Your donations enable us to create and share theologically progressive resources that nurture our faith journeys and are used in church communities around the world. If everyone reading this right now gives just $10 we would be able to continue offering these for free.

Apocalytic Visions

The words apocalypse and eschaton have been resurrected from the dustbin of theological jargon, and they both refer to what happens at the end of time. More specifically, they point to the end of life as we know it, and today that prophecy comes in two forms.

One form is the climate change created by global warming. Reports by the United Nations have described in detail the dire consequences we face as a planet if do not stop burning fossil fuels. David Wallace-Wells, in his book The Uninhabitable Planet, analyzes the impact of global warming on health, war, sea rise, sea acidification, disease, food supply, social structure- in other words, everything that contributes to life as we know it. And this he does for various temperatures above pre-industrial temperature, all the way up to the uninhabitable end line where current usage is taking us. The picture is not pretty. In fact, it is terrifying, and that terror is the propelling motivation inspiring people like Greta Thunburg and millions of others across the globe. Simply put, the message is that if we don’t stop the burning of fossil fuels, the burning will stop us. The apocalypse will have arrived. The end will be upon us. 

This projection is based on solid scientific evidence, but it is not inevitable. We can change the impending future if we change our ways, but change our ways we must.

The second apocalypticism is a heresy of Christian faith. I freely use the word heresy because the various elements in this ideology directly contradict the call for love and joy and peace and justice that forms the heart of who Jesus was and calls us to be. The basic story goes like this. There is only one true religion (Christianity) and one true revelation (the Bible). According to the usual fundamentalist line, you have to believe in Jesus to be saved. Everyone else is cast into hell. But first, and this is the real kicker, first comes the big war, the international war, the world to end all wars. Integral to the initiation of this big war is the return of Jerusalem to the Jews. Once that has happened, and moving the US embassy there implies that it some sense it already has, then the war begins, a literal war, with people dying and nations being toppled. The believers will be “raptured” directly into heaven, shoes and all, and the rest will burn.

Relating all this to American politics, although not all fundamentalists are millennials, the fact remains that 82% of so-called evangelicals voted for Trump. It had nothing to do with his being the good guy that God liked. It had to do with the belief that he was chosen by God to initiate the end times, just as God had once chosen Cyrus of Persia to do His purposes. The preposterous story line would be laughable were it not for the fact that the vast majority of “evangelicals” voted for trump, and that the book series Left Behind, a description of this war, sold over 80 million copies with tens of millions of people belonging to churches that espouse the story. To this we add, unbelievably, that 10 members of Trump’s cabinet belong to a group that believes all this, including Pence and Pompeo. The Vice President and the Secretary of State believe that not only will worldwide violence come, it must come and will come, and Trump will be the agent of that divine destruction. The infiltration of this ideology has penetrated members of congress as well as members of the military via so-called bible study groups. Pastor Robert Jeffress, who thanked God for Trump when the US embassy was moved to Jerusalem, is the same madman who referred to impeachment as initiating what could be seen as a second Civil War. Total destruction of the planet is the apocalyptic end game for these guys, and the maintenance of power to do that by any means is mandatory.

These two eschatological scenarios are not isolated from one another. For the evangelicals, there is no respect for creation apart from what it can do for man. The fundamentalists make a big deal about God directing Adam to go and have dominion over the planet, holding that environmentalism contradicts God’s will. They also assert that only God can destroy the planet, not man, so climate change is a hoax. And lastly, insofar as international alliances work for peace, they also contradict the divine will, which is destruction. 

The task of all sane people is obvious. On the one hand, we must listen to the science and not some religious heresy, and we must chart a path that goes beyond the use of fossil fuels. As for fundamentalist politics, we must put that genie back in the bottle. Delusionary mad men cannot be allowed to incite violence and invite apocalyptic destruction, all in the name of some god they have created. It is time for all people of love and reason to take up the battle, fortified by an alternative apocalyptic vision, namely the truly biblical image wherein the lion lies down with the lamb, swords are beaten into plowshares, and peace and justice dwell upon the face of the earth. 

Review & Commentary