The Power of Apocalyptic Thinking

ApocalypseEschatological motivation for anything scares me a bit. What I mean is, the thinking that says we should hurry up and, say, evangelize the world because Jesus is coming. There’s a church near my house that posted the following message on their sign: “Behold I come quickly. Will you be ready?”

It’s the gospel Fear Factor: What would you do if the world was ending tomorrow?

Now I understand it is a biblical idea to a certain degree. Jesus also told his disciples to work while it was day because the night was coming. Paul said essentially the same thing about armor of light and being “of the day.” But Paul’s motivation for Christian living seems to be obedience, not escape. It’s this kind of thinking that the secular world labels fundamentalism.

Many of us Christians know what that word means in the context of Christianity: a somewhat closed way of thinking that depends on strict separation from the world and an apocalyptic view of everything. They came out of the woodwork in the days leading up to Y2K, and some people got rich off of their fear. But Christians don’t have a monopoly on fundamentalism.

AhmadinejadConsider the current Iranian president, for instance. As you can read in this article from the Daily Mail Ahmadinejad is a true believer. In what, you ask? In the imminent return of the Hidden Imam, or Mahdi, a messiah whose appearance will be preceded by tremendous destruction on a global scale. Sound familiar? It should. The Christian version has sold more than 60 million copies, and it’s delivered via television, radio, and the Internet.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples, and that should be enough. But the idea of the eschatologically-minded is this, if you light a fire under me–literally–fueled by global destruction and persecution, the end of the world, then I’ll really deliver. That’s what this way of thinking says.  And pair it with political ambition or, heaven forbid, complete political power?



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