Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Judgment Day

There's always been a strong temptation to think that the end of the world is coming, and from a religious perspective, that it will be a Day of Judgment. I wonder why this is so attractive to the human mind and spirit. It seems that the end of the world is always just around the corner. This is supposed to regulate our behavior and increase the urgency of attempting to reach others with a particular religious understanding of existence. I want to call these people crazy, but I understand the temptation, I think. Sometimes I feel like I'm just waiting for the end, too.

But what I really think is going on is the desire for order in a universe seemingly without order. It's the longing for an immediate and pressing purpose for one's existence in a world where such meaning is not readily supplied. The Day of Judgment means that all the loose ends will be tied up. All those who have wronged us with get their just deserts. Of course, the thought rarely occurs that the inverse of that is our own payment for the wrongs we have committed against others. But again, that's not a very attractive idea, so we'd rather selectively filter what such a day might mean.

I skimmed a couple sites discussing the May 21st Judgment Day. One is an article from Business Insider, the other an electronic tract. The quickly upcoming May 21st date was achieved through hypothetical math derived from passages in Genesis and 2nd Peter. These seem to ignore the verse that should put an end to all such attempts to single out a date for Judgment: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36). 

Again, ignoring that verse, which seems extremely straightforward in its meaning, proves that this is not about fidelity to the Bible. It's about human longing for someone or something to break into our messy world and clean up our messy lives. It's about our longing, in a scientific age, to be awed and terrified again by forces greater than ours. Like children, we secretly wish to be put in our place, to have order and structure thrust upon us, because we obviously haven't been able to accomplish that ourselves. Novels like Conrad's Heart of Darkness remind us that our faith in civilization, and the human as an animal capable of being civilized, is always sorely misplaced. We are always just a few light steps away from savagery. Longing for the Day of Judgment is the desire to have this burden removed from us once and all, to become the ordered and civilized people we never could be on our own. 


  1. I like your analysis, Adam. I would also add this: I think there is an existential angle that can be taken to apocalypticism as well. Our desire for the world to end dramatically in our own lifetime is the desire that the world would take notice of one's own death, that EVERYONE would recognize MY death as a world-changing event. What we so commonly experience as the supreme act of loneliness and abandonment becomes, in the apocalyptic myth, a communal sharing in the experience of death--grounded, as you well point out, in a concomitant desire for universal meaning. But if I can die as the world dies, I get to die knowing that the conclusion truly has drawn near, that the external world concludes precisely as my experience of it ends. It is the solipsist's dream-come-true.

  2. we are commanded to know the season, but not the day or hour. At the end times many false prophets will arise. ding ding ding, this guy is as false as it gets. Beyond that, the electronic tract has absolutely no understanding of the book of revelation. the fifth bowl of wrath is the scorpions, who will not attack anyone with the mark of God, but only those without God for a period of 5 months. So then, we will be here, not raptured. Beyond that, this is only the fifth bowl of wrath, 2 more to be poured out. I am always amused by the false teachings of pastors and other religious officials, sadly, they aren't amused by my teachings. They call me heretic and demon possessed for claiming salvation through Jesus by faith, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit which allows God's voice to be heard by His children. Oh well, life goes on. Plenty more churches to get kicked out of.