The Albertine Notes was a whirlwind of a story, confusing in the way that Inception was. I feel like I need to read through it a second time in order to fully understand it, however, from just one reading themes that we have been discussing all semester did clearly emerge. Continue reading
Last week, I posted about the ways I noticed Earl Turner falling into the identity of a dissociated, paranoid fundamentalist. I can’t say I was shocked by the fact that throughout the last half of The Turner Diaries Earl only became more dissociated, remorseless, and absolute in his dualistic mindset, but it is so hard for me to imagine thinking or feeling the ways he expresses feeling that I had a difficult time processing everything I was reading. Furthermore, I was constantly reminded that this book is the creative work from the imagination of Andrew Macdonald. I still cannot believe that this imagining represents what he believed would be the means by which an ideal world would come into being. Continue reading
Much of what Strozier wrote in this week’s set of essays seemed to respond to my concern about how easily the “saved” characters in Glorious Appearing accept the punishment of the surrounding sinners. It is no less appalling to me that they could simply sit and watch, and even enjoy, the mass murder of most of the remaining population by Jesus – especially considering the gruesome manner in which the deaths were carried out. Continue reading
In his concluding essays, Strozier presents a very thorough analysis of the various tenets of apocalyptic fundamentalism and how they influence the overall doomsday mindset that has prevailed in society. It is interesting to trace Strozier’s didactic approach to understanding the fundamentalist way of thought. His previous readings writings introudced us to the dualism and particular psychology associated with apocalyptic violence. In his later essays, Strozier narrows his argument by linking the root of violence to paranoia.
It took quite some time to get used to the tone of Glorious Appearing. As a liberal New Yorker without strong religious affiliations, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop (so to speak). This can’t be serious, I kept thinking, even though I knew the premise of the series. Continue reading
When one reads the Book of Revelation, as was our task last week, it would seem that at the end times, everyone will suffer. Yet a peculiar recasting of this apocalyptic scenario took place in the Western world between the time of John’s strange visions and our modern moment, to the point of which only some suffer, while great numbers of others are totally excluded from the apocalyptic horror, and instead given something akin to a stadium box seat above the action, as the are “raptured” into heaven just before the things which must shortly come to pass, actually do (Kirsch 190). Continue reading
Is the word “apocalypse” overused? Has it become a part of our lexicon in a way that degrades its meaning? These questions, touched upon in both class and Kirsch, seems especially relevant today, the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The New York Times special collection of articles and media on the attacks is entitled “The Reckoning.” One of their articles, a sampling of first hand accounts from September 11, 2001, is called “Witness to Apocalypse.” Continue reading
For two thousand years, people have attempted to uncover the true meaning behind the Book of Revelation. Yet can there really be just one “true” meaning that takes precedence over anything else? In A History of the End of The World, Jonathan Kirsch reviews several dozen different interpretations of Revelation that each have their own followers and critics. These interpretations seem to change as the centuries progress and often reflect upon societal conflicts. When all we have left to go on is a piece of literature (if some even dare to call the Book of Revelation literature), we must accept that each reader creates his or her own interpretation, which becomes their own “true” meaning. Continue reading
Kirsch notes that throughout the history of apocalyptic belief, the Book of Revelation has often been at the forefront of what he calls ‘culture wars.’ John, when he wrote the Book of Revelation, was himself embroiled in a cultural war against the Roman Empire as well as other Christians, who he believed were not properly devout. Later, the Book of Revelation was used by both reformers within the church to criticize the church bureaucracy and by the papacy to denounce and persecute its critics. Revelation was also used to justify actual wars, ranging from the Crusades to the Civil War to World War I and II. The culture war that energizes current apocalyptic belief is fought ‘between fundamentalism and the modern world’ (219), where Christian fundamentalists imagine themselves to be at odds with an increasingly godless world. For true believers today, everything from feminism to the Masons to the United Nations is seen as a tool of the Antichrist and a portent of the end of the world (220).
I believe that the Book of Revelation, and apocalyptic belief as a whole, is particularly appealing to those that believe that they are involved in a cultural war. For the talk show evangelists that rail against everything from gay marriage and abortion to Barack Obama and big government, the black and white morality of Revelation is a convenient way to demonize their enemies. For conservative Americans who believe that their way of life is increasingly threatened, the language of persecution that John employs makes the Book of Revelation an effective propaganda tool. And for all those that perceive themselves as the victims of a changing political and social order, the lurid revenge fantasies of Revelation assure them that they won’t have to suffer the affronts of the modern world for long.
The fear and anxiety about the changing world is not limited to religious zealots. Kirsch describes the proliferation of ‘godless apocalypses’ in recent years, where the end of the world is a product of human folly; those that believe in these apocalyptic scenarios must also seem themselves fighting a culture war against forces such as globalization and the spread of new technologies. While technology is regarded with great suspicion by the religiously devout (in one reinterpretation of the Book of Revelation, barcodes are depicted as the ‘mark of the beast’), it is also often depicted as the enemy in ‘godless apocalypses.’ In these scenarios, human beings struggle against the threat of nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, robots, and supercomputers. One of the key aspects of globalization is the transnational movement of information, goods, and people, but this same movement can also lead to a global pandemic, another deep-rooted fear in current apocalypse scenarios. Finally, a recent article in the New York Times Book Review entitled ‘The State of Zombie Literature – An Autopsy‘ explored the recent popularity of zombie fiction, proposing that is driven by a ‘general anxiety, particularly in the West, about the planet’s dwindling resources,’ leading to the disturbing conclusion that “these nonhuman creatures…might be serving as metaphors for actual people – undocumented immigrants…or the entire populations of developing nations.”
One of the questions that Kirsch raises in his book is why, after 2000 years of the world resolutely not ending, that apocalyptic belief continues to be so popular. I think it taps into fears that afflict both the religious and the general populace, and the imagery contained within the Book of Revelation, of war and chaos and a final battle followed by triumphant peace, has gained broad cultural approval.