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July 4, 2012

Hell’s Fire, the Air Force Stealth Chapel, and a More Cosmic Evil

When I first saw this photograph, I thought it might be an illustration for the next Left Behind novel, or I thought it might be a painting commissioned by the Mormon church for its outreach literature, apocalypse edition. What we’re seeing though is a rather brilliant photograph, taken by Carol Lawrence at Reuters, of Colorado’s wildfires closing in on the Air Force Academy campus in Colorado Springs, CO. Fictional or not, if you’re looking for a visual representation of the End of Days, this image is as good as any.

Given that Colorado Springs is home to both the AFA and a thriving community of politically active evangelical Christians, you’d think this would be the last place where an apocalyptic fire would rain down from heaven. What’s especially striking about this photograph, then, is how much it conjures up fears about a God that is angry at the way the U.S. military so brazenly fuses religion and war. The Stealth bomber-inspired archtecture of the AFA Cadet Chapel puts a fine point on the divine authorization of projecting state power, so much that it’s not clear what, exactly, is the object of worship on the AFA campus. If the wrath of God descends on Colorado Springs, the very nexus of religion and war in the U.S., we might wonder: to whom, or to what, can AFA cadets turn for protection, especially when the purest symbols of power are threatened by a more primal kind of evil.

– Phil Perdue

(photo: Carol Lawrence/Reuters)

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