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The history of Doom-think

  1. Oct 16, 2005 #1


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  3. Oct 16, 2005 #2


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    today's NYT article
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/16/weekinreview/16luo.html?8hpib=&pagewanted=print quotes Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard

    and Timothy Weber, a church historian and author of a book entitled "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend".

    I'm interested in the anatomy of the Religious Right because of what it is doing to the country I grew up in---my country's economy, it's social contract, it's military, it's moral standing, it's alliances, it's distribution of wealth, it's press, and it's democracy.

    So I am interested in the history of the beast.

    This may sound pretty obscure and academic: apparently there are 3 different schools of Doom-think depending on when a person called Christ is foretold to appear. The reference is "Revelations" chapter 20, and perspectives on it differ.

    POST-millennialists were cheerful people who thought that Christians could evangelize the world, improve social conditions, and bring about a 1000 years of peace and brotherhood AFTER WHICH person X will appear. American post-ems were active in abolishing slavery in Civil War times, they often believed that America was chosen to play a special role in achieving the good millenium, they often believed in Progress. Ushering in the millenium, in the sense of utopian good times, was a human mission. X only showed up after the party was over.

    More recently, PRE-millennialists have become predominant (perhaps with the decline of US industry and a growing sense of insecurity and frustration.) Here's a quote:

    "It is those who read the passage most literally - the so-called pre-millennialists - who hold the most pessimistic views. They believe history is irrevocably deteriorating, on its way toward a period of terrible suffering, called the tribulation, which will only be broken when Jesus returns and rules for a thousand years.

    Dispensationalism emerged as an offshoot of this last school, owing its spread in large part to the work of a 19th-century British evangelist, John Nelson Darby."

    The PRE-em scenario (especially the severely pessimistic Dispo version) has become influential in US society as never before. Here's a quote:

    "dispensationalism ... only came to occupy a dominant place in American evangelicalism relatively recently.

    "Dispensationalists have never had the kind of public exposure and the kind of political power that they have now," Mr. Weber said. As a whole, evangelical Christians are united in their belief that Jesus will come back in human form at some point in history. Where they, as well as members of other Christian groups, have differed is precisely how this will occur, depending on how each interprets a single verse in the 20th chapter of the Book of Revelation and its allusion to a 1,000-year reign by Christ."

    More about Darby, inventor of the "Rapture" idea (important in Dispo thought):

    "Darby taught that history unfolds in various stages, or dispensations, and introduced several innovations to pre-millennialism, most prominently, the concept of the Rapture - that before the tribulation, true believers will suddenly be whisked away to heaven. This belief is the basis for the popular "Left Behind" series of novels.

    Darby also emphasized the role of the nation of Israel in the end of history; the Israelites' return to the promised land, he said, was a requirement of the Second Coming."

    there is also a third type that the church historians call A-millennialism, meaning NON-milliennialism. There you just forget about the thousand years. What is important is the violence and suffering and rapture and the end of time----they, like, cut to the chase. time gets compressed as it comes to the End. I couldnt see much in the article about this third type. What seems influential and politically important is the Darby-Dispensationalism version of PRE-millennial thought.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2005
  4. Oct 16, 2005 #3


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    It looks to me that if you are a POST-emmer then you believe that you can work to fulfill history and hasten the coming of Christ by working for universal peace and happiness and brotherhood, working against hunger and disease. Because we have to have 1000 years of good times before Christ can return.

    So you become a doctor or a missionary or an apostol of progress and everything is cool.
    But if you are a PRE-emmer then you help bring on the tribulations, which I guess means you can self-righteously trash the social contract, let everything go to the dogs, and encourage civil war wherever possible, because THAT fulfills history and hastens the Coming. Oh and you also make sure that the Jews get back to Israel and rebuild the Temple, which sets things up for Armageddon and the various prophesies, like the existence of a red dairy cow. There is a US farmer who has been breeding red dairy cows just to make sure of that little detail. Everybody does their part. The tribulations are dispensed, the elect are whisked by the Rapture. THEN and only then can Christ come again.

    People need a view of history that makes sense of their predicaments. It probably comforts them, when the rust-belt jobs fly off to Mexico and China, to think that this is just a foretaste of the Tribulations and it will get much worse (not just for us, for the Chinese too) and it all brings us closer to the Blessed Time of our savior's coming. So you elect a president who screws up royally and gets you Superdebt, War, Inflation, Depression, deregulation and corruption to the max, the triumph of rampant greed, and national decline. Because hell, let's get it over with!
    So I am seeing how American Dispo (the extreme form of Pre-millennialism---the Darby form, with the special Rapture feature) is PARALLEL in a way to the Marxism of another era. It comforts people to have a theory of history that makes sense of their plight and tells them that it has a meaning and is all Going Somewhere. Probably Nazi-thought also had a view of history that made sense to the German public of the 1920s and 1930s. A time of war and turmoil followed by a 1000 year Reign. Never underestimate the damage causable by a Scenario or theory of history, that gets into people's heads.
    Well this NY Times article is very thought-provoking. I never heard the term Dispensationalism before. Have to look up John Nelson Darby on google. Very influential thinker.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2005
  5. Oct 16, 2005 #4


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    born in the year 1800. died in 1882 at the age of 81. founder of Dispensationalism, with the Plymouth Brethren.

    Wow. Here is the Wiki on DISPENSATIONALISM


    great article

    ---brief exerpts (it's a long and meaty article, best to read the whole thing yrself)---

    Dispensationalism rejects the notion of supersessionism [the idea that Christians replace the Jews as chosen people]. It tends to go hand-in-hand with a very protective attitude toward the Jewish people, and the modern State of Israel. John Nelson Darby taught, and most subsequent dispensationalists have consistently maintained, that God looks upon the Jews as his chosen people and continues to have a place for them in the dispensational, prophetic scheme of things. While virtually all traditions of Christianity teach that the Jews are a distinct people, irrevocably entitled to the promises of God (because, in the words of the epistle to the Romans "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance"), dispensationalism is unique in teaching that the covenant with the Church is only a provisional dispensation, until the Jews finally recognize Jesus as their promised Messiah during the trials that dispensationalists envision coming upon the Jews in the Great Tribulation. Darby's prophecies envision Judaism as continuing to enjoy God's protection, parallel to Christianity, literally to the End of Time, and teaches that God has a separate track in the prophecies for Jews apart from the Church.


    Dispensationalism teaches that Christians should not expect spiritual good from earthly governments, and should expect social conditions to decline as the end times draw nearer. Dispensationalist readings of prophecies often teach that the Antichrist will appear to the world as a peacemaker. This makes some dispensationalists suspicious of all forms of power, religious and secular, and especially of human attempts to form international organisations for peace, such as the United Nations. Almost all dispensationalists reject the idea that a lasting peace can be attained by human effort in the Middle East, and believe instead that "wars and rumors of wars" (cf. Matthew 24:6) will increase as the end times approach. Dispensationalist beliefs often underlie the religious and political movement of Christian Zionism.
    Some dispensationalists teach that churches that do not insist on Biblical literalism as they deem appropriate are in fact part of the Great Apostasy. This casts suspicion on attempts to create church organisations that cross denominational boundaries such as the World Council of Churches. (See also ecumenism.)

    I was curious about sources mentioned:
    Enns, Paul: The Moody Handbook of Theology
    At first I couldn't get these links to work
    then after some difficulty this one led me to here:
    This other link
    seems to be a disaster-porn newsletter by the author of The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. Lindsey says that watching the news---of war earthquake genocide hurricane and famine, I suppose---is like "timing the birth-pangs" to tell how soon to expect the baby---like you and your wife time her contractions so you know when to drive to the hospital. What a creep. He has an enormous moustache too.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2005
  6. Oct 16, 2005 #5


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    It just boggles my mind that people can take something that was written in a book and believe it, without anything to back it up, and even create new meanings that were never intended. :bugeye:

    I find it truly frightening.

    I must admit I am all for the rapture being true, all the believers in rapture suddenly disappearing... :tongue:

    There is a long history of people believing that the end is here, don't forget the end of the world was predicted for the year 1000 and it was so widely believed that some farmers didn't even bother to plant crops.

    edit: I see you've posted much more, I will need to read.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2005
  7. Oct 16, 2005 #6
    Perhapse frightening, but not surprising I think.

    What we need is a worldwide "great awakening" :biggrin:
  8. Oct 16, 2005 #7


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    Hi Evo, Smurf,

    I'vebeen enjoying this website


    It has cartoons

    And it has a poll where you can vote

    What is your view on the Rapture of the Church?
    I believe it must occur before the beginning of the Tribulation. (83.11%)
    I believe it will occur sometime at the mid-point in the Tribulation. (7.76%)
    I believe the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation. (4.57%)
    I don't believe in the Rapture at all. (3.20%)
    What is the 'Rapture'? (1.37%)

    And it has videotapes to buy and watch, like "Planet Earth: the final chapter"
    "Hal Lindsey will be your guide on a chilling tour of the world's future battlefields as the Great Tribulation, foretold more than two thousand years ago by Old and New Testament prophets, begins to unfold. You'll meet world leaders who will bring man to the very edge of extinction and examine the causes of the current global situation-what it all means, what will shortly come to pass, and how it will all turn out.
    VHS - 52 min. $15.99 order online."

    "Apocalypse Code

    The Prophet Daniel predicted there would come a time-just before the return of the Messiah-in which man's knowledge would be greatly increased. Many secrets of the universe would be revealed. That time is now-as predicted in Hal Lindsey's best-selling book, "The Late Great Planet Earth." In this riveting video, the father of modern-day Bible prophecy cracks the "Apocalypse Code" and deciphers long-hidden messages about man's future and the fate of the Earth.
    VHS - 58 min.

    Price: $19.99 Order Online"


    It is beginning to seem to me that the attack on science: cosmology and evolutionary biology that we have been seeing (creationist challenge to bigbang cosmology and evolution) is just a sideshow or a diversion.

    What they really care about is not Genesis but Revelations.

    when you undermine confidence in the scientific study of the PAST then you can claim more authority for the Dispo view of the FUTURE.

    It seems to be a battle or a struggle over a Scenario, or a Theory of History. I can see better now why people would be attacking Darwin and the Expanding Universe idea. What is at stake is not just the prestige of God as the one who said Fiat Lux and made the animals in the Garden of Eden.
    What is at stake is much more important. The Scenario contemplates a large reduction of the human population, blowing the UN down is just for openers. (You'll meet world leaders who will bring man to the very edge of extinction...).

    this is disaster-porn and it is realtime. It is a lot more exciting than the Book of Genesis. going after Darwin could be just a way to pick a fight.
    I am more worried by a conscious or unconscious tendency to provoke or even force nuclear proliferation. It seems to fit in with the Scenario. The tribulations they are imagining here----well one of the Lindsey website cartoons has a mushroom cloud.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2005
  9. Oct 16, 2005 #8


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    I am beginning to get an idea of how important our SHARED VIEW OF HISTORY is.

    one thing national leaders have been able to do (for good or bad) is project a vision of history.

    sometimes it goes like: we're in this predicament and these other people did it and they are the Enemy so we will defeat them and take charge of things and it will all be better. sometimes it goes: we have these sacred ideals and values and we have to stand up for them, and we can do it. or we can go to the moon. or whatever.

    I would say the overwhelming unmentioned fact is that worldwide there are too many people and tribal animosities are on the rise. there is a restless feeling that a lot of killing is going to happen in this century, or a lot of population-reduction of other kinds---famine, plague, "urban renewal" of the barrios as in Zimbabwe, or cooperating-with-disaster as in Louisiana. Religions have often helped with this because they easily become a metaphor for Tribe. Them and Us, communal killing condoned by Higher Authority. So there is this restless feeling in an overcrowded place, and a tendency to arm.

    The trump card of the DISPENSATIONALIST SCENARIO is that in this one respect it FITS REALITY better than any competing view of history.

    Hopeful progressive humanistic Enlightenment-vintage scenarios arent dark enough----their view of history not cruel enough, to ring true in this century. The only competition is from Apocalyptic ENVIRONMENTALISM where the image is more a massive die-off of Tigers and Frogs and rare species of insect. But the Dispensationalists have more or less taken over the main part of that.

    It is not only that Dispensationalists are stupid, it's also that in certain respects they are CORRECT.

    We have to come up with a competing view of history.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2005
  10. Oct 17, 2005 #9
  11. Oct 17, 2005 #10
    But the history of doom thinking is the main subject here on this conference

    Benny Peiser's paper sounds interesting.

    He may have a point for many occasions but perhaps not all of them.
  12. Oct 17, 2005 #11


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    Thanks Andre, I was interested by the two London Times articles especially. I didnt have time to read all your links, just those two:

    'As scientists predict scientific disaster, others foresee Apocalypse'

    (the Times headline was in quotes) and then there was this other:

    Waiting for the lights to go out
    The Times didn't say "and eventually the lights go out for sure." That was your parody I think.:smile:
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2005
  13. Oct 18, 2005 #12
    You're welcome Marcus, and good to recognise parody.

    Anyway, it may also be interesting to compare your post:

    with the thread opener here:

    Andre's law of maintaining misery aka the principle of preservation of problems :rolleyes:
  14. Oct 19, 2005 #13


    probably not that unknown, considering the alarming growth of the global warming hype. It's just the transfer of trouble, as described by the problem preservation principle.
  15. Oct 19, 2005 #14


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    I like your problem preservation principle. In fact I toyed with a similar idea a few years ago. I called it the connservation of misery. Misery has different contexts at different times and may affect different classes of people, but the total amount of it, integrated over the globe, is constant through time.
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