The Apocalypse Is Everywhere: A Popular History of America's Favorite Nightmare

The Apocalypse Is Everywhere: A Popular History of America's Favorite Nightmare

The Apocalypse Is Everywhere: A Popular History of America's Favorite Nightmare

The Apocalypse Is Everywhere: A Popular History of America's Favorite Nightmare

Synopsis

This wide-ranging exploration of the apocalypse in Western culture seeks to understand how we have come to be so preoccupied with spectacular visions of our own annihilation—offering abundant examples of the changing nature of our imagined destruction, and predisposing readers to discover many more all around them.

The Apocalypse Is Everywhere: A Popular History of America's Favorite Nightmare explores why apocalyptic thinking exists, how it has been manifested in Western culture through the ages, and how it has woven itself so thoroughly into our popular culture today.

Beginning with contemporary apocalyptic expressions, the book demonstrates how surprisingly widespread they are. It then discusses how we inherited them and where they arose. Author Annie Rehill surveys the ancient belief systems from which Christianity evolved, including ancient Judaism and other faiths. She explores the vision outlined in the Book of Revelation and traces the apocalyptic thread through the Middle Ages, across the Reformation and Enlightenment, and to the Americas. Finally, to prove that the Apocalypse is indeed everywhere, Rehill returns to the present to consider the idea of apocalypse as it occurs in movies, books, comics and graphic novels, games, music, and art, as well asin televangelism and even presidential speeches. Her fascinating scholarship will surely have readers looking about them with new eyes.

Excerpt

Apocalypse. The mere word conjures images of plague and ghastly death. Most Americans today understand it to mean total annihilation, or a final clash between good and evil. But that is only part of the story that John tells in the Book of Revelation, often called the Apocalypse. In this book, we’ll explore its continuing manifestations in popular culture and delve into the background.

Revelation, the last book in the Christian Bible’s New Testament, was written by a man named John, who describes several awesome and appalling visions of the ultimate triumph of God over Satan. He wrote from the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, between present-day Greece and Turkey, probably around AD 95. It is likely that he was a Jewish-Christian refugee from Jerusalem, from which he may have fled after the first failed rebellion against the Romans (AD 66–73).

Young Christianity was then having a tough time. Rome threatened the seven Christian churches in Asia, and it was to these churches that John wrote. His purpose was to urge adherents not to give up. They would be vindicated, he promised; God would punish their persecutors for eternity, while they would live forever in heaven.

We will consider the Book of Revelation in the context of its place in history, in terms of other beliefs about the ultimate fate of humans as well as in the apocalyptic lineage of which it is considered the most elaborate and dramatic Christian illustration. Bernard McGinn traces this fascinating, long family tree in Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages. “The content of apocalyptic eschatologies (the plural is surely more accurate) expresses a pattern of beliefs about time and eternity that are too complex to be reduced to any single essential notion,” McGinn forewarns in his introduction, and “apocalypticism should always be seen as a genus that includes a number of species.”

Marjorie Reeves was another prominent scholar of the genus, specializing, like McGinn, in the medieval period. Eugen Weber studied it for a more . . .

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