Donald Trump: Did someone mention the Apocalypse?

Added about 8 years ago by Paula Clifford

GUEST BLOG: Could Trump really hasten the end of the world? Paula Clifford explores everything apocalyptic on the day her new book, A Brief History of End Time, is announced.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been amusing myself following the online Slate magazine’s Trump Apocalypse Watch. This was “a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die”. Last week, the news of an increasingly tight race got a rating of two horsemen. By the early hours of this morning as the US election results poured in, that rating had risen to 3.5 horsemen, only to be replaced by four of them soon afterwards.

It’s not just Mr Trump who has been the subject of apocalyptic speculation. The new president himself predicted that victory for Hillary Clinton would mean the “almost total destruction of our country as we know it”, while the whole election process, according to a writer in This Week, is nothing less than God’s judgment on the nation.

Apocalyptic language, which has been around for thousands of years, is a gift to politicians and political commentators. And it seems to be almost infinitely adaptable to new situations. The Book of Revelation, itself reflecting a much older apocalyptic tradition, has been a rich source of inspiration to latter-day prophets, poets and fanatics. William Blake’s poem “America” offers a terrifying take on the end of British rule in America, in which plagues (a characteristic of Babylon in Revelation 18) are directed against the Americans, only to rebound on their British perpetrator. Heavenly thrones and earthly kingdoms shudder at the fate of the colonizers. And while from biblical times onwards political upheavals have been a starting point for speculation about the end of the world, with Blake, writing in an age of revolutions, apocalyptic prophecies also dictate the affairs of humankind.

A little over thirty years ago the American evangelist Billy Graham took up a theme which has surely also inspired many of Mr Trump’s supporters from the Christian right. In his Approaching Hoofbeats (1984) he urged his readers to put their ears to the ground and hear the noise of the horsemen coming ever closer. “I have seen the evil riders on the horizons of our lives …” was his dramatic verdict on the society of his day.

Yet for all the rhetoric, the apocalypses of Graham and Blake look only at the relatively local scenario of the fate of a nation, albeit (for many) God’s nation. Is the Trump apocalypse any different? If the new administration were to back out of the Paris Agreement, the failure not only to address climate change but even to accept that it is happening would quickly have a global impact. And the idea of God (with some US assistance) putting an end to our present age is bound to resurface. Remember the address to the US Congress by James G. Watt back in 1981: “After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back”.

I shall miss “Apocalypse Watch”. But for observers of apocalyptic language, there is surely more to come.

Paula Clifford’s new book A Brief History of End Time: Prophecy and Apocalypse, then and now will be released on 15 November 2016, and is now available to pre-order.

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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