Skepticism and Shadows

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

Was the Swastika the WWII Era Mark of the Beast?

Over the past couple weeks we’ve alluded to Hitler and the Holocaust a few times. With this week’s reading, it was really all I could think about. Hitler is directly analogous to Carpathia who, in Glorious Appearing and the rest of the Left Behind series, is the Antichrist. Then in Strozier’s essays, the description of how the fundamentalist mindset exhibits violent potentials seems to resonate with Hitler’s actions towards the Jews in the Holocaust. Because of our fixation with the end of times and our curiosity in psychological reasoning, we are left to analyze his actions from a purely apocalyptic standpoint. Continue reading

Does the End of the World Have a History?

The initial reading of Jonathan Kirsch’s A Hisotry of the End of the World introduces many apocalyptic notions that have grown amidst the culture and spirit of our society since antiquity. This reading paints an interesting picture of the different social practices and how various groups have responded and continue to react to the end of the world phenomenon.

In many ways, Kirsch regards the Book of Revelation and its contents as both the source and supplement to the human fear and anticipation of the end of the world. After all, anything that counters established religious ideology or proposes an interdisciplinary end to theology and universe alike is destined to have some type of grand effect on the public. While Kirsch defines the controversy over the Book of Revelation in a religious scope, he broadens his explanation for our apocalyptic hype with social and cultural realms. He renders this text as a “petri dish for the breeding of dangerous religious eccentricity”; this argument has certainly been validated by the ways in which the Book of Revelation has resonated throughout history. I myself marvel at how events and figures in history gained such prominence using the end of the world as an element of justification. Its interesting and simultaneously, unsettling, how entities such as The New World , the AIDS epidemic, and even UFO invasion can be explained by the Book of Revelation. One can certainly argue that these connections are the natural ways by which the human race deals with such an abstract and intangible issue. Rather than fearing the unimaginable, we look for past instances that fit John’s apocalyptic scenario and then use these past occurrences to gage our anticipation of the future (or lack there of, in this case). This is also seen with historical figures such as Hitler, and even more recently, Osama Bin Ladin, who have been coined the Antichrist in their period of time. Are we to believe that any cultural manifestations of opposing force represent the Antichrist and signify our impending doom? If so, then the line between imagination and reality becomes completely obliterated when culture and politics collide.

Despite my skepticism towards this historical resonance, Kirsch does present a reasonable explanation for our cultural belief in the Book of Revelation. We are the descendants of a time when only the “hearers” of the Revelation were blessed and all who undermined John’s beliefs were “corrupted by Satan” . While these notions are not as prevalent in contemporary society as they were amongst fundamentalist Christians and Jews hundreds of years back, the aftermath of these beliefs still reign among us. Certainly, belief in John’s apocalyptic revelation provided a means of survival for the religious and outlandish zealots of that era.

Perhaps when the day of judgement would come, God may have more mercy on the “hearers” and believers of this revelation. This supports Kirsch’s idea of “morale boosting propaganda” that arises from the Book of Revelation. If we were to live according to this propaganda, its almost as though we’d be in limbo forever, waiting for God’s judgement and hoping that he finds a place for us in his New Heaven and Earth. As we can see here, Dante’s Inferno and John’s Book of Revelation have overlapping elements. Both most definitely possess the same nightmarish, strange, and out of reach elements. Ironically enough, Dante was excommunicated for his ideas, while John’s were added to the holy scripture. Such a discrepancy further debunks this proposed apocalypse.

Its obvious that our society feeds off of cultural pastimes and beliefs. However, we must not forget that even traditional beliefs have been distorted over the years, and we have lost sight of true reasoning. Many do not know why they fear the end of the world, which weakens apocalyptic arguments altogether. In fact, proponents of the Book of Revelation rarely understand the imagery and symbolism of John’s vision. Here, history does not provide any meaningful groundwork since all historical examples have been proposed as theories and have no real connection to the actual scripture. One could argue that Kirsch’s History of the End of the World is really an account of religious, cultural, and political conflict than a true explanation for doomsday.