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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)

  • BooksAlive

    Yes, a brilliant photo, and considering Colorado’s lack of snow last winter, along with this summer’s high temperatures, it strikes me that climate disruption is likely the reason that “apocalyptic fire would rain down from heaven.” The Air Force is a big user of aviation fuel and won’t be able to cut back in the manner of vehicles using natural gas or renewable-sourced electric power. The rest of us should step up by conserving and, if possible, switching to hybrid or electric cars.

  • Owen

    I’m trying to think of one thing I would change about this image if I were painting it from scratch, and I can’t think of anything.  It’s perfectly composed.

  • bystander

    What a simply spectacular shot.  It’s really one in a million for composition and “content.”

  • BallerinaX

    I had the exact same thought process when I first saw it. Even the Mormon part . . . amazing pic. looks like a fantasy digital architectural rendition. The figures are unreal and static . . . unnerving 

  • TopCathy

    It’s surreal. The juxtaposition of the warplane with the warchapel, the quality of the light, the human figures strung out in a scraggly line all combine to create an impression of the photo as scifi cover art for a cheap paperback paeon to a future in which militarism is literally worshipped. Bizarre.

  • mjfgates

    You can’t really call the Air Force Academy Chapel “stealth bomber-inspired”– it was built in 1959.

    • Phil Perdue

      Fair enough. Would “fighter jet-inspired” work? And would this change do anything to alter the Cadet Chapel as a monument to both religion and war?

  • Troutcor

    The best irony here is more obvious. The country is using 1950s-era tanker planes to fight forest fires on our own turf (and is short on those), yet sees fit to spend billions on high-tech planes (and drones) for bombing civilians abroad.
    Powerless to extinguish fires at home; well-able to set them abroad.
    Nice priorities, America!

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