Lord RayEl Is an Internet Deity Who Demands Worship
The Armageddon preacher is part cult leader, part content producer.
Not Lord RayEl. Image: Shutterstock
"There is no defence for what is coming. Your armies will die. Your navies seek. Your aerial forces will crash and burn. Your siege walls, your ramparts, will fall as if constructed from ether..."
A video posted by Lord RayEl plays like a trailer for an action film, heralding hellfire and apocalypse. Death, warfare, and catastrophe are illustrated with stock video footage and a decoupage of borrowed news clippings. Lettering appears on title cards, then cuts to a picture of a man with long brown hair wearing heavy white robes, the same man who is narrating the video. His eyes are serious. His hair is long. His accent is English, but dubious.
This is Lord RayEl, who declares war on disbelievers. He warns, "Those who take up arms against us will burn for their transgressions… "
Where to begin with Lord RayEl? That, by his own account, he arrived on Earth via a spaceship flown over Jerusalem? That his uneven English accent might possibly be fake (think BBC received pronounciation crossed with moustachio-twirling stage villain, crossed with Keanu Reeves in Dracula)? That he's not actually a Lord, and was born with the name Raymond Elwood Howard-Lear? That, with minimal effort, you can find evidence of his being wanted by the Department of Corrections as a "delinquent" in Indiana"?
Or that he is the second coming of Jesus Christ, an internet deity disseminating his message of reckoning through YouTube, Twitter, and a Facebook group called the International Congregation of Lord RayEl?
You can accept him as your God by following, Liking, or subscribing. His official website simply announces "THE MESSIAH HAS ARRIVED."
YouTube videos are key to Lord RayEl's ascent; consuming them is his preferred form of worship
Lord RayEl is a lot like General Zod from Superman: Both demand submission from their followers, and both speak in absolutist and vengeful terms, in accents mimicking British aristocracy. In videos and on his website, he is referred to as RayEl, Ray-El, and Ra-el (it's not explained, but I suspect this latter one is because the "RayEl" URL was already taken). His teachings can be summarized as Christian love (difficult to argue with) and a need to pay tithes to Lord RayEl (easier to argue with), along with an intractable loathing for business magnate George Soros (RayEl would like you to believe that Soros is the Antichrist and "puppet master of the new world order").
To enter the world of Lord RayEl is to plunge headlong into the strangest enclaves of the internet, the fevered and fanatical, the blogs nobody reads and the videos nobody watches—sites with names like "NewProphecy.net," "Armageddon Broadcast Network," and "Mystery of the Iniquity." You will sift through profiles bearing the same dodgy Photoshop composite picture, softly focused and superimposed on creamy white, indicating membership of the "Ecumenical Order of Christ"—I gather that RayEl rewards his followers with these pictures after they sign up.
RayEl has built up a following on Twitter (7,000+ followers) and Facebook (a congregation approaching 8,000). Evidently, many have heard the call—or are following for entertainment value. He has aligned himself with cultural entities as diverse as Wikileaks (Julian Assange predicted RayEl, apparently, via Wikileaks codes), NFL players (RayEl famously converted a young football player, Adam Muema, shortly after he sustained a traumatic brain injury) and—as with all false idols worth their salt—the Illuminati.
Lord RayEl indicates no endgame apart from apocalypse. He instills fear in his followers by taking credit for meteorological phenomena, with cries of "Armageddon armageddon armageddon!" and claims to inspire solar flares, mysterious sounds, and plagues of volcanic ash which rain upon sinners. In one video, he also claims to have had something to do with the Arab Spring. He is not too proud to ask for retweets, saying "Spread the videos virally, and stop being stupid. And get into one of his churches, now."
YouTube videos are key to Lord RayEl's ascent; consuming them is his preferred form of worship. He is a deity as content creator, churning them out on zero budget to a predetermined formula. Watching them, you are told over and over again that you are wrong, and now you must beg your laptop screen for redemption. They begin with admonishment: We, the viewers, have sinned. RayEl's standard tone is one of exasperation: How he has tried, but we refused to listen. And now a plague of volcanic ash is his only option.
Vengeance is also a common trope–video titles include "You Were Warned," "Anger," and "Lord Rayel vs Antichrist Obama Armageddon Begins." Almost always, the comments are disabled. You could sit contemplating these videos for hours; I have made this convenient Lord RayEl playlist, should you decide to.
The RayEl aesthetic is slipshod and memeable: he might just be the first vaporwave deity. He favours drums and heavenly choirs, echo effects, and fevered rhetoric. There are grainy clips from what might be the 2014 biblical epic Son of God. There are threats to "revoke" videos from YouTube if RayEl is displeased. There's mention of Torah codes, again and again.
I sent some of RayEl's Torah codes to journalist Rebecca Griffin, who speaks and reads Hebrew. She told me his grasp of the language is dubious. "He appears to be really fishing, I mean he's putting together words on his own," she said. "What I personally find hysterical is that what he translated as 'truism' actually means 'I will kill.' The root of truth in Hebrew is אמת. Dead = מת, the א is a future tense prefix, the י is part of the verb. So, yeah, he's making it up."
"As long as natural disasters keep happening, he'll always have 'proof' that he's making them happen."
I first heard about Lord RayEl on an episode of the Last Podcast on the Left, which you should definitely listen to if you are into weird and creepy things. I asked Marcus Parks, one of its hosts, if they'd experienced any backlash from RayEl's followers.
"It actually got a little weird when a few of them showed up to one of our monthly live shows," he said. "There were about four of them, and when I said 'hi' you would have thought they were being greeted by the Devil himself. They sat in the back row, didn't laugh a single time, and when we jokingly asked who in the audience was a disciple of Lord RayEl their hands shot up. As soon as the show was done, they left as soon as they could."
Parks was allowed to join the RayEl Facebook congregation, and even joined the RayEl Baja group, an elite RayEl corps of followers who made a pilgrimage to a sanctuary in California, Mexico. It's here that Lord RayEl takes on the aspect of a more traditional—and sinister—cult leader, though Parks doubts there's much to be concerned about.
"I don't think we're looking at a Jonestown," he said. "It's more like Aum Shinrikyo without any of the intelligence or imagination. Raymond Lear is a scam artist who settled into a niche that very few people are capable of... As long as natural disasters keep happening, he'll always have 'proof' that he's making them happen. My personal favorite is when he claimed he sent the tornadoes to Joplin, MO in 2011 because people made fun of him in YouTube comments."
Still, RayEl's are moving further afield: the Baja was intended—according to slightly dubious sources—as a "temporary refuge" before another pilgrimage. A follower I tracked down on Twitter to request an interview with replied, "I'm a bit busy at the moment sister as will be making my way to Israel so sorry dear."
Who would accept an avatar as a god, and search for salvation on the internet? In a sense, Lord RayEl is applying the logic of online marketing to the business of faith. Really, this makes perfect sense: Who on the internet does not already feel lost, and lonely, and maybe a little guilty of moral turpitude?
Does Lord RayEl believe in himself? In this volatile economic climate, what made "deity" appeal as a career choice? I wanted so badly for Lord RayEl to reply to my emails so that I could ask, but he never did. It seems he has other business to tend to. Online gods make their own importance.
You'd need to be lurking in YouTube's weirder corners even to have found Lord RayEl in the first place, vulnerable to his apocalypse threats and tithes. At least it costs nothing to follow him, to join his Facebook congregation or watch his YouTube videos. Just don't leave any mean comments. We don't want another tornado.