Apocalypse Now: How the Left and Right Get Danger Wrong

Alarmist thinking is toxic in politics and at odds with Christian hope.

The idea of an apocalypse is terrifying for a people and culture under the pretension that everything is under our control—and that our best hope is to continue to feel in control.

In politics today, apocalyptic thinking on the right and the left is based on an apocalypse that is sure to harm us—but is not so unwieldy that our total control could not avert it. Meanwhile, the Christian idea is nearly the opposite: Embracing apocalypse would not only prepare us for the reality of the world to come, but it involves an acceptance of the world as it is and our role in it.

Political imaginings of apocalypse are of events that we might prevent if only everyone else would get on board. In this way, the apocalypse is not so much focused on the event itself, but on other people’s stubbornness. We are condemned not necessarily by God or by our own deeds and thoughts, but by our neighbors’ degraded political views. Because of this, the apocalyptic thinking dominating our politics is anti-humanistic since it depends on broad, explicit, and implicit condemnation of our fellow human beings—and ultimately, of our own existence.

One version of apocalyptic thinking on the right is lamenting the ever-encroaching immorality of others and “the culture” in general. We are at risk of losing America as we know it—that is, our communities have transformed such that they are “unrecognizable” and constantly on the verge of irretrievability. It’s the language of carnage and nostalgia.

On the right, the moral dualism of apocalyptic thinking moves from character and values outward to actions. We are doomed because evil people act in such a way that makes our way of life inhospitable.

For a …

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