The Politics of Apocalyptic Thinking
Or, How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the End Times
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. - 2 Peter 3:10 (New Revised Standard Version)
In last week’s inaugural post, I wrote (and not for the first time) that while “you may not come from Jesus Land, USA, Jesus Land is coming for you.” That’s true in more ways than one, and one of the ways in which it’s true is that we all reap the consequences of the American Christian Right’s particular apocalypticism: literally all of us. American evangelicals and other right-wing Christians have such disproportionate power here, and the United States has such disproportionate influence on our planet, that the politics of evangelical eschatology have global ripple effects. Witness, for example, Donald Trump’s willingness as president to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly provocative and potentially destabilizing shift in the context of Middle Eastern geopolitics, all to forward the fulfillment of his evangelical base’s apocalyptic fantasies.
The theological term “eschatology” comes from the ancient Greek adjective “éskhatos,” meaning farthest, final, extreme. I don’t remember exactly when I first learned the word, but it was probably high school or later. As a child in the 1980s and 1990s, though,I didn’t have to know what eschatology meant to “know” I was growing up in “the end times.” The adults in my life told me that Jesus could come back any day now, a traumatizing message reinforced at home, at church, and in Christian school. Meanwhile, relatives dismissed my budding pro-environment sympathies—inspired, incidentally, by Ranger Rick magazine, which my maternal grandma subscribed me to—by arguing that since the world wasn’t going to last much longer anyway, there wasn’t much point to worrying about the long-term wellbeing of the Earth. After all, it was destined for destruction by fire.
This is is one of OpenAI’s DALLE-2’s interpretations of the prompt “draw a demon surrounded by flames in a burning forest.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Bugbear Dispatch to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.