Culture At Large

Prepare for the End... but which one?

Andy Rau

Between the Left Behind phenomenon and Pat Robertson's penchant for making, uh, attention-getting public statements, evangelical beliefs about judgment and the End Times have gotten a fair amount of press in recent years. (Sometimes this attention is sympathetic, and sometimes it's of the "So what do these crazy evangelicals believe, anyway?" variety). J.J. Helland, writing at The Revealer, wonders if all this focus on evangelical end-times beliefs is missing part of the picture:

...many people of faith appear to find some kind of meaning in their application of Christian eschatology to the real world. What kind of meaning then do people who hew closer to a secular perspective receive from engaging apocalyptic films, television shows and books? What are some of the commonalities and differences both outlooks share?

Unfortunately, questions like these don’t get asked enough in the media, and in the off chance they do get discussed, the discourse tends to focus only on religious culture’s preoccupation with the end of the world.

In other words: evangelicals aren't the only ones thinking and talking about the end of the world, and about what that end means for our everyday life. An obsession with Armageddon--in the form of enviromental disaster, computers taking over, or the ever-popular zombie hordes--pervades secular entertainment. And it plays a part in many non-Christian worldviews as well. But if that's the case,

...why are secular apocalypse narratives more acceptable in popular culture and why do they fail to draw the same public scrutiny that Pat Robertson’s doomsday musings engender? ....Couldn’t a person of faith then look toward secular culture and point to the popularity of apocalyptic films like The Road Warrior, Dr. Strangelove or The Terminator and come to a similar conclusion that the other side is morbidly obsessed with death and mayhem?

What do you think? Why does our society find religious, and specifically Christian, ideas about the end of the world so much more interesting/critique-worthy than "secular" visions of the End? If anticipation of some sort of apocalpyse isn't limited just to Christians, why do evangelical prophecies of doom have so much media traction?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology, News & Politics, Social Trends, World