Hollywood, news and the destruction of America in prophecy

Marko Joensuu         No comments
Hollywood likes to blow up, flood and quake the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., not least, as it keeps the special effects industry in full employment.

Similarly, many prophecies circulating in the charismatic world like to tell about the destruction of these parts of America in near future. What is striking is that Hollywood and the prophets' visions of the destruction are very similar, if not identical; it is only reasons for the destruction that are different. Whereas the prophecies see God's judgment of the liberal America as the reason behind the destruction, Hollywood usually puts it down either to aliens or natural disasters

Nevertheless, it is time to ask, whether many of these prophecies might be the result of our overexposure to the visual landscapes of destruction offered to us by Hollywood, rather than God speaking to us.

Disaster movies

Whether you like movies like I do, or not, you would have seen a flood of fictional but real-looking images of the East or West Coast's destruction. I just saw San Andreas (2015), a disaster movie in which a massive earthquake hits California. Rather interestingly, a seismologist in the movie tells everyone to leave California, much like many of the prophets are exhorting every Christian to leave the West Coast.

But the East Coast is faring no better in movies. For example, in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), New York is flooded by a tsunami. 

There are a legion of these kind of movies. Ranker.com lists 392 movies in its list of “The Greatest Disaster Movies of All Time”.  A film puff lists 271 disaster movies he has seen. That's a lot of movies but not even nearly all of them. And in the majority of them, America is the number one target of destruction.

In movies and TV, the East and West Coast have been destroyed hundreds if not thousands of times. And it seems paradoxical to me that when the prophets who declare that cities such as Los Angeles and New York—centres of audiovisual entertainment—will be destroyed because of their evil, these centres of ‘evil’ “prophesy” the identical message.

Could Hollywood and the prophets declaring its destruction be in agreement? Is this the Spirit of God? I posit that there is much simpler explanation that reflects on how much the prevailing media culture is really affecting our visionary experiences.

Lost in hyperreality 

To me, much of this kind of prophecy is fuelled by the flood of audiovisual material from Hollywood, TV and gaming industry. This is because our brain processes fictional audiovisual material in an identical way than real audiovisual stimuli. Our rational mind might tell there is a difference, but for the automatic processes of our brain dealing with sight, there is no distinction.

And with the CGI improving year after year, it is only going to get worse. The visual sense of realism in some of the computer games out there blows my mind, and this experience is becoming more and more immersive.

According to media theorists, we live in a media-saturated world where media shapes the way we perceive reality. This complex intertwining of an event and its mediated representation is called hyperreality, and often it blurs the line between fact and fiction.

The rarely asked question in the prophetic movement today is how all this sensory overflow affects our prophetic gift, visions and dreaming. I do believe that God gives us visions and dream, but not every dream and vision comes from God.

Am I the only one who occasionally gets flashbacks from the movies I have seen—even when those movies had a fictional storyline? Am I the only one whose jukebox in the brain begins to play, apparently randomly, any annoying song that I have heard in the radio or supermarket? Am I the only one who sees a ‘dream sequel’ to an action film when he goes to sleep? I don't think so. 

I have seen extraordinary 'movies' at night, generated by my subconscious mind, well structured and with great storylines. But just because these dreams are startling and feel real, it doesn't mean that they are from God.

We can see the pervasive impact of hyperreality everywhere. Political strategists are the masters in manipulating us, and they spend millions in research. And increasingly, the presidential candidates are beginning to behave like screen actors. In fact, we judge how "presidential" someone is based on their screen presence. Remember George Bush posing as Tom Cruise in Top Gun? All staged. And the first black president of the TV series 24, and the many movies featuring the same must have contributed at least a bit to Obama's victory.

This hyperreality—the fictional, visual images mixed with the real visuals—affects us so deeply that sometimes real begins to feel fake, and fake feels more real than the real. 

I had been to New York thousands of times before I first visited it in 1999. I had seen it in so many ads, films and TV shows that I knew Manhattan inside out—or perhaps it had been Toronto, as this Canadian city often doubles as New York in the movies! 

I had great expectations and the real New York looked familiar, but it was a far more depressing version than the New York I knew. Even the Statue of Independence had shrunk. It looks so gigantic in the movies, and rather minuscule when you climb up the stairs to the top.

Fear spread by the news  

Today, we live in a heightened state of alertness, mainly as all bad news are now able to reach us due to the global nature of the news business. Terrible things have always happened in the world, but until the modern times, we never knew about them, as the news never reached us. In today's world the bad news reach us at Twitter-speed. When I flew from London to Rome in November in the morning of the Paris terror attacks, the news of terrorism in Paris reached me via the airport TV screens, social media, email on my phone, and so on, giving a continual, live reporting of terror. It was everywhere, although, in reality, it had affected only one city. When something bad happens in London, my parents might check out if my family is fine, but in most cases, the reality is that I know about it as much or as little as they do, as the news event is mediated to us both via TV screen.

This visual bombardment gives us an impression that the whole world is under siege. It has become impossible to run away from bad news, which we now get simultaneously from all parts of the world.

If you lived in America two hundred years ago, you would not have even heard about this attack in Paris, if it happened then.  Or the tsunami in Japan. Or the earthquake in Nepal. Or the flood in India. Or the shooting in Baltimore, not unless you lived in Baltimore.

Jesus says in Matthew 24:6,

"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."

Sometimes, I am not sure if this is a prophecy about an improved news distribution system, or about increased troubles! 

I wonder what this continual bombardment by fear does to our subconscious mind. It certainly doesn't reduce our anxiety. And anxiety always pops up in dreams.

Projecting a fearful version of the past into the future

Usually, when you look at prophecies, it is advisory to first look at the past before looking at the future.

I began to follow prophecy about the world events in the early 80s. This has given me a sense of history when it comes to prophecies in the charismatic movement, and that sense of history tells me that more often than not, charismatic prophecies merely reflect the news and current affairs rather than forecast the future.

When the news headlines change, the prophecies also adapt to reflect the changing “news-scape”. You didn’t hear a lot of prophecies about the Islamic antichrist in the 80s but with the rise of ISIS, they have become increasingly popular.

I grew up in Finland, and we had great "traditions" about the antichrist coming from the Soviet Union—until the Communist empire collapsed.

Those prophetic traditions were fuelled by the fear of our powerful neighbour and by the multitude of dreams and visions seen by the Finnish Christians about the Soviet Union, and now Russia, attacking and annexing Finland.

People—from young children to the elderly, used to see these visions and dreams. If it was a child, the evidence that it was God telling the future, was even greater! 

I even saw one of those dreams when I was a child. But I don't think it was from God.

It was all a product of fear.

As part of the Swedish empire, Finland had a long history of border warfare with Russia. 

Eventually, Finland was annexed to the Russian Empire in 1809. It would take until 1917 before Finland gained independence, as the side product of the civil war between the remnants of the Russian empire and the Communists, and Finland nearly lost it again during World War 2. 

The wounds of World War 2 are still deep. Everyone lost someone in the war. My granddad lost his leg.

It was a costly war, but many consider it to be a miracle that Finland managed to keep the Soviets out. So, Finns have enjoyed a sense of Finnish 'exceptionalism' ever since. Surely God must have preserved the independence of Finland for some great purpose, we thought and still think. And I believe He did! But this sense of exceptionalism isn't that different from the American sense of exceptionalism.

But the problem of being the Promised Land is that not just the blessings but also the curses apply. And the curse of the Promised Land is losing that land, if you are disobedient.

Hence, once in a while, someone will see a dream or a vision about the Russian invading Finland, each dream or vision validating each other and building a prophetic tradition—right or wrong, but that many dreams can't be wrong, or can they?

This belief in frightening dreams and visions is often accompanied by the interpretation of the bear in Daniel 7 as the Russian bear, that will one day devour the little Finland. 

We often project our past negative experiences into our future. Media does the same. Some years ago, I conducted a media research project that looked into how different political players and journalists reconstruct different versions of the past and project it into future, as they argue for a specific policy. 

So, if we want to scaremonger, we reconstruct a frightening past, and then we project it into future. If we want to build an argument for progress in future, we choose elements of the past that support a progressive future. It works, because somehow, most of us believe in continuity at least in some deep level of our mind. But what most readers don't realise is that telling a history is like telling any other story. It involves choices. For example, if I look at the past of Europe, I can emphasise wars or the periods of peace in between, and the resulting story will be quite different.

It is a fascinating subject, and hopefully, I will be able to do more research on it in future.

A great example of how war can affect national psyche is Japan where we can see the impact of Hiroshima in cinema everywhere—from live action to anime—as filmmakers project the past destruction of Hiroshima into apocalyptic futures. 

That is what Godzilla is. Hiroshima.

And in America, we can still see the impact of the civil war—a deep wound that still affects prophecies. And we can see how the earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906 is again and again projected into the future in disaster movies—and prophecies.

Perhaps the great quake will one day come. I don't know. But the prophecies will still be false, even if they seemed to predict something like it.

What is judgment?

Many say that all these things will happen because America must be judged. 

Many refer to Billy Graham whose wife once said, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” And Billy adopted that line.

But that's not what Jesus said. Not everything that Billy Graham said is God's Word. Yes, if you read the Bible, you will see the judgments that will one day hit the whole earth. America won't be any different. It is one nation amongst many nations, and there are many prophecies about the nations in the Bible. But if you read the New Testament, you soon realise that God's judgments work in quite a different way than Billy Graham's statement implies.

Yes, terrible things like the abortion of millions of unborn human beings is taking place in America. Like in the rest of the world.

But terrible things have taken place in America in the past. And it seems that America wasn’t judged for them—not directly. I don’t think that anything that is taking place today—apart from abortion—is worse than the systematic wipeout of the Native Americans, the slavery and the racial discrimination that was legitimised until the 60s.

Europe allowed the massacre of six million Jews by the Germans. And yet Germany has emerged from the war as the economic powerhouse of Europe. Belgium massacred millions of Africans in Congo. Yet, the judgment of this wealthy nation is still waiting. Even the Finns executed perhaps 100,000 Communists during the battle for independence. And America killed millions of the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. 

Yet, it doesn't appear to me that any of these nations has been judged the way some expect God to judge America for their sins.

Paul writes about the judgment of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."

Luke 13:1-5 says, "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.'”

This is Jesus talking. It seems to me that we have become so this-worldly that we have forgotten that, one day, we will all face an eternal judgment. We are so focused on the judgments in our time that we forget that God is a lot more concerned of the eternal judgment. Because that is final. And our generation, like any other generation, will one day face this inescapable judgment. 

2 Peter 3:19 says, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

Prophets of the first drug generation

What compounds the problem is that we have raised the first generation of prophets that has come out of the drug revolution. 

I have had the privilege to mentor many young Christians with a prophetic gift, and some of them have used drugs before they became Christians. A pattern has emerged. What has struck me is that although it is effortless for these men to believe in the supernatural, all of them face far greater difficulties than I would expect when it comes to discerning the source of revelation. 

Put simply, they see many great dreams and visions, but they find it difficult to discern which ones are from God.

Drugs influence the neural patterns of our brain, and some of this impact appears permanent, lasting even after the drug use has stopped. It seems that drug-infused hallucinations rewire the brain to make it easier to process visionary data.

There is a reason why shamans use drugs to facilitate their trips into the “spirit world”. 

With the Jesus People Movement that came out hippie movement of the late 60s and early 70s—it mixed drugs, sex, occultism and music—we had our first generation of prophets deeply affected by the drug revolution. And today, young people are using a lot more drugs than we most realise.

Sometime ago, I sat in a meeting with a five young men who all worked in full-time ministry in churches. These were the cream of the crop. I found out that all of these five had either sold or used drugs sometime in their lives. The heavy use of cannabis and other drugs has already made a deep impact on the prophetic movement. We just haven’t realised yet how deep the drug problem is in the prophetic movement, as we haven't factored in the long-term consequences of drug use that affect former drug users.

In the times of Isaiah, the prophets had a drink problem. Isaiah 28:7-8 says, 

“And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions.”

In essence, Isaiah said that because of alcohol, these prophets saw confusing visions—which they undoubtedly believed were from God. 

And I don’t think they were necessarily drunk when they saw those visions. But drinking alcohol reduces your gift of discernment below critical level.

I’m not saying that not drinking at all is the only way to go for prophets, but Isaiah seemed to hold some strong views about it.

There was another group in Israel a bit like the prophets. They were called the Nazirites. Two famous Nazirites are the Prophet Samuel and Samson. They were not allowed to drink any alcoholic drinks, a commandment Samson broke, along many other commandments.

Numbers 6:1-8 says, "Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, 'Speak to the Israelites and say:  If a man or a woman wishes to make a vow, the Nazirite vow, to vow himself to Yahweh, he will abstain from wine and fermented liquor, he will not drink vinegar derived from one or the other, he will not drink grape juice or eat grapes, be they fresh or dried.  For the duration of his vow he will eat nothing that comes from the vine, not even juice of unripe grapes or skins of grapes.  As long as he is bond by his vow, no razor will touch his head; until the time for which he has vowed himself to Yahweh, he will not go near a corpse, he will not make himself unclean for his father or his mother, or his brother or his sister, should they die, since on his head he carries his vow to his God.  Throughout the whole of his vow he is a person consecrated to Yahweh.'" 

We can see how the prophets and the Nazirites were often grouped together in Amos 2:11-12,

"'I also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths. Is this not true, people of Israel?' declares the Lord.  'But you made the Nazirites drink wine.'"

The fact is that a prophetically gifted person shouldn’t consume alcohol excessively. And no drugs at all. Thank God, His Spirit is able to overcome our weaknesses, but we need to be aware of that. 

One of the major figures of the Jesus People Movement was Lonnie Frisbee, who made a major impact on contemporary signs and wonders movement through his influence on John Wimber.

Lonnie Frisbee said that he received his call to ministry during an LDS trip. Now, God meets people in the strangest of places, and I have no difficulties in believing that his call was genuine. 

It just shows you where the Jesus People Movement came from. The Jesus People never had any difficulties to believe in the supernatural God. Often, they applied even the difficult verses in the Bible quite literally—that's where their communes come from.

Where they had difficulties was distinguishing between which supernatural came from God, and which supernatural came from the devil. And that is why out of the Jesus People have also emerged some of the worst Christian cults.

This very much is the current state of the charismatic movement today. We have no difficulties in believing in the supernatural but we have great difficulties in the area of discernment, with many prominent leaders arguing that discernment isn't even necessary.

Now, I believe that Jesus can save and use anyone—I have cowritten a book with Rami Kivisalo who used to work with the Russian Mafia and sell drugs to large parts of Europe. 
But we must be more aware of how the former use of drugs can facilitate false visionary experiences.

It all gets mixed up in your brain

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, I paid a visit to my friend who lived in a small country house around six miles from the small town I was raised in Finland. For some reason, we decided to watch Rosemary’s Baby, a psychological horror film released in 1968. 
We watched it on TV, and by contemporary standards, the film isn’t that horrible, although I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But I was quite young.

It was late when I started to cycle home. The whole farmland was covered by dense fog. On the way, far in the right, there is an old castle. My friend had once told me a story about a murder that took place there. 

In my mind, the landscape, that normally looked safe and idyllic, was transformed into a horror film landscape, and I was sure that some evil force would fly out of the castle and kill me. 

My fear began to lift only when I was deep in the town and halfway home.

I had cycled there in the middle of the night in numerous occasions without feeling any fear, but then I was transferring the emotion of fear I had experienced in the fictional world into the real world. 

The brain makes no distinction between the simulated fear and the real fear in the way it processes them. Neither does it make any distinction between fictional imagery of America’s destruction and the real sight.

I would posit to you that much of the prophetic tradition about America’s destruction is nothing but a side product of our hyperactive media culture. And I believe that the interaction between our mind and media, and how it affects our visionary abilities demands a lot more attention. And it is time to look at the process of how prophets receive their visions and dreams a lot more critically. 

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at facebook.com/marko.joensuu or by visiting markojoensuu.com.

Published by Marko Joensuu

Marko Joensuu has worked for over sixteen years in the publishing and media ministries of Kensington Temple. He is an author, publisher and screenwriter.
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