Do you have a pen and paper? Jot this down. I’m going to tell you how the world is going to end, probably in the next five years. Iran is going to attack Israel with nuclear weapons, to which Israel will retaliate. To protect their economic interests and the cheap oil needed to fuel their economies, Russia and China will march 5 million men into the Middle East to crush Israel and the US. The result? World War III, and a nuclear apocalypse. But don’t worry about it. If you’re a born-again Christian you’ll be taken by the rapture long before all this happens, and Jesus will naturally prevail. If you’re a good Muslim, your side will naturally win the apocalyptic battle when the Mahdi arrives. In the minds of many, it’s not a question of if this will happen, it’s just a matter of when.
There are many other articles dwelling on the recent Israel/Hezbollah conflict. I want to discuss the media’s reaction. As soon as the conflict began, voices on CNN and Fox News called it “World War III”, and asked religious figures, televangelist Pat Robertson included, whether this was the beginning of the end of the world. And why not? Many of them have been saying for years that we are living in the End Times, that the second coming of Jesus was seconds away. Clearly a small regional conflict between a terrorist organization and Israel could be the tripwire that would create a global conflict. Christianity is not the only world religion that sees the end coming. The supreme religious leadership of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, has stated that the final war would soon be upon us, and that the Zionists would be destroyed in a “wave of Holy Fire.”
These beliefs are nothing new, but only recently have they begun to shape global politics. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was an atheist state that didn’t really want the world to end, while the West saw the conflict as one of ideologies, not religious doctrine. But as the diminishing of the Cold War saw the rise in power of both the Evangelical Christian movement in America and the Islamic Theocratic States in the Middle East, the potential for a so-called “clash of civilizations” with apocalyptic result has grown large. As these two groups gain more and more political power in the global village, their world view will be drawn out by those in power, whether divinely inspired or not.
On the rise of Apocalypticism in the Middle East I cannot truly comment, since I’m neither Muslim nor from the Middle East. What I can comment on is the sudden rise of the End of the World obsession in the West. There are several root causes. First, the rise of Evangelical Protestantism, with its fundamentalist approach to the Bible. Not all evangelicals hold this particular view, but those who do -typically televangelists such as Pat Robertson, Jack Van Impe, and John Hagee – are often the ones who have created mass media empires. Through these, their views have begun to seep into the mainstream media and saturate it with the belief in the Book of Revelations.
Another obvious factor is Israel. Many Biblical scholars believe that the generation that saw Israel created as its own state is the generation that will see the End of Times. Israel was founded in 1948. That means that the generation born that year has almost turned sixty… Also culpable is the Media’s obsessive need to keep the world on the brink of disaster. Since September 11th news outlets have found fear a useful ratings tool. The addition of such programs as CNN’s The Situation Room and pundit shows like Glenn Beck and The O’Reilly Factor to the airwaves creates a sense of perpetual crisis hard for the general public to ignore. The final cause is more my opinion then anything else. I believe that as the West finds the kind of overindulgent and hedonistic lifestyles it has grown accustomed to almost impossible to economically maintain, their fear of the collapse of the status quo causes many to become obsessed with the apocalypse. The end of the suburban, SUV-driving, Western Middle Class will -in the eyes of many -mean the end of civilization altogether.
So what does this mean for us, the generation in university, just preparing to take the reins? It means that we have to resist and fight back against these narratives. This is by no means a rant against religion, rather a rant against a generation with a selfish kind of faith that would march happily towards disaster to meet God, robbing their own children of a future. We who are soon to take control of the world cannot allow ourselves to be seduced by the idea that this world doesn’t deserve to exist, or that the future is not worth saving.