Belief

Hey Apocalyptic Christians -- Here's How the World as We Know It Will Probably End

Humankind is well on the way to destroying the world all on its own.

High profile anti-religionists like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins are altogether candid in their disrespect for Christians, and the faith we follow. No doubt Maher and Dawkins hold even less regard for that evangelical subset who believes we are living in the “end times”— a disregard shared by countless other atheists and agnostics.

The truth is, we apocalyptically minded Christians sometimes feel a bit isolated, even within our own faith. Bible prophecy remains a subject of great debate and disagreement in the church, with widely divergent schools of thought, including "amillinealism," "postmellinealism, "preterism" and "dispensationalism," to name but a few.

The dispensationalists probably come closest to what non-believers would label a “tinfoil hat” crowd. Basically, we dispensationalists—yes, I’m one of them—see the story of God's relationship to man in a series of ages, or dispensations. These include the Age of Law (Old Testament), the Church Age (from Jesus to the present) and finally the Kingdom Age (Christ’s literal 1000-year earthly reign, following the Battle of Armageddon). Dispensationalism also tends to interpret scripture more literally than figuratively, although it certainly allows for some figurative/symbolic interpretation.

Dispensationalists get a bad rap in the popular culture, much of it deserved. For decades, best-selling dispensational authors like Hal Lindsay and Tim LaHaye have been serving up a toxic brew of right-wing politics, theocratic utopianism and super-patriotic militarism. Yet, despite these noxious ingredients, some good prophecy teaching still manages to seep through their writings.

But of all the unseemly excesses so ubiquitous among prophecy writers and teachers, few match their penchant for predicting hellfire-and-brimstone judgments from an angry God, including earthquakes, erupting volcanoes and meteorites smashing into cities; all those epic disasters insurance adjusters euphemistically classify as acts of God.

I wonder if it ever occurred to these authors (or their readers) that maybe, just maybe, they've gotten it all wrong; that perhaps the natural disasters prophesied in the Bible will turn out to be nothing more than the unexpected, unintended consequences of our own actions— environmental blowback on a global scale.

With that thought in mind, perhaps they should consider these alternative apocalyptic scenarios.

Fracking and Its Ill Effects

Fracking is the popular term for hydraulic fracturing, a controversial drilling method used to extract natural gas from oil shale beneath the earth's surface. The procedure involves injecting fluids into cracks within rock formations to expand the fissures so they can release gas.

Fracking has proven to be an extremely effective method of natural gas extraction, and has spawned countless well sites in regions all across the country. In theory, fracking sounds like a great solution to America's ever-expanding energy needs. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with it—a big problem.

If the gas companies were only injecting water into these rock formations, most Americans wouldn’t have much of an issue with fracking. Unfortunately, they mix in as many as 750 chemicals, including at least 29 possible or known human carcinogens. These are only the chemicals we know of, because in 2005 Vice Pres. Dick Cheney pushed the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill through Congress (commonly known as the "Halliburton loophole") which exempts natural gas companies from having to disclose the chemicals they use during fracking. Furthermore, it exempts the practice of fracking altogether from provisions in both the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Clean Air Act. In other words, gas companies can frack to their heart's delight, virtually free from oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mounting evidence shows that the fluids used in these wells are leaking into water supplies. In his documentary Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox took his cameras to the homes of families who live near gas drilling sites where fracking is being done. Their water is so polluted it is literally undrinkable. The film includes shocking footage of homeowners using matches to actually set fire to their tap water.

The gas companies' response to these startling revelations was, essentially, "no response." And why should they? Thanks to Bush and Cheney they have zero accountability.

So, how does this affect you and me, and how exactly does it tie in with Bible prophecy? Perhaps the most sobering moment in Fox's film is when he shows a map of all the waterways that snake throughout North America's vast expanse, and how interconnected they are. To pollute one, essentially, is to pollute them all. Transpose onto these waterways a second map showing the tens of thousands of fracking sites that pockmark the American landscape and you begin to comprehend the magnitude of the problem.

When the Bible speaks of the world's water supplies going foul, why should we evangelicals attribute it to an angry God? After all, humankind is well on the way to achieving this goal on its own, and all in the interest of cheaper energy and higher profits for Halliburton.

Manmade Global Warming: Yes, it's Real

If there is one evangelical idiosyncrasy that causes non-believers to smack their heads in utter incredulity it is our perplexing proclivity for picking and choosing whatever we wish to believe, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Most give us a pass on the whole evolution debate because our views don’t have a significant impact on their lives—unless we try to impose them on the educational system. But when we are confronted with literally mountains of evidence to support a scientific proposition—evidence accumulated over the centuries and confirmed in real time—yet still refuse to accept its validity, that's when we lose all credibility.

Manmade global warming is one such issue, and our stubborn refusal to acknowledge it for what it is —a frighteningly real phenomenon and the shameful byproduct of human greed—makes us look like total idiots to those with whom we would share the good news of Christ.

Manmade (as opposed to naturally occurring) global warming has been so thoroughly, unquestionably, irrefutably documented that arguing its existence with an entrenched climate denier is like trying to convince a toddler that the sky is blue when he is absolutely certain it is pink. In short: a total waste of time.

Despite the tonnage of evidence, an astonishing number of evangelicals choose (quite willfully) to believe that manmade global warming is nothing but a "liberal hoax," apparently designed to undercut oil company profits. Which begs the question: Why would anyone wish ill on oil companies? They're so lovable.

The larger question, of course, is: Why would anyone believe the pseudo-scientific snake oil put out by climate deniers like U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla), who famously declared global warming to be the "greatest hoax ever”? And how, in Heaven's name, can an educated man like Inhofe believe his own drivel, if indeed he does?

Inhofe is one of the U.S. Senate's chief beneficiaries of oil and gas money, which alone should cause even the most blinkered climate denier to question his credibility on global warming.But instead, the corporate media (including best-selling prophecy writers) give him ink and airtime to disseminate his dangerous disinformation, which he somehow manages to deliver with a straight face.

Inhofe is aided in this unholy undertaking by fringe science studies funded by gas, coal and oil companies. These energy companies have even gone so far as to employ the services of a conservative think tank (the Heritage Foundation) to churn out talking points crafted to undermine confidence in the evidence supporting manmade climate change.

And why exactly are America's energy producers engaged in such a massive propaganda campaign? Because, as they see it, to concede global warming’s legitimacy would only open the door to climate control legislation that could negatively impact their bottom line. In other words, they care more about their profits than they do human lives.

The Bible ominously warns of freakish weather events occurring during the seven-year tribulation. Furthermore, climate scientists say that global climate change (which has already begun and is speeding up with each passing year) will bring widespread famine and disease —also prophesied in the Bible. Seriously, how much more convincing do we evangelicals need?

Missed Opportunities

Despite this plethora of empirical evidence supporting Christian claims that the world is nearing a tipping point of biblical proportions, many of us oddly, irrationally reject it, choosing instead to bury our heads in the sand and believe the phony science and Madison Avenue disinformatzia fabricated by fossil fuel polluters and their useful idiots in Congress.

Most tragic of all, we Christians have before us a timely moral lesson that is being totally disregarded. Jesus warned us that the love of money is "the root of all evil." Here we have a phenomenon that illustrates this point better than anything one could possibly imagine, yet we blissfully ignore it. To describe this as a missed opportunity would be an epic understatement.

This willingness to filter out facts that don’t fit neatly into our worldview, even when those facts support our claimed core belief system, is a tragic, supremely ironic example of how (in evangelical Christianity) politics often trump religion. To that end we routinely distort and pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ to suit our own ends, transforming him from a socialistic prince of peace into an apocalyptic military messiah bent on smiting liberals, gays and anyone who voted for Barrack Obama in the last two elections.

There is an element of truth in this evangelical re-branding of Jesus, but only slightly. In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia Aslan the Lion (a Christ figure) is killed, only to be miraculously resurrected. When Lucy asks him, “Why didn't you jump in and save us, like last time?” Aslan replies, “Things never happen the same way twice, dear one.”

So it is with Jesus, who came first to save us, and will return to judge us. Same Jesus. Different mission.

Unexpected Judgment

When Jesus reappears on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to judge the nations of the world (as the Bible predicts), how do we American evangelicals think we will fare? Will he pat us all on the back for opposing gay marriage and gun control legislation? Will he congratulate us for advocating prayer in schools and creationism in the classroom? And how, dare we ask, will he judge our stewardship of this lush, green planet God gifted us?

I fully expect many of the terrors to rain down upon mankind during the Tribulation will be those of our own making; the result of our short-sightedness and greed. So responsible will we be for our own sufferings that Jesus will be able to look us straight in the eyes and say "Look at the mess you've made. If I hadn't come back when I did you would have totally destroyed yourselves."

Our failure will be just one more example to all mankind of how pitifully incapable humans are (in our sin nature) of responsibly caring for ourselves and our world. As for those dreadful descriptions of an angry God hurtling thunderbolts and plagues at us, why should He do that when we are perfectly willing to do the job for Him?

Bill Underwood is a journalist, author and social worker whose stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications. His new e-book "American Babylon" is available on Smashwords.com. www.billunderwood.com

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