The Obama administration has been begun using the biblical language of Apocalypse to describe the kind of ‘world-ending’ catastrophe that failure to raise the debt ceiling will bring about. Objectively, they’re right. These days, the real “four horsemen” of the Apocalypse as described in the biblical Book of Revelation really are “war, recession, tax cuts and debt.”
But conservatives, both religious and political, seem relatively un-phased. “Will Debt Stalemate Mean Economic Armageddon?” asks the Christian Broadcasting Network.. The CBN quotes the president, but then turns to Sen. Jim DeMint, Republican from South Carolina. “I think you’d see very little disruption,” Senator DeMint is quoted as saying.
What, another Apocalypse? Yawn.
Christian conservatives have pretty much taken all the scary out of the Apocalypse and made predicting the end-times into a cottage industry. We have the whole Harold Camping fiasco as a recent example. As Gabe Lyons and Jonathan Merritt note in “What can Christians learn from Harold Camping’s failed May 21, 2011 prediction?, ‘end of the world thinking’ is commonplace in the kind of evangelical circles where they grew up. “If you grew up in evangelical homes like we did, rapture-talk isn’t new to you. Evangelical pastors preach sensational end times sermon series, while their churches put on fear-inducing apocalyptic experiences during Halloween.” Eventually the rush of adrenaline from this biblical brinksmanship gets old.
Even worse, some biblical conservatives, the “pre-millennial” crowd, have taken all of the scary out of the end-times for the true believers because those folks will be “raptured,” that is, taken up into heaven literally right of their socks before any suffering on earth starts to occur. As I argue in my book Dreaming of Eden, this form of the apocalypse that has been so widely disseminated through the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins is “new and improved…innocent believers get a free pass version of the Rapture. They get to leave town and then all the sinners have to deal with the mess because they are ‘left behind’ with the problems of ‘global weirding’ [climate change], or immigration, or health care, or the need to take care of our national infrastructure before more bridges fall down.” Or, in this case, before a world-wide economic meltdown occurs from the failure to raise the debt ceiling.
‘What me, worry?’ is the true message of this new biblical apocalypse as described in the pre-millennial version. It is not biblical, but it is very, very popular.
Since religious conservatives have taken all the scary out of the end of the world for the true believers, and the political conservatives are refusing to face their responsibilities for the country’s economic health in the real world, “Apocalypse” just isn’t as scary any more.
That is, unless you are paying attention to the fact that there are deep truths in scripture about the judgment on economies that, like Imperial Rome, oppress the poor and disregard justice. Then you can hear the scriptural truth in the mighty images of the Book of Revelation.
And then you should be scared. Very scared.
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite | Jul 19, 2011 10:27 AM