Despite his many prophesies, Jack Van Impe has lived a nice, long life.
The accordion-playing, apocalyptic televangelist has long seen the sky falling, the end near, and you have to at least give him credit for adapting his narrative to the sweep of history. There he was in 1999 cheerfully using Y2K to scare the bejeezus out of his flock and raise some funds, with help from his brittle-boned wife, Rexella. When the first African-American President was elected, Impe was on the scene to suspiciously label Barack Obama the Antichrist because of “policy.” His reading of Muslims in this time of terror and tumult screams of Islamophobia. Well, the paranoid preacher hasn’t completely modernized: He believes Henry Kissinger and the Bilderberg Group want to implant microchips in all of us, but in reality that’s Google’s goal.
In “Trump and the End Times,” Dan Sinykin’s excellent LARB article, the writer wonders about the appeal of the prurient politician to preppers in this weird election season. In the opening, the author is astounded to learn the boogeyman of his sleepless tween years–yes, Jack Van Impe–was still among us. An excerpt:
I was astounded to learn that Jack Van Impe is still alive. When I was 12 and suffering from insomnia, in the mid-1990s, I watched Van Impe on network TV through the wee hours. I found his supernatural confidence queerly compelling. His proclamations of imminent doom for sinners invited me to look with a mix of narcissism and horror at my own sins. Even all those years ago, he looked elderly. I was sure that by now he would be dead.
As a sleepless 12 year old, I was riveted. I didn’t believe or disbelieve Van Impe. Instead, I loved the tidy ordering of the world, and the idea that with a brief prayer I could be transformed. It sounded scary, like falling in love. I was a voyeur peeping at the other side. The order, the faith, these were shields against an apocalypse that, to me, seemed like a metaphor for individual death, and I was terrified of death.
The Jack Van Impe Presents of today masquerades as a news show. Jack and his wife, Rexella, sit behind a desk and discuss the week’s “headlines.” Their headlines tend to be about Islam, including, for example, reports on ISIS’s beheadings, opinion pieces on Saudi Arabia and Sharia law, and investigations of preachers who claim that Allah and Jesus are the same God. Rexella — who is blonde and frail — editorializes with phrases of grandmotherly astonishment: “Oh my word” and “whoa boy.” She then turns to Jack for interpretation. Jack — whose website claims that his nickname is “The Walking Bible” — recites a string of verses that prove the headlines are signs of the rapture, Armageddon, and the second coming of Christ.
In the latest episode — which I found on YouTube — Rexella begins by reporting on the existence of “22 terror camps in the United States.” (The claims are baseless. She cites the conservative website WorldNetDaily, which also publicized the birther movement’s conspiracy theories about President Obama.) Jack leans toward the camera and says with venom, “The world’s in trouble. We need a strong president, a man who will stand for convictions, a man who will say, ‘You Muslims can’t do this and kill our people!’” He expresses astonishment that the United States has Muslim congressmen and condemns President Obama for “letting it happen.”•
“They’ve laid out plans to microchip all humans by 2017.”