Happy 2009, to all and each!
ER got me thinking about the plethora of apocalyptic warnings in Christian garb out there, which takes me back to my youth, and the presence of a single and singular "book" that ushered in an entire "new way" of looking at the world. Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth is without a doubt one of the biggest bits of garbage spewed out of "Christian book stores", and it certainly has set back an understanding of the last book of the New Testament by about 1400 years. None of this is to say that dire predictions of the end of the planet at the hands of an angry, blood-lusting God and warrior Jesus are new; historian Norman Cohn has written several works on the variety of apocalyptic cults in the late medieval and early modern eras. Even Martin Luther, who was not keen on the Book of Revelation, nevertheless keenly anticipated the imminent return of Jesus, and was eager to participate in battle with his personal nemesis, Satan. Apparently, tossing shit at the Prince of Light (it wasn't an inkwell, folks; Luther was a crude individual) only whetted his appetite for battle.
Of course, Lindsey's rueful consideration on the destruction of God's creation was popular because it was a "religious" version of many of the kinds of scenarios we were living with. Nuclear destruction, environmental degradation, the breakdown of the social contract over women's rights, civil rights for African-Americans, a birthing gay right's movement, the ubiquitous presence of urban unrest and an exploding crime rate - they all seemed to be signs of an unraveling. Lindsey merely provided one possible context for understanding this unraveling.
Fast forward, and these same ideas are still with us. They always will be (I think Cohn is correct that as long as there are marginalized populations with the ability to misinterpret the Bible, there will always be a projected hope of Divine revenge upon those who thwart the hopes and destroy the lives of society's cast-offs). Yet, I think we are sitting, not on the brink of The Battle for Megiddo (a cross roads of sorts where various trading roads met; this was the place where the final Epic Battle was to take place, allegedly), but perhaps moving towards some moments, if not of the Final Peace, certainly a measure of reconciliation and a renewed sense of national unity. We are 19 days away from the first Obama Administration. The new Congress will be seated, I believe, next week. Within a few days, a huge influx of public works projects, all sorts of money and opportunities for turning the country around will be passed and passed out. Even though we are facing dire economic times, there is the possibility that, having people in positions of authority who actually know what they are doing, and understand that policy is the end of politics, not an adjunct to it, we might actually weather this storm pretty well.
Yes, Israel is once again in the business of killing Palestinians for no real political, strategic, or even tactical purpose or gain. The Russians are awaking, which might just be a good thing. We are emerging from our national dream of being the world's only juggernaut to face the reality that we are not trusted, not listened to, and other nations once considered risible on the international stage - India in particular - have both the ability and flexibility to insist on being heard. The world is always a far more complicated place than the dreams of imperial conquerors, and that's all to the good. Much better to relinquish the desire to lead the world than to ruin it out of a combination of hubris and incompetence.
I believe with all my heart that 2009, despite all the rumblings of bad economic news and the desire among the vast majority of Americans for George W. Bush and his gang of idiots to just go away and disappear in to the dustbin of history, will be a great year. I believe we will surprise ourselves as a nation, as a people, as those who can tough it out, and make ourselves better by, perhaps, learning our greatness does not come from our military might, or our industrial prowess. Rather, my hope for 2009 is that we learn that we are great because of our Constitution. I hope we no longer see enemies in dark faces and strange names and different beliefs.
The past year was historic. It may have been, as the saying goes, prologue for what is to come. May we face it together in real hope, without fear, and always ready to have a laugh at our own absurdity.