06 January 2010

End time delusions

FORD PREFECT: Six pints of bitter and quickly please. The world’s about to end.
BARMAN: Oh...yes, sir, nice weather for it. Going to watch the match this afternoon?
FORD PREFECT: No, no point.
BARMAN: Foregone conclusion you reckon sir. Arsenal without a chance?
FORD PREFECT: No it’s just that the world’s going to end.
BARMAN: Ah yes you said. Lucky escape for Arsenal if it did.
Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

This topic is really big and has been around since the start of Christianity. I was going to say since Jesus died, but I don't think he existed for loads of reasons. Even more certainly, the end times will not come in the way these millenialists claim.

To copy from the Wilderness preacher: "In his warning about the false prophets, Jesus says to these sign-seeking disciples that the events we interpret as signs of the end are always happening and will continue to happen. They are not signs that the end is here, and if some are preaching this, they are false prophets who will lead us astray."

The message that the false prophets of the end times have is that the world is ending, so let’s not only look for the signs of the apocalypse, let’s also hurry things along. Let’s forget about seeking good in the world, making peace in the world, and improving our world. Let’s focus our attention on how quickly we can cause the world to end.

Uh, isn't that for God to take care of, not some idiot human beings?

These people are the Christian Zionists. The people who urge support for Israel. This is because Israel plays a significant role in their bizarre "Christian" end-time theology. Indeed, these prophets equate the modern state of Israel with the Biblical New Jerusalem. They preach that America must support Israel’s desire to hold on to confiscated land in order to be on God’s side, despite the atrocities the Israeli government may carry out against the Palestinians, or even US citizens. Nevermind that Torah Scholars point out that only "G-d" can form the true Eretz Israel, not man. I guess "Jesus's" covenant changes all that.

The prophets of Doom most egregious theological error is that the world will end in an apocalyptic battle in the Middle East, when Muslim nations will attack Israel and the world will erupt in a cataclysmic war to end all wars. Indeed, many of them express joy as they salivate over the prospects of an end-time war. The desire for this war is what creates an instability in the middle east and the hope that the US will go to fight this war. Nevermind that one of the criteria that there would be two powers, Gog and Magog, that would fight this war.

This fascination in the rapture in some circles has led to a gospel that is not socially conscious, but detrimental to society. They fixate on idea of a rapture, which will take place at a point in time in which Christians will somehow disappear from earth, apparently teleporting to heaven much like a scene out of Star Trek. The idea is that Christians will be taken from earth before things get really bad. The Left Behind series demonstrates this belief that Christians will not have to live through the mess they created for the rest of us by failing to address, or exacerbating, social problems.

But, as I stated before, this belief has been around since the beginning of Christianity. Strangely enough, it has been called Premillenialism or Millennialism even though Christ lived two millenia ago. John Calvin wrote in Institutes that millennialism is a "fiction" that is "too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation." Furthermore, Chritianity's history is full of stories of people who have predicted this age only to stand waiting on a hill with nothing happening. Either they go back to recalculate the date of the "End"or realise that the "end times" are merely folly.

Yet, like the myth of gun rights, the concept of the "end times" receives a lot of bandwidth on the internet. The coming of 2012 and the fact that the Mayan Calendar ends in that year. Nevermind that astronomers such as Philip Plait have stated very clearly that the Mayan calendar does not end in 2012 at all, that it is like the odometer on your car, as each section of the odometer reaches 9 and then clicks over to 0, the next number to it starts a new cycle, so that when all the numbers again reach 0 all the way across the odometer - the last number will change from 1 to 2 and the new cycle starts all over again.

There are some 50 million Evangelicals in the US who believe in this "literal truth of Bible prophecy". You can argue theological accuracy all you want. This massive block of citizens possesses unshakable belief that the end of the world will be heralded by a series of prophetic events some of which have occurred (e.g., 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina), some of which are ongoing (e.g., the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), and some that they are working fast and furious to cause or exacerbate (e.g., global warming and the financial crisis).

Of course, the refrain of "the World is going to End" is like the boy who screamed wolf. We've heard it so much that we are like Douglas Adams' Barman that we remain blase as someone repeats it. The problem isn't so much that these people are deluded as much as that they are working to create a mess of the world, which really isn't very Christian behaviour. In fact, this mindset creates a very sick and nasty gospel that turns people from the message of Christ (if he existed).

Of course, his real name was יְהוֹשֻׁעַ or יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (if he existed), which is Yeshua, or Joshua: not Jesus. So, how can you have a personal relationship with the guy if you call him the same name as your Mexican gardener? So, don't come around and tell me I need to have a personal relationship with him since I already do.

He's one of my wife's family and they are all meshugga!

Editorial note: I support Chelsea.