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VIEWPOINT It's The End...again and again and again ...
by Nick Patricca
2023-01-01

This article shared 1676 times since Sun Jan 1, 2023
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Jesus thought the end of the world would occur during his lifetime.* As Jesus hanged dying on the cross, he had to deal with the fact that the world had not ended.

Paul thought he understood why Jesus had to die before the world ended: It was to give Paul and the other Apostles time to prepare all the nations for the end of the world, not just the Jews. When Paul realized he was going to die before Jesus came back as the Son of Man to judge the living and dead, he had to re-think his idea of the end.

Paul came up with the intriguing idea that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the transformation of the world was actually underway. It was to be evident in the lives and deeds of those who practice the good news of Christian faith: God loves us humans and that Christians show that divine love by their love for all humans and all creation.

This acute sense that the end is near has always been part of Christian history, as it is part of Judaism and of Islam: All the Abrahamic religions, based as they are in history, have this keen sense of the time of judgement, when—finally—justice comes to this world. We see this idea of the End Times in Judaism's idea of the Messiah, in the Christian idea of the Second Coming and in Islam, which also teaches that Jesus comes back as the Son of Man to judge the world and prepare us for the reign of God.

This idea that time and history end with a reign of justice permeates Western Civilization, as well as Christianity. The Marxist idea of the classless society, in which the state withers away, all "men" are equal and working as equals in a just society, is but one instance of this secular as well as religious faith.

This eschatological idea of the Last Days has many names and forms. Chiliasm, millenarianism and millennialism preach that Jesus as the Christ comes back to reign on earth for 1,000 years. [Hitler had his own version of this reign.] The coming reign of justice is usually preceded by an apocalypse in which all of the world's civilizations come to a violent end because of natural and man-made, catastrophic, global events. According to Pew Research, in 2022, 39 % of US Americans believe we are living in the End Times.

White America was pretty much founded on this messianic idea, whether based in Hebrew-Christian scriptures or Rousseauian type ideologies of the natural man in virgin nature. The New World would be a new beginning in which Christians, freed from the corruptions of the Old World, might start building the kingdom of God on earth. The contradictions between these high expectations and the actual experiences of building the kingdom provoked many awakenings to get people back to the original task of making a just and pure America. This evangelical heart of America is never far from the surface of our politics and of our perceptions of ourselves.

Ideally, this sense of the nearness of divine justice ought to help people live good lives and be kind to their neighbors, as we see exemplified in the lives of the early disciples of Jesus. More often than not, however, this quest for justice and purity unleashes murderous instincts and behaviors which seek vengeance and violent punishment of perceived evil doers as we can see in the Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco, Texas, and in the bombing of the federal building by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.** This violence is sometimes turned against the believing community as was the case with the Jonestown Massacre where the pursuit of paradise and the "promised land" became a death wish.

This searching out of the evil-doers in order to make our America pure again is a strong ingredient in the support of Trump by many evangelical Christians. Trump became the icon/idol to focus and channel this passionate energy for the righting of all the wrongs perceived, imagined or real that many people endured.

The link between apocalyptic/millenarian beliefs and violence is profound. January 6 was not an exception but a demonstration of this truth. People consumed with apocalyptic thinking—whether religious or secular—often indulge their desire to hasten the coming of The End by assisting God or the historical dialectic in violent and self-destructive ways.

It is time for American religious leaders of all denominations to denounce violence clearly and to disassociate themselves from all political parties. It is time for the American religious leaders to re-affirm the traditional American values of the separation of Church and State and the freedom of the individual conscience before God and State.

* Most historical-critical scholarship confirms that Jesus preached the imminent end of the world during his lifetime though it is clear that this teaching comes directly from John the Baptist.

** Branch Davidians are a splinter group of the Seventh Day Adventist movement which holds millennialism beliefs. McVeigh explicitly linked his bombing to the FBI Branch Davidian intervention.

January 2023 © nicholas.patricca@gmail.com

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago; president of Chicago Network JP; member, Writers in Prison, San Miguel PEN; member, TOSOS Theatre Ensemble, NYC.


This article shared 1676 times since Sun Jan 1, 2023
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