We’re reading Judith Shulevitz’s The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time over at The High Calling, and I find myself thinking, not about the Sabbath, but about eschatology, or “last things,” end times or the Apocalypse (take your pick).
Blame it on Shulevitz. In Part 4, “The Flight from Time,” she’s discussing the Gospel of Mark, how urgent and immediate he is in his account, and she says it’s because he’s being influenced by the idea of the Apocalypse and the second coming of Christ. (Tradition says he was aiming his account at a Roman audience, who tended to the skip-the-long-introduction-and-cut-to-the-chase kind of people.) She quotes Harold Bloom in an essay he wrote on the gospel of Mark: “Apocalypse hovers.”
Then she says this: “We live as Mark wrote, in a state of apocalyptic urgency. Relatively few of us believe that Jesus is about to return, but just over the horizon of waking life, in nightmares and disaster movies and science-fiction novels, visions of the end play themselves out…”
She lost me with the “relatively few of us believe” and my mind wandered, as it is wont to do, down the proverbial rabbit hole. She’s largely correct in what she says, but she seems to attribute our preoccupation with the end of time with our changed understanding of what time actually is. And she blames clocks.
It isn’t only that, of course. I’m not going to blame it all on clocks. Don’t forget journalists (I was once, once), who thrive on disaster and tend to frame stories in apocalyptic terms. And politicians, who tell us apocalypse is imminent if they and their party aren’t elected. (Where I think apocalypse really hovers is in the current extremes occupied by the two major political parties in Washington, not to mention the smaller parties who truly believe Apocalypse is upon us because of the two major parties.)
But where my mind finally goes is to a question. Why in this “post-Christian” era, when the Christian underpinnings of society and culture are being rather gleefully kicked out one by one, do we seem to increasingly embrace religious language and concepts to express and explain ourselves and what’s happening around us?
The environmental movement, for example, was born preaching about the destruction of the planet and the life it contains.
Corporations are “evil.” Big government is “evil.” Virtually anything big is “evil.” Virtually anything we think we can’t control is “evil.”
We flock to movies about alien invasions and end-times, and obsess over vampires and magic. We may not believe in God but we certainly believe in angels, and we devour accounts of near-death experiences and glimpses into “the other side.”
We erect science as our god and then dethrone it when it doesn’t answer questions the “right way.” We frame issues in terms of good and evil – and we’re good and our opponents are evil. Or we use the David and Goliath analogy even if we don’t know the background or context.
I don’t quite fathom why all this happening, but it strikes me as rather odd that we are increasingly using religious concepts and terminology at the very same time we’re rejecting religion.
Unless, of course, we’re created as inherently religious creatures, it’s in our genes, and we can’t escape our DNA.
Or our hearts.
To see the discussion about Part 3 (“The Scandal of the Holy”) and Part 4 (“The Flight From Time”) of The Sabbath World, please visit The High Calling.
Photograph by Josee Holland Eclipse via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.