Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Apocalypse Now

Just 24 hours after posting my article on our modern obsession with apocalyptic narratives and religious visions of doomsday, the doorbell rang and I was greeted by a smiling Jehovah's Witness in a suit and tie. He wanted to let me know about an upcoming convention in the area, and gave me a flyer with the details. The flyer's content -- about the coming apocalypse and the promise of redemption for the lucky few -- could not have been more perfectly attuned to what I wrote even if I had written the copy for it myself.

"Violence, immorality, and global warming," the flyer asks, "along with oil spills and other environmental disasters -- all these problems have led concerned people to ask, WILL HUMANS RUIN THIS EARTH?" It invites me to attend a three-day convention, where a talk will be given that "will show how this planet will soon be transformed into a paradise and how you and your family can qualify to live there."

This particular vision of apocalypse and redemption is based on a dream recorded in the Book of Daniel (2:31-45), interpreted as a prophesy that details the successive rise and fall of multiple empires: the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the British, and the Americans. The dream itself has to do with a statue whose toes are made of iron mixed with clay, and a huge rock that smashes the statue to pieces and establishes God's Kingdom on earth, which will last forever and ever.

The apocalyptic narrative put forth by Jehovah's Witnesses may differ slightly in its content and sources from the narrative put forward by Harold Camping and the Rapturists. But the message is essentially the same, and it perfectly demonstrates what I wrote in my previous article. It plays directly upon people's awareness that there are real and serious problems in the world: violence, global warming, environmental pollution, "immorality," and so on (I won't open the Pandora's Box of what constitutes "immorality," but there it is). It plucks at the strings of people's fears that all of this is building towards some kind of imminent turning point, a day of reckoning and dramatic change. For those who are inclined towards interpreting contemporary events in the light of ancient Biblical prophecy, those fears are easily diverted into a consoling vision of how to turn the threat of apocalypse into an opportunity for you and your family!

3 comments:

Zen and Back Again said...

Great post. Check out Kurt Spellmeyer's "Buddha at the Apocalypse." It's all about this subject from a Buddhist perspective.

TZ said...

Personally I find the most dogmatic prophets the more believable. Its the ones who say there's a code involved that usually turn out bad. But who follows up on them? There're only 4 kingdoms mentioned in Daniel. How did they get the British and American civs?

I think there's a lot of truth in the Bible, it just gets misrepresented. Remember you don't have to be Buddhist to see the future.

tom sheepandgoats said...

On the other hand, for those who have been at it for awhile, it's striking how world events come ever closer to what they've long thought would happen, based on those ancient writings.

For example, "God will bring to ruin those ruining the earth." Ruining the earth was thought inconceivable a few decades ago...could humans really have the power to do that? Then it was thought concievable, but only through nuclear conflagration. Now "ruining the earth" is a constant theme of news reporting agencies, doable in ever so many ways.