Background on End Times

A weblog reader and retired Presbyterian minister submits some interesting background on the End Times movement, as well as the truly troubling Christian Reconstructionist Movement: 

"I've just been reading the article cited in your blog, regarding the End Times scenario being run by the Tea Party Republican faithful.  I was reminded of two things:

First, an article a couple of days ago in The Huffington Post deals with the influence of Christian Reconstructionism in current House Republican struggles.  Short lines of descent connect Ted Cruz & Co. with purveyors of this "gospel," which encourages the replacement of our present system of government with a Taliban-like system based on the Bible.

Second, I am reminded of my own study in the Palestinian politics of Second Temple Judaism (post-exilic to 70 CE) and the frequent eruptions of apocalyptic movements during that period.  This was the seedbed of movements led by John the Baptist, Jesus, and James (Jesus' brother, who led the early Christian community in Jerusalem that eventually faded out as the Ebionite heresy in the 4th Century CE), all of which began with charismatic leadership--though differing in significant ways from the Zealots who eventually brought down the wrath of Rome upon their land.

Such movements arise, particularly among groups that feel oppressed by governing authority, in many periods of history.  Muslim extremists in many lands today, Jewish "greater Israel" parties, and Christian reconstructionists in this country all share the aim of replacing existing arrangements with radically new ones.  All find grounding in their respective Scriptures.  Assad's regime in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, etc., all fear these people.  So what we're seeing is not new.  

As a growing boy in poverty-stricken rural MN back in the 1930s, I was exposed repeatedly in church services to end-time scenarios based on the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelation--two documents originally produced in times of mortal crisis for Jewish (Daniel) and Christian (Revelation) communities undergoing persecution for their stubborn resistance to assimilation into the dominant imperial cultures of their days.

My study group has been reading a book, The Evolution of God, written by Robert Wright, that discusses this issue, among many others.  

The Washington governance community, no matter which party is in the majority, is always sensitive to the possibility of revolutionaries, but in the current atmosphere, the revolutionaries have inseminated the Congress, in the persons of the Tea Party elected officials.  It's the biggest constitutional crisis I've seen since the Nixon administration's firing of several top officials back in the 70s.  That was a Presidential problem; this one's a Congressional one, which is going to take elections to fix.  Unfortunately, the next general election is a year away.  Looks like a long year ahead!"

After I wrote him asking to post the above, he added much more background, including the following insight into the book of Revelation:

"Revelation is the book that closes the NT, though it was far from being the last of those documents to be written.  Marcus Borg's Evolution of the Word presents evidence that it was written around 90 CE to a group of churches in what is now western Turkey.  But the pictures it paints are cosmic in scope, and the theology is that of looming disaster.  Much of the city of Rome had been destroyed by fire in 64 CE, and the author foresees Rome's ultimate destruction using imagery dating from that earlier time.  But he interweaves themes from Daniel (written at the time of the Maccabean revolt around 165 BCE to inspire the Jewish rebels of that time) and other OT apocalyptic accounts, including even the plague stories from Exodus.  

So the apocalyptic genre (of which I've mentioned here only the canonical documents; there were many others) was a familiar one to those who believed themselves to be oppressed.  Historically, apocalyptic imagery has been very influential in Christianity (see the Wikipedia articles on "Book of Daniel" and "Christian eschatology"), particularly in times of real or perceived oppression.  (Senator Ted Cruz' rant this morning, which I viewed on C-SPAN, identified Obamacare repeatedly with Federal oppression.)"