The end of the world – how powerful a concept is apocalypse?
However, this is surely not to say that we should never discuss the concept of disaster-apocalypse. In the collective consciousness, there is increasing awareness of the potential for everything to implode.
A nuclear exchange in 2012 is not impossible. The finance system could go in many directions. And not in a good way. These are strange days, and many Westerners, younger people at least, have never before witnessed such uncertainties. 2011 had the highest catastrophe-related worldwide losses in history – $350 billion – says Richard Ward, chief executive of Lloyd’s of London. (And this does not represent the total cost, merely the insured cost. Rebuilding cost for Japan alone may be as high as $600 billion. Indirect costs to worldwide economies, even before factoring in banking crises, are huge.)
Apocalypse is a widely-used background to many books and movies (e.g. Day After Tomorrow, Day of the Triffids, A.I., Armageddon, Nausicaa and more.)
Post-apocalyptical artwork is also common – check these. Similar artwork was painted in the 19th century, although more grounded in a religious worldview. I have certainly been profoundly moved by the force of John Martin’s The Great Day of His Wrath in the Tate Gallery (photo above).
Who else, apart from followers of Jesus, has a counter-balancing practical message of hope in the face of such trouble?
The Mayan Calendar issue
You may not be aware that in the wider world, many people who loosely hold to New Age or alternative spiritualities (and also Hinduism), give some credence to December 2012 being the end of the Mayan Calendar, which they think may usher in huge change or calamity. Check the vast online speculation about this.
Huge numbers of people are conducting Google searches using variations of will the world end in 2012. Most of these current top-20 search results are credible news reports or sensible refutations. One result is a full-on approach by a well-known evangelist. Two are non-Christian and totally wacky.
I suggest that apocalypse can be an appropriate conversation starter (online and offline), if only we can avoid formulaic religious jargon, dates and over-claim, and engage sanely with people in secular, even perhaps New Age, terminology. And without trying to slot every world event into a biblical timetable – something that Christians have repeatedly and incorrectly done since 1000 AD.
The concept of unexpected disaster is also going to be a focus for 2012 in the shape of the Titanic sinking centenary. This also presents a ready-made parable and conversation starter we can use.
What do you think? Please add your thoughts using the comment link below.
If you would like to ask questions about why God allows disaster, or if you have other concerns, go here.
Photo credit: The Great Day of His Wrath (Tate Gallery) | Pleroma/Flickr | Creative Commons
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