The next time you’re feeling vexed about American voters’ inability to think clearly about energy dependence or global warming or just building a damned train tunnel from New Jersey to New York, remind yourself that 22% of Americans believe the world will end during their lifetimes. It’s hard to get people to participate in long-range planning when they’ve got their suitcases packed for the Rapture.
Everyone wants to live in interesting times, I suppose. No one wants to die for nothing, just like the other guy. Prophesizing the end of the world is good business and it always has been, whether you’re selling papal indulgences, Mayan crystals or King James Bibles. It was good for Adventist founder William Miller in the 1840s and it sells books to this day for Hal Lindsey. Lately, Glenn Beck has gotten into the apocalypse business and radio evangelist Harold Camping and his family are said to have made millions promulgating the End Times.
Lately I’ve been reading Elaine Pagels’ “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics In The Book Of Revelation.” The Book of Revelation is the exciting book at the end of the New Testament with the breaking of the seven seals, the whore of Babylon, the Four Horsemen, the beast with ten horns and seven heads, exploding volcanoes, and that 666 number of the beast. The whole apocalypse blow-by-blow calendar of events. It was written by a Jewish militant and follower of Christ exiled to the island of Patmos (off the coast of what is now Turkey) by the Romans in C.E. 90. John of Patmos was one of many Jews of that era radicalized and embittered by the slaughter of thousands of Jews and the destruction of the Great Temple at Jerusalem by the Roman army in C.E. 70.