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Words, July 10

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Fab Four:

“Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, identified what he called the ‘four modern horses of the apocalypse' and challenged messengers to make personal commitments to bring revival to America. … He identified the four modern horsemen of the apocalypse as denial of the sanctity of human life, the rise and deluge of hardcore Internet pornography, the radical homosexual agenda and its attempt to undermine marriage, and radical Islamic jihadism.”

Apparently Mr. Land referred to “horses,” and a reporter at the Southern Baptist Convention made it “horsemen,” but that's a minor point. Both horsemen and the horses they rode in on are mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The Whore of Babylon is in there too, but apparently afoot.

I don't go into Revelation without an interpreter — the Random House Unabridged, in this case. The dictionary says that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are “four riders on white, red, black and pale horses symbolizing pestilence, war, famine and death, respectively.” Not somebody you'd want to hang out with, for sure.

Mr. Land is not the first to attempt to modernize the horsemen. In 1924, a famously florid sportswriter named Grantland Rice wrote a memorable account of a football game between Army and Notre Dame:

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice … ”

A publicist took pictures of Stuhldreher et al on horseback, and for a time, the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame were almost as famous as the originals.

I remember a movie in the early ‘60s — a remake of an older, silent movie — in which the four horsemen were shown galloping across the sky. (The apocalyptic four, not the Notre Dame backfield.) A ‘60s audience wouldn't buy it. Maybe Mr. Land will have more luck with his version.

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