My general position has always been that fiction should be exempt from the requirement to stick to facts, and therefore ancient astronaut theories, lost Atlantean civilizations, and anything else that makes for bad science can, by contrast, make for good fiction. Over time, though, I’ve started to wonder whether the permeable barrier between fact and fiction has made it more dangerous to use conspiracy theories and bad science that many in the real world believe to be true as the basis for fictitious stories. It seems that many people have a hard time separating fact from fiction, and fiction serves as a touchstone for how many understand facts. When former Florida governor Jeb Bush responded to a question about whether he would go back in time to kill baby Hitler (“Hell, yeah!”), he reached for “that Michael [J.] Fox movie,” Back to the Future, to explain his understanding of chaos theory and the Butterfly Effect as it applies to time travel.
That’s a long way around saying that ABC Family (soon to be rechristened the Freeform channel) will be debuting a new series called Shadowhunters in January, and the lead character is one of the Nephilim. The show, based on the Mortal Instruments series of novels and the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones 2013 movie, reimagines the Nephilim as a secret society of angel-human hybrids charged with hunting demons. This is, of course, very different from Jewish lore, where in the books of Enoch and Jubilees the Nephilim themselves became demons after Noah’s Flood.
With the Nephilim invading one of the TV channels with the largest teen audience, you can be sure that this will spawn new interest in the Nephilim among teens and young adults. Granted, this is only a concern because, unlike vampires or werewolves (two other teen crazes from the past half decade of young adult media), researching the Nephilim online takes one into a disturbing shadow world of conservative conspiracies and paranoia.
Speaking of Nephilim paranoia and conspiracies, one of the most rabid fans of the Nephilim has made some new pronouncements, and they are just as sad and weird as most of his previous ones. L. A. Marzulli has rarely taken any pains to hide the fact that his brand of Nephilim-inflected Christian extremism is closely tied to Christian Zionism and fanatical conservatism, but on his blog this week he has taken this to levels that expose the reactionary agenda lurking beneath Nephilim conspiracies.
In a post responding to recent ISIS-related terrorism, Marzulli embraced Republican calls for a moratorium on Syrian refugees in America and the monitoring or closure of U.S. mosques. Marzulli then ridiculed those who disagree: “What will the politically correct crowd do when we see another attack happen here, perhaps—God forbid—in one of our unprotected malls. I’m sure, like Prince Charles, they’ll blame it on climate change. Unbelievable! Are you kidding me?” (Charles argued before the Paris attacks that terrorism is an outgrowth of increased resource competition due to climate change, not that warm temperatures make Muslims violent, as Marzulli implies.)
Marzulli went on to claim that Muslims should be barred from the United States, or deported if already here, if they hail from a country that doesn’t support Israel: “Anyone coming in from a Middle Eastern country that harbors terrorism or has anti-Israel ideology shouldn’t be allowed in this country, period.” This, of course, suggests that not only does Marzulli identify people with their governments but that Marzulli prioritizes Israel above all other countries, for he doesn’t seem as concerned about anti-Western ideology or anti-American ideology; indeed, he himself has what one might read as anti-American or anti-Western views, despite his claims to be defending a type of Western civilization. In another blog post a few days later, for example, Marzulli, citing the stampeding middle and working class shoppers of Black Friday (the rich, of course, do not stampede in big-box retailers), wrote about his dislike for the poor, the young, and minorities, whom he accuses of being lawless, uncouth, violent, and greedy:
We have reached what I would consider a nadir in our culture, as there is but a very thin veneer of civility, which can erode at the slightest provocation. This is why there are police forces in every town and city throughout the U.S.A. The government knows man’s proclivity is toward violence and disorder, toward lawlessness. […] [W]e see the same lawless spirit manifest itself in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.
Now, if someone were to say the same thing about Israeli society, how much would you bet that Marzulli would immediately condemn those comments as “anti-Israel ideology” that should disqualify a person from entering Western society?
It’s particularly interesting that Marzulli specifically identifies lawlessness as “complete disregard for human life, liberty, property, or civility” and then applies it to the colonial-era British government for opposing the Founders’ complaints about tax policy and to pretty much to everyone in America except for conservative Christians for not respecting the Founders’ sage vision. It’s almost like he wants to make the U.S. Constitution the Third Testament, seeing as how only the Founding generation somehow correctly understood “the rule of law.”
What does any of this have to do with the Nephilim? Nothing directly, but certainly Marzulli sees lawlessness and disorder (however historically slight they are compared to decades and centuries past: U.S. crime remains, for example, at historic lows) as a cause for celebration, for it means that the End Times are upon us. The Nephilim are therefore a convenient mirror, a race of supermen who sinned, failed, and were punished by the Flood. They are us, in other words, but in Marzulli’s view all real Christians are Noah, and the new Nephilim—whom he in his writings seems to unconsciously equate with the enemies of conservatism: non-Israeli foreigners, the poor, liberals—will be stripped from the Earth when Christ returns, leaving a paradise of law and order.
I will close only with this observation: Marzulli wrote a chapter for one of his books about his horror at the Black Lives Matter movement following the Baltimore and Ferguson protests, and he posted about Islamic terror in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks. When Robert Lewis Dear, described by police as ranting about Obama, abortion, and “baby parts” videos, shot up a Planned Parenthood in Colorado on the same day Marzulli complained about lawless Black Friday shoppers, Marzulli was silent. When the New America Foundation found that right-wing extremists and white supremacists were responsible for more terrorist attacks in the U.S. than any other group, he said nothing. When a racist shot up a Charleston church with the intent to kill Black people, Marzulli’s first comment, which he repeated here and built upon, was that liberals planned to use the shooting as an excuse to “round up our guns” and that when white people commit shootings, it’s because they “are high on Big Pharma drugs.” In between the two versions of those comments, he expressed sympathy for the victims and then blamed the shooting on (literal) demons and teaching evolution in public schools. Regardless of your opinion on Islamic extremism, it should be clear that Marzulli is highly selective in his outrage and uses End Times and Nephilim conspiracies to justify a political rather than a religious program of action.
This gives the lie to Marzulli’s claim that “it doesn’t matter what the color of our skin is.” Perhaps that’s true, but if we take his writings at face value we would have to conclude that Marzulli instead judges us by our commitment to conservatism and our socioeconomic class.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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