SERIES DRAWS CHRISTIAN FIRE
By DON KAPLAN
NBC's new miniseries, "Revelations," is giving The Apocalypse a bad name.
So says a prominent biblical scholar who hasn't seen the show — but knows he won't like it when he does.
"The unfortunate thing about this is that the lines between fact, fiction, theology and superstition are well and truly blurred now," says Frederick Schmidt, an Oxford-educated Episcopal priest and biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University.
"In the process [NBC] will deepen mistaken impressions about the book [of Revelation] and about Christianity."
The dark, six-episode miniseries, a portrayal of the so-called "End of Days," is soaked with special effects miracles, comatose children speaking in Latin and other biblical symbolism.
According to Schmidt, fundamentalists have hijacked the New Testament Revelation as a literal prediction of how the world ends rather than a poetic interpretation of the harsh experiences of the early Christians.
That idea is behind the highly successful, fundamentalist "Left Behind" phenomenon — named for the wildly popular and highly controversial series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which Schmidt says the NBC miniseries is piggybacking on.
NBC officials say their show — which airs next month — has no relationship with the "Left Behind" series.
But it does use some similar material.
"The way in which they [NBC] are treating the book of Revelation and the way in which they are treating Christian imagery, the central assumptions . . . are fundamentalist readings of the book of Revelation," says Schmidt. "So I think the associations with the ['Left Behind'] series are all but inevitable."