The probability of apocalypse soon cannot be realistically estimated, but it is surely too high for any sane person to contemplate with equanimity. —Noam Chomsky
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth [made] of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” —Revelation 6:12-17 NASB
My late father, the preacher, held certain views of the Bible more because of tradition than actual academic understanding of scripture. One of those views was that there is a coming apocalypse from which Christians would be spared by the second-coming of Christ. That, in a nutshell, is the essence of a pre-millennial view. Popa likely held that viewpoint because when he was growing up and going to school in rural Arkansas there was no other viewpoint. It would not be until many years later that he would even be exposed to alternative theologies and when, as an adult, I first approached him with the concept of amillennialism, that there was neither a second coming nor a god-appointed apocalypse, he considered such a thing unbiblical.
Regardless of one’s millennial approach, the universal opinion was always that the apocalypse was bad. That whole thing about hiding in caves and begging to be caught in an avalanche doesn’t need a lot of translation. Regardless of its literal or metaphoric details, an apocalypse was something to be avoided. Worse than any war we have ever experienced, an apocalypse would leave few alive and those few would rather be dead.
Christianity isn’t the only major religion to have an apocalyptic scenario in their cannon. Islam teaches that Isa will return and be accompanied by Mahdi to destroy Christian innovation and convert the world to Islam. Listen carefully and you’ll hear Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak often of the return of Mahdi. Ancient Mayans had an apocalyptic tale as well, though theirs may have come true with the arrival of Cortez on the continent. No matter where one finds such prognostication, the end results are always the same: nearly everyone dies.
When I look at contemporary society, though, the way it has transitioned over the past five years, it seems that we have gone from fearing an apocalypse to actually wanting one to happen. As evidence, let me offer the popularity of the movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, which won six Oscars. It wasn’t all that long ago that such tales were seen as cautionary, a warning to avoid such calamity. With this movie, though, the dangers of the apocalypse and its social fallout are preferable to a tyrannical government. Audiences cheer on those who cause chaos against a status quo in which they feel they have no control.
We would be short-sighted, however, if we blamed everything on government or expected a presidential candidate to have any hope of adequately addressing our situation. Government, like it or not, is a reflection of the people it represents. If there is corruption it is because we, as a collective society, are corrupt. If the government behaves immorally it is only because we have given it permission to do so on our behalf. We cannot blame government for our ills when we are the government.
There was a new article posted to Psychology Today this morning warns against the dangerous lack of empathy in our society. Attorney David Niose makes an interesting observation:
It’s noteworthy, and undeniable, that two antonyms of empathy—disdain and indifference—have become cornerstones of American politics. When outsiders are routinely reviled, targeted for blame by an impulsive population that isn’t capable of rational thought, bad things can happen. Add doses of anti-intellectualism, nationalism, and militarism to the mix, and you have a formula for disaster. Just ask Germany.
The reference to Germany and, by extension, the crimes of World War II are troubling. Granted, we’ve heard such mean-spirited diatribe in political circles during every election cycle of the past two decades. I find it interesting that the further we get away from having leadership that actually remembers and participated in that horrible war, barely preventing an apocalypse of our own doing, the more willing we are to accuse those who disagree with us of harboring the same sentiments as war criminals. Still, yanking the conversation out of the political realm for a moment, Mr. Noise’s observations regarding the lack of empathy are accurate. Without empathy, we are far too eager to destroy our fellow man and we are less likely to care by what means we do so.
I once laughed out loud at the religious fear tactic that one needed to “get right with God” because the apocalypse is surely coming and the Anti-Christ is sure among us and all those who don’t believe are going to DIE or wish they could. Not only did I not believe in an apocalyptic event forecasted by a crazy man on an island some 1900 years ago, but I couldn’t believe that society would collapse to such a point as to allow it. I was young. I was naïve.
Now, I’m scared. Religious extremists have shifted from wanting to avoid apocalypse to embracing it. Those disenchanted on both ends of the political spectrum no longer believe a solution can be found within the system and are willing to scrap everything and start over with whatever remnant survives. Marginalized populations made economic slaves by the greed of corporate demagogues stand ready to blow up factories and sacrifice their fellow workers in order to make their voice heard.
Those wishing for the apocalypse are almost certainly those who understand the consequences the least. Real life is not like the movies. Charlize Theron, as beautiful as she is, is not going to save anyone. When the apocalypse comes, the majority of us will vanish in a flash and it won’t be because some demi-god suddenly returned but because nuclear annihilation is a real thing. The only thing good to come of an apocalypse is that the overpopulation problem will be solved.
I dislike any policy or authority based on fear, but the pressing threat of apocalypse should cause us all to be very frightened, consider very carefully for whom we vote, and think more empathetically about those around us. If we don’t all thrive together, we shall surely die together.
Boom. Flash. Bye.