Gingrich’s Apocalyptic Fantasies, Again

The Times has a piece about Newt Gingrich’s boasts that he is the only candidate prepared “to confront one of the most nightmarish of doomsday scenarios: a nuclear blast high above the United States that would instantly throw the nation into a dark age.” Such a blast, Gingrich insists, could be caused by an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.

Just like Gingrich’s ahistoricism on church-state separation, which is based on myth-making rather than history, his penchant for apocalyptic scenarios also has a basis in religiously-motivated conspiracy theories, rather than the science of weapons of mass destruction. 

While based in part on religion, Gingrich’s apocalyptic fantasies know no denominational bounds. Back in March, Gingrich, a Catholic, paid a visit to the church of John Hagee, a non-denominational charismatic preacher who himself has pushed Armageddon fantasies, including the EMP, as the basis for U.S. foreign policy. The instigator of a Congressionally-authorized Commission to study EMP is Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican and Seventh-Day Adventist profiled in the denomination’s magazine Spectrum for his role in a survivalist documentary in which he “shares his fear of impending threats to America and advocates that people move out of urban areas.” And even though the EMP is nothing more than sci-fi fantasy, according to experts, Bartlett’s theories about about it are promoted by Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Frank Gaffney, and other neoconservatives. 

As the Times piece notes, “while the message may play well to hawkish audiences, who might warm to the candidate’s suggestion that the United States engage in pre-emptive military strikes against Iran and North Korea, many nuclear experts dismiss the threat. America’s current missile defense system would thwart such an attack, these experts say, and the nations in question are at the kindergarten stage of developing nuclear arms.” It’s not just hawkish audiences Gingrich is aiming for, though; he knows there’s a slice of his religious audience that reacts to hearing from a self-styled prophet of doom and salvation.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email