According to a relatively well-known Christian preacher and religious group May 21, 2011 is the end, or the beginning of the end, of the world.
Nothing drastic happened. And it’s 11:27 p.m.
But there are hints amid the storm of current events that “the news” cycles through and then drops. Then there are the minutiae (see next post) that we don’t know about or aren’t told about…
Today the Israeli Prime Minister (again, I don’t know details) predictably rejected U.S. diplomatic – and the U.S. President’s – demands that Netanyahu halt West Bank settlement construction. The State Department Special Envoy to the Middle East (a key post since the Clinton days), George Mitchell, resigned about a week ago. We can guess the reasons. Mr. Netanyahu was heard on television today categorically rejecting the latest U.S. offer. They stopped negotiating with the Palestinians per se when Yasser Arafat died, barricaded by the Israelis under a sort of house arrest in his “compound.” And so since a Palestinian state does not officially exist, Israel does not officially negotiate with them. The U.S. is the only entity Israel will talk to, as they feel the rest of the world and particularly the U.N., are against them. It’s a diplomatic game, but a very important one, symbolically and otherwise, and “concessions” are what U.S. diplomacy perennially seeks and usually does not get. As for Israel, the last Prime Minister to engage seriously in “peace talks” and make significant concessions was assassinated…otherwise the two peoples have been in a state of either hot or cold war since the country of Israel’s U.N. recognition in 1949 (after a war in which, against incredible odds, Israel was victorious)…
Two points – we in the West (if I read “us” right, and I don’t claim to) see the End of Days as, one, “near”, and two, as deriving from the Holy Land – Palestine – the land of the founding of the Christian faith and the land of the Bible. A tiny but historically steeped piece of real estate.
D.H. Lawrence’s Apocalypse1, is a unique book and somewhat of a memoir. This was Lawrence’s last book – he was purportedly “a dying man” according to the 1966 Viking Edition Introduction by Richard Aldington. The long essay offers a glimpse into how Lawrence feels the biblical Book of Revelation influences the Western lore of an “End Times.” Lawrence argues that it derives from a Jewish mindset, reaching far into history.
Lawrence desires to clear up the first misconception with the opening sentence:
“Apocalypse means simply Revelation…”, though he grants that it’s a bit more complicated than that. His overall point is that the religion of his childhood is a huge part of his being, and the book is an effort, in his dying days, to come to terms with that:
“[T]he Bible, in portions, (was) poured into the childish consciousness day in, day out, year in, year out, whether the consciousness could assimilate it or not…” (p. 4).
Lawrence was a scholar of the ancient Greeks; his specialty the Etruscans of 700 to 300 B.C., and he believed they lived life as close to the best it could be (and that this is reflected in their architecture, mythology, prose, etc.). My view is that Lawrence, like many, believed that the early Church was pure and good, but became corrupted. Hence the opening sentence – “[a]pocalypse means simply Revelation” – a contradiction in the Christian mind, but one we readily accept.
Four quotes, all from Chapter Two, summarize Lawrence’s view of what happened in those halcyon yet brutal days:
In Jesus’s day, the inwardly strong men everywhere had lost their desire to rule one earth. They wished to withdraw their strength from earthly rule and earthly power, and to apply it to another form of life. Then the weak began to rouse up and to feel inordinately conceited, they began to express their rampant hate of the “obvious” strong ones, the men in worldly power.
– (p. 17)
To the underground early Christians, Babylon the Great meant Rome, the great city and the great empire which persecuted them. And great was the satisfaction in denouncing her and bringing her to utter, utter, woe and destruction, with all her kings, her wealth, and lordliness. After the Reformation, Babylon was once more identified with Rome, but this time it meant the Pope…
– (p. 11)
…[they] took over to themselves the Jewish idea of the chosen people. They were “it,” the elect, or the “saved.” And they took over the Jewish idea of ultimate triumph and reign of the chosen people. From being bottom dogs they were going to be top dogs…
– (p. 13)
So that religion, the Christian religion especially, became dual. The religion of the strong taught renunciation and love. And the religion of the weak taught Down with the strong and powerful, and let the poor be glorified. Since there are always more weak people, than strong, in the world, the second sort of Christianity has triumphed and will triumph. If the weak are not ruled, they will rule, and there’s the end of it.
– (p. 18)
And finally, an old man in his final days, “…when people are mere personifications of qualities they cease to be people for me.” (p. 8)
What of the end of days, or Apocalypse? If you consider it, it isn’t really possible to judge an era until it’s over. But overpopulation, environmental destruction on a monolithic scale, economic and social decline – I favor the disgusting but very analogy of the frog sitting in slowly boiling water. . . and so to apply it to the United States itself, I also like the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure scenario:
a “founding father” – let’s say Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, or one cut from that sort of cloth – transported to the present day, maybe their old stomping ground – Philadelphia, or Boston. Would Jefferson or Adams believe he were living in, say, the normal trajectory (aawwww within bounds, say) of a nation, 300 years hence? Or would he believe, upon walking the streets and examining the situation in its totality, that he was living in the end times?
1 (Lawrence, D.H. Apocalypse. The Estate of David Herbert Lawrence, 1931. Viking Compass Edition, New York: 1966.)