Sunday, July 5, 2015

America: An Interrupted History Part III

Revelation or Apocalypsis

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,”
Unidentified U.S. officer talking about the Vietnamese city of Ben Tre in 1968.

Barring the two scenarios described in the preceding sections is there  a third, perhaps improbable but one subscribed to by a surprising number of contemporary Christians as well as Muslims?[1] Various surveys on the question of a coming Apocalypse range from six to 22 percent. According to major surveys In April 2010, the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine asked Americans about life in 2050. “One of the prominent predictions is religious: Jesus Christ will return. Forty-one percent of Americans said they believe that, by 2050, Jesus will return or, in other words, the Christian Apocalypse will unfold.” The results point out that white Evangelical Protestants are the most likely believers, almost 60 percent, while less than 33 percent of Protestants and Catholics agree.[2]

Considering that between 154 and 160 million people over 18 in the U.S. consider themselves part of the Protestant and Catholic Church, the Apocalypse as a possible future warrants at least some consideration as a third alternative future.
Writing on the Book of Revelation, Elaine Pagels says, "I don't think we understand this book until we understand that it's wartime literature," she says. "It comes out of that war, and it comes out of people who have been destroyed by war."[3]

According to a post by Daniel Burke in the online Huffington Post, “Wars and rumors of war, increasing wickedness, new technologies, the age of steam, the age of electricity, the coming of the telephone and the telegraph. These are all signs that the end times are being prepared, and the Rapture could come at any moment.”[4] What war of the 21st Century will lead to this possibility?
If the only source of concern about an apocalyptic end to the world came from a single book published thousands of years ago, then this kind of future might be dismissed as simply a misinterpretation or a religious belief that has no real validity in this postmodern world. Unfortunately, all of the major religions of the world—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam even Zoroastrianism share similar concerns about eschatology— a fancy word for the study of end times, a day of judgment or similar endings.

One form of Buddhism, for example, believes that “ultimately, conditions will deteriorate to the point of a ‘sword-interval,’ in which swords appear in the hands of all human beings, and they hunt one another like game.” After the final cycle in Hinduism, “All of creation will contract to a singularity and then again will expand from that single point, as the ages continue in a religious fractal pattern.”[5] Zoroastrianism has its Frashokereti, the “doctrine of a final renovation of the universe, when evil will be destroyed, and everything else will be then in perfect unity with God (Ahura Mazda).[6]

[1] Daniel Burke, “Muslim Views of the Apocalypse,” Huffington Post (February 7, 2013), accessed October 30, 2014.
[2] Wayne Baker, “New research: Do Americans think the apocalypse will unfold by 2050? Ann Arbor News (July 2010), accessed October 30, 2014.
[3] Elaine Pagels, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation,
[4] Michael White, “Prophetic Belief in the United States,”, accessed October 30, 2014.

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