With the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, bloody riots and looting, anarchic protests, enviro-fascism, the spread of pure hatred, and political discord that is ripping apart civilization itself, one has to wonder out loud: is this the end of the world?
In the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, seven trumpets are sounded, one at a time, to cue apocalyptic events seen by John of Patmos in his vision. The seven trumpets are sounded by seven angels and the prophetic events that follow are described in vivid, frightening, and lurid detail.
Four figures in the book of Revelation symbolize the evils to come at the end of the world. The figure representing conquest rides a white horse; war, a red horse; famine, a black horse; and plague, a pale horse. They are often called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The famous 10 plagues described in Exodus included agricultural blights, such as locusts; diseases, such as boils; supernatural or astronomical plagues, such as storms of fire or darkness; and, finally, the tenth plague—the killing of all firstborn sons.
I don’t seek to raise heavy theological questions about the finitude of life or mortality of the soul, let alone, life after death in heaven or hell. Can I mention such modern-day secular heresies in a post-Christian era? We will leave those topics to the churches, atheists, and dogmatists of whatever stripe or dispensation who still believe in belief.
The more germane, if mundane, question of historicity is why and how all these present tribulations are coming to bear on us in 2020. Are they truly without precedent or is there a more nefarious, perhaps sinister answer?
If the world has an end—and it has been regularly predicted down the centuries and proven without merit or factual basis, to date at least—why would this time be so emblematic? Why are things seemingly so desperately ominous, apart from the all-too-familiar fatalistic and conspiratorial climate change, which changes every day, anyway?
Perhaps, this is a watershed year in many ways, particularly for America. After four years of ceaseless, mostly Russian and Ukrainian-related hoaxes, unfounded impeachment, rumors of collusion or worse, treason, cries of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all-out culture war against the Almighty Trump, nothing has stuck.
Perhaps, in blaming him for the apocalypse, this time will be different!
President Trump has taken more flak and incoming fire than the entire allied landing party on all the beaches of Normandy on D-Day combined—and stood in place. Is there a presidency in American history that has been so imperiled, so thwarted, so despised by the opposition, posing as a not-so-secret resistance, from day one, as this one? Not even Lincoln or Tricky Dick Nixon had to endure such venomous acts, constant media assault, a duplicitous deep state, and looming externalities, some manufactured as far away as China.
The quack prophesier Hal Lindsay wrote a series of best-selling apocalyptic books predicting that the rapture was about to occur in the late 1960s. The Late Great Planet Earth got it wrong. Maybe you noticed, the world did not end.
Odds are it won’t end this time either—unless of course, Trump is reelected. Then all hell will break loose and the Left will go wildly apoplectic. An armed insurrection will commence and not just in a section of downtown Seattle. It could be a new civil war.
The more likely scenario, however, one based on long-lived experience, is that life will just go on. History will not end, any more than will ideology, or culture be canceled. Allan Bloom was certainly right about The Closing of the American Mind and there will be an endless spate of mostly conservative writings about the near end of civilization, and most certainly the suicide of Europe and the West.
But it appears, something always comes next, even if history forever repeats itself or seems to run in circles.
Theologians get crazed debating whether the millennium will end before the return of Christ (pre), after (post) or not at all (a). I am more given to the idea that it will all pan out in the end. I would dub that view, pan-millennialist, for those taking notes or looking for biblical exegesis.
Yes, Trump will come and go. Sorry, he won’t last forever. The possibility that he will govern for “four more years,” as the convention chant goes, is likely. It will not be the end of time but just a short span in which to make America great(er) than it was. God knows there is much to overcome.
Recall in 1922 when T.S. Eliot penned the most important poem of the 20th century, The Wasteland, he “showed us fear in a handful of dust,” in a dramatic account of burial, disillusionment, and despair. Meditating on the imagery of death just after World War I, the culminating section, “What the Thunder Said,” offers an image of judgment.
It ends, “Shantih shantih shantih,” which translates from the Sanskrit as, “peace, inner peace.”
The opening line of that same poem is, “April is the cruellest month.”
Yes, Spring springs eternal and new life supplants the death of winter. We are only at the end of the beginning of the era of Trump.