back to a simpler way of life will cause education to be simplified and knowledge to be practical. The country will restart, but without petty jealousies and other social ills. People will be kinder toward each other, he said.

Well, hogwash is about all I can say to that. Social ills that range from petty jealousies to global warfare have nothing to do with environment but everything to do with evil hearts, and no degree of suffering in itself can take care of that problem. I point you to Revelation 9:20 and 21.
This film is a subpart of the disaster-film genre and should be interpreted in light of what God has said about how things will be in those days preceding the return of Jesus. Remember that this kind of film is the product of people who don’t even really know what Armageddon is all about, much less what will happen afterward.

The truth is that if such an event happens there will be no long-term recuperation period. The world is living in the shadow of Revelation 6 and the Four Horsemen, and it should be obvious to all that there is no retreating from the edge.

And this is what deceives the viewing public. They do not understand the Scriptures, thus when Hollywood speaks of “apocalyptic events,” “the end of the world” and “plagues of biblical proportions” they believe Hollywood, by chance, is in some kind of lock-step with the Bible’s portrayal of the end. So, they conclude, if the film ends with the world eventually being not so bad after all, then that must be what Scripture says.

They are lulled into deception by basing their belief system upon what some entertainment industry scriptwriter and motion picture film producer dishes out to them. Secular viewers of this film might know a lot about a lot of things, but they know virtually nothing about Scripture.

They believe what they want to believe. Things are easier that way, and the ending that is presented is more palatable to their secularly-refined tastes than what some Bible-thumping preacher might have to say about it.

Modern homes are being filled with various media that are appealing to the senses. The problem is that the messages they often convey have just enough biblical truth to capture the attention of Christians whose knowledge of biblical events is sufficient enough to make some kind of connection with the film, but is not thorough enough to see through the smoke screen.

Because of that, people’s spirits can become unduly disquieted, or, on the other hand can become lulled into a secular and false sense of end-times safety. Either situation can be countered by knowing the truth.

Contact Don McGee at:csm01@att.net