On April 15, West Chester University’s Contemporary Issues held a highly controversial “Apocalypse” discussion with Charles Bauerlein, Assistant Professor of English and Eric Fournier, Assistant Professor of History, in Philip’s Memorial Hall.”People are always going to fear when the world is going to end.Some day, you’re all going to die and you’re expected to know you’re all going to die. The idea of death is natural to us. So why wouldn’t the world die,” said Bauerlein, reasoning that life and death exist in the same cycles.
Is December 21, 2012, the day the world will end? For many people, the Apocalypse seems to be quickly approaching, some out of religious reasons, superstitions, astronomical reasoning, economic problems, and science and for some, out of fear. Many attribute the Book of Revelations and the Mayan calendar to be sources of the apocalyptic scare.
“It gets pretty scary because the Book of Revelations is a very difficult book to wrap your mind around.it was purposely written in very obscure language, that can be interpreted by anybody to mean almost anything,” said Bauerlein, who teaches an interdisciplinary course called “Literature of the Apocalypse.”
“It was written purposely in this obscure, symbolic language because it was a letter to first century Christians that called for the overthrow of the Roman government. it was openly rebellious.”
Fournier also attributes the origins of the apocalyptic phenomenon to early Christianity and the Book of Revelation. “The Apocalypse has become more of a pop culture element,” since it is rarely used in Christian church sermons. However, the theme of an apocalyptic revelation can be found in the Torah, the Bible, Islamic teachings and many other religious writings and literature.
The Book of Revelations is the last book of the New Testament in the Christian Bible. The Book of Revelations describes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Battle of Armageddon, the last battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. It also speaks of Jesus’ second coming, which will restore peace to the world for 1,000 years until God’s final judgment.
“God finished his work in six days,” says Genesis 1, contributing to many seven day or seven-thousand year theories in respect to the Bible. According to Psalms, “1,000 years are as a day passed in the sight of the Lord,” stating that in human years, god created the world in six thousand years or his six days. These and many other readings have contributed to the seven-thousand year prophecy jubilee cycle, an indication of when Jesus will make his second coming.
However, the Book of Revelations was “intended to give the followers of Jesus hope.that they will defeat the forces of evil in a battle of Armageddon at the end of time.” Whether they meant the end of human civilization or the Roman Empire as a “seven headed monster” and the “force of evil” to be defeated, is left to our interpretation. However, Bauerlein suggests that the Book of Revelations is not to be read literally
We are not the first generation after the apostles to fear the Apocalypse. An infamous generation is of the Great Disappointment, a major event in the history of the 19th century when William Miller, a Baptist preacher, prophesied that Jesus would return to the earth in 1844. Samuel S. Snow predicted the more specific date of October 22, 1844. Jesus did not appear as expected and as a result the date became known as the Great Disappointment.
According to Bauerlein, when Ronald Reagan was running for president in 1980, he used language in his campaign speeches that signified to American fundamental Christians that he believed in a literal second coming of Jesus. Bauerlein said he worried at the time that this might not just be campaign rhetoric designed to win votes and that if Reagan became president he might be tempted to use the nation’s nuclear arsenal in a global war with the Soviet Union to bring about the apocalypse.
Some fundamental Christians believe the formation of Israel in 1947 was predicted in the Bible and is a sign that the second coming of Jesus is imminent. Another sign, they say, is the rebuilding of the sacred Temple. However, the old site of the temple is now occupied by the Dome of the Rock, a sacred Islamic mosque. Bauerlein suggested if Israel were to knock down the Dome of the Rock to rebuild the temple, such actions might trigger a holy war in the Middle East and fundamental Christians would fill with expectations that Christ’s return would soon come.
Fournier stated that the fate of the Book of Revelations is also in the hands of main stream media, but warns about dangerous apocalyptic movements of some extreme agendas. Many cults have misinterpreted the bible in order to push their own agendas. He said that Revelations is “open to different sources of interpretations…” and that it, “makes people uncomfortable in many ways.”
The Tzolkin or Count of Days is a 260-day Sacred Calendar cycle developed by the Maya approximately 2500 years ago. It linked earthly, lunar, solar and galactic seasons in an aesthetically simple manner that allowed the Mayans to produce a counting system beyond their time. The Mayan Tzolkin calendar is one major source of apocalyptic scares because it ends on December 21, 2012. On this day a rare astronomical and Mayan mythical event is said to occur. According to the Mayan myth, there will be a rare alignment of the Earth, Sun and center of the Milky Way in which the Sun’s energy will no longer reach the earth.
Although the Mayan calendar did count up to 2012, keep in mind that Mayan civilization did not last long after 900 and the Spanish conquests in the 16th Century. Some scholars have recently theorized that an intense 200 year drought led to the collapse of Maya civilization. We should view December 21, 2012 just as the end of a Mayan calendar cycle.
The first counting system was Annus Mundi (AM), however when the dates became closer to “the end,” the counting became a “dangerous, ticking bomb,” according to Fournier. Fearing outbursts, in 1600, they switched to a new system Annus Domini (AD).
In the 1940s, members of the Hopi Tribe warned that of a series of global catastrophes would strike after nine omens occurred. These omens were a third world war, geologic disruption, hotter temperatures, drought and famine that would all contribute to the collapse of civilization. This prediction is from a legend known today as the Hopi Prophecy.
New Apocalypse theories are being born daily. Recent theories surround Obama’s presidency that something cataclysmic will occur when his presidency ends in 2012. Others fear asteroids. Astronomers are watching a 25 story asteroid that is said to be coming as close to as 18,000 miles away from Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029.
During the question and answer period, West Chester student Wyatt Jackson quoted Albert Einstein, who speculated that “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” Recently, honey bee colonies have started to die off, abruptly and decisively. Millions of bees are abandoning their hives and flying off to die (they cannot survive as a colony without the queen, who is always left behind). There is a growing threat that America’s agriculture may be struck a mortal blow by the decrease in pollination.
“We have to be concerned,” Bauerlein said, reminding students that humans and other animals are constantly killing off other species.
Another student asked how likely humans are to survive and apocalyptic era, are we tenacious enough? Bauerlein responded by saying, “Man has pretty innate intelligence to wreak havoc. how quickly are we to judge?”
After the discussion Cynthia Hackl, West Chester student and member of Contemporary Issues said, “It’s very devastating to me, the thought that it is in my lifetime and I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a good
enough chance to live my life. Time is very valuable in today’s society. I’d rather be judged by the merit of my character.”
Joli McCarthy is a third-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. She can be reached at JM625940@wcupa.edu.