Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Armageddon as Anti-Christ

This holiday season, I had some time to spend doing essentially nothing. As I am wont to do when there's nothing else going on, I tuned into the History Channel. One of the programs was on "the end times." As the bombings in Gaza seem to be everywhere in the news, I have thought again about Millennial prophecies.

Growing up, I was taught the traditional stories of the Second Coming: natural disasters, wars, and the world getting more and more evil. Some of these descriptions were taught to me in gruesome detail in high-school seminary classes. I was also taught the traditional Christian belief about Armageddon—that all nations will be set against Israel, that Jesus will appear and set his foot on the Mount of Olives and rend it in two, allowing the Jewish people to escape from their persecutors and usher in the Millennium. At the same time I was told that a true follower of Christ should pray for and look forward to the Second Coming.

Sometimes, when you grow up with some idea, you miss the fact that the idea is horrible, frightening and illogical. Yet, that is exactly what I think the Second Coming prophecies are. If you'll allow me to horrendously oversimplify the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is two different peoples who each believe they were promised certain land by their respective Gods, and another large group of people egging them on to war with each other so that the third group's God will show himself. Evangelical Christian backing of Israel has been almost entirely motivated by the belief that Armageddon is necessary to bring about the Second Coming. The belief in Armageddon has motivated many pious Christians to become zealous agents in trying to bring the war about. Humble followers of Christ have been transformed into bloodthirsty warmongers in service of "the greater good."

This is why I think that, at its most fundamental, Armageddon is an anti-Christian belief. As I understand Christianity (and admittedly there are many understandings of Christianity), it is the ultimate humanism. Christ was God made flesh, taking upon him our infirmities and pains because he loved us. He gave us the new commandment to love one another. The doctrine of Armageddon provides a perverse incentive that overrides this commandment. By loving other people and trying to build a better, more just, and more peaceful society, one is delaying Jesus' Second Coming.

Now there are those who would say that I'm confusing is and ought. In their view, the work for peace and justice is a Sisyphean task—they do it because they are commanded to, even though they know it will fail. But let's ponder a moment on what Armageddon tells us about the nature of God. Armageddon will proceed the Second Coming either because a) God is a sadist, or b) the Second Coming is a sort of divine discontinuation of the human experiment, God stopping us because he's finally had enough. I can handle the second idea, but then why should we be hoping for the Second Coming? The whole thing strikes me as fatalistic. If we believe in free will for the individual, we can believe that we can change hearts and minds and make a positive difference in the world.

So rather than praying for the Second Coming, it seems to me that the true follower of Christ's prayer should be something like this: "Lord, give us power to promote peace and justice in this world. Soften hearts and let us create a better world. Spare us your vengeance, delay your coming, and give us one more day to create heaven on Earth."

7 comments:

Charlie said...

I couldn't agree with you more. The "faith-based" egging on of Armageddon is absolutely insane. It's anti-human, anti-natural, and anti-Christian. The American Christians who think mass destruction in the "Promised Land" is a good thing would change their tune real quick if they lived in Gaza City. What cruel illogic.

Patrick said...

Hi Nate, I stumbled on your comments re Armageddon and wondered if I could share them with some other blogs I read that are discussing the war. Your phrasing captured my thoughts and feelings and even my inner guidance regarding the whole topic. Keep on loving and expressing your inner being! love, Patrick

Nate W. said...

Feel free to quote some or all of the post, Patrick. Just include a link back to the original. I'm happy for the publicity.

1greenlight said...

amen!

Spencer G said...

I have a friend who wants to go into international law and seek to promote peace in Isreal. I asked him--given the prophecies--if he believes it's possible. He said he had to. And I liked that. It's a better stance than, 'well, it's coming so let's get it over with...'.

Anonymous said...

You have good will, but you won't change what is written, you must pray as it was said to be done..

Nate W. said...

I'm not sure what that means, anon. If I can't change what is "written," then why would my prayers make any difference at all?