Sunday, January 15, 2012

Apocalypse Apocalypse

No, that title is not redundant.  As my friend Tim reminded me on Facebook, the word "Apocalypse" has 2 meanings.  These days we use it to refer to the end of the world but it's original meaning was "revelation", literally "lifting of the veil" in the original Greek.  I want to lift the veil off of what is commonly believed about the End Times.

This quote from The Slacktivist on Tim LaHaye (co author of the Left Behind series) tells you everything you need to know:

"Tim LaHaye has been an influential power-broker in the religious right and the Republican Party for the past 30 years — this despite the fact that he has also spent those past 30 years assuring us that Jesus was coming back any day now and that the signs and prophecies make it clear that there’s no way we’ll still be here for more than just a few years more at most.

Those who took LaHaye seriously in 1982 would have been surprised that the world was still around in 1992. Those who took LaHaye seriously in 1992 would have been surprised that the world was still around in 2002. Those who took LaHaye seriously in 2002 must be surprised that the world is still around in 2012.

And those who take Tim LaHaye seriously in 2012 must be overlooking everything he’s been saying since 1982."

First off, it doesn't matter if you don't care about Christian eschatology.  It doesn't matter whether you believe in the Rapture or not.  It doesn't matter if you have never heard of Premillenial Dispensationalism.  What matters is that these people both wield a lot of power and have great access to those in power.  This belief system influences culture and politics in any country with a large amount of Christians - most notably the USA.  It has a profound influence on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and the Middle East.  It also has a lot to do with the resistance amongst many Christian groups to environmentalism and their refusal to acknowledge the reality of Global Warming.  After all, why save the planet if God is just going to destroy it all really soon anyway*?

Jesus loves you.  Love Him back or He will do terrible things to you!

The second thing you need to know is that these people are massively wrong.  They are as wrong as can be.  They are wrong about it all.  Every single thing that they believe about the End Times is utterly and demonstrably wrong.  So in keeping with my New Year's not-resolution to sharpen my skepticism, here is a concise guide to why they are wrong.  Feel free to use it if necessary.

Images from the Chick Tract Here Comes the Judge!

Right so the exact details of the End Times may differ slightly depending on which prophecy guru you follow but generally the belief comes down to this:

After the Rapture of the Real True Christians, the whole world will be united under the Antichrist who will form a One World Government with one currency and one religion.  The Antichrist will reign for 7 years during which he will persecute the (new) followers of Christ, culminating in the battle of Armageddon where Christ and His followers will defeat the Antichrist and his followers.  The slaughter will be so great that the blood will flow as high as the mouth of a horse for 300 km**.  This may seem unbelievable but we can know this from a simple literal reading of Revelation.

Here are some of the problems with that:

There can be no One World Government.  Have you ever traveled outside of your own home?  Have you met people from other cultures?  Do you watch the news?  Then I shouldn't have to explain to you why there can be no One World Government.  Despite the best utopian ideals of some, the world is headed to more disunity, not more unity.  Countries are splitting into smaller countries.  People are getting more nationalistic, not less.  Imperialism is over.  I realize that some conspiracy nuts think the UN is some kind of super government and that the Secretary General of the UN is actually the president of Earth, but that is wildly out of touch with reality.  There is simply no way you can everyone to just set aside their differences and unite under one flag, totally abandoning their national and cultural identity in the process.  And I'm just talking about all the parts of the world that kind of get along.  What about all the parts that hate each other and have feuds going back generations?  How do you imagine getting Iraq and Iran, North and South Korea, China and Japan, not to mention getting all the war torn and lawless bits of Africa to all just become BFF's overnight?

There can be no One World Currency.  Just look at how well the Euro worked out.  Look I understand economics about as well as Charlie Sheen understand self control but even I know that our entire system of international trade is based on different currencies having different values.  Some economies are based on export so they have low value currency and others are based on import so they have high value currency.  Give everyone the same currency and the entire system collapses.  You can't get cheap third world labour and goods if your currency has the same value as theirs.

There can be no One World Religion.  This may be the most ridiculous thing to still believe in a post 9-11 world.  If you find it even remotely plausible that all the people in the world - who have been killing and dying for their faith, who have built their national and cultural identities on their religion - are just going to agree that they were wrong all along and accept a whole new faith you are an idiot.  There is no other word that describes someone who thinks that all the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, New Agers and Atheists of the world (plus all the Christians who aren't Real True Christians), not to mention all their various sub-sects and denominations who have been persecuting each other over minor differences in doctrine for centuries, can all just put aside their differences overnight and start agreeing.  If people who worship the same God and read from the same holy writ can't even agree with each other, how much less will all the wildly divergent religions of the world be able to do that?  Only an idiot would think that!  Or someone who actually thinks the world consists of only Christians and Not-Christians and all the Not-Christians all believe the exact same thing.  But I repeat myself.

Oh and don't forget, all of this unification has to happen in under 7 years.  That's less time than it takes an actual government to build a bridge or tunnel in the real world.  Does that seem realistic in the least to you?

This is not even in the Bible.  Anyone who claims that they got this End Times playbook from a simple literal reading of the Bible is either deluded or lying.  It's easy enough to test, just give the Book of Revelation to someone who has never heard of the Bible and ask them to read it and write down exactly what it tells them will happen.  I can pretty much guarantee it will look nothing like any prophecy guru's End Time checklist.  In fact the very fact that there are so many End Time experts in the Evangelical sub-culture should have tipped you off that there is no such thing as a simple, straightforward and literal reading of Revelation.  That is why any attempt at a cohesive apocalyptic scenario always ends up as some kind of Biblical Frankenstein monster.  You tend to end up with something that has a verse from Thessalonians stitched to a chapter at the end of Revelation, glued to a chapter from Daniel, sowed to half a chapter from the middle of Revelation with a verse from Matthew awkwardly hammered in between.

So no, the Apocalypse many Christians are expecting any day now cannot and will not happen.  Not in this world.  Not with the actual people populating the world.  For the best proof of this, read the Left Behind series.  You can't help but notice how incredibly out of touch with reality it is. That's because it has to be.  The Premillenial Dispensationalist Apocalypse cannot exist in our reality. 

*Or as Evangelist Ray Comfort put it:  "We don’t value creation as though our life depends on it. That’s because we know and trust Him who made all things, and if humanity wrecks this earth, we have His immutable promise that He is going to make all things new."
**Revelation 14:19-20.  Feel free to do the math on that one but at around 5 liters of blood per person, that's one shitload of people bleeding!

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