Michael Wear of Christianity Today argues that political culture in the United States has grown increasingly “apocalyptic” in its thinking. On the American political right, the traditionalist view of the apocalypse derives from the perceived immorality of others and how this differs from what they think America should be. On the political left, apocalypse comes from the fear of long-term insecurity.
Both sides view apocalyptic thinking not as processing facts, but as a way of knowing, seeing the future as a destructive force. The irony is that the Christian apocalypse has an opposite message, one that appreciates the role of humanity in the world as it is.
The idea of an apocalypse is terrifying for a people and culture under the pretension that everything is under our control—and that our best hope is to continue to feel in control.
In politics today, apocalyptic thinking on the right and the left is based on an apocalypse that is sure to harm us—but is not so unwieldy that our total control could not avert it. Meanwhile, the Christian idea is nearly the opposite: Embracing apocalypse would not only prepare us for the reality of the world to come, but it involves an acceptance of the world as it is and our role in it.
Political imaginings of apocalypse are of events that we might prevent if only everyone else would get on board. In this way, the apocalypse is not so much focused on the event itself, but on other people’s stubbornness. We are condemned not necessarily by God or by our own deeds and thoughts, but by our neighbors’ degraded political views. Because of this, the apocalyptic thinking dominating our politics is anti-humanistic since it depends on broad, explicit, and implicit condemnation of our fellow human beings—and ultimately, of our own existence.