Our society is very familiar with apocalyptic thinking—especially when it comes clothed in religious garb. Indeed, it seems that every few years another date for the rapture or end of the world or the return of Christ is set, anticipation reaches a fever pitch, and then the day goes by with no noticeable change in our global social order. Then speculation dies down for some time before another date is set by yet another religious leader filled with messianic conviction. But religions are not the only place we find such convictions. In his latest blog posts, EnlightenNext Executive Editor Carter Phipps argues that messianic thinking has become quite attractive in progressive circles as well, where so many people believe that we are reaching some sort of culmination of history and that we need some sort of era-defining event to pave the way to a new future. He calls our attention to the dangers of this way of thinking and suggests that the hype around 2012 as the final year on the Mayan calendar is just the latest example:
2012 is the progressive version of traditional eschatological thinking. It’s the idea that an event is going to occur that is dramatically outside the normal processes of history and change everything, lifting the majority of humanity to a higher level of consciousness and creating a more enlightened future. There are darker versions as well, where a sort of mini-apocalypse has to occur before we get to the better side of the future, but generally 2012 represents a positive version of eschatological thinking. It’s a more benign strain, we might say, but it’s still the same basic song, just a prettier arrangement.
Read part one of this post, “Apocalypse Now, Progressive Style.”
Read part two of this post, “No More Messiahs (Part II).”