Armageddon Theology As A Threat To Peace -- By: Danny Collum

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 04:1 (Fall 1986)
Article: Armageddon Theology As A Threat To Peace
Author: Danny Collum


Armageddon Theology As A Threat To Peace

Danny Collum

Associate Editor, S0J0URNERS, Washington, D. C.

For forty-one years now we have lived with nuclear weapons without ever coming to terms with them. The threat of nuclear holocaust floats in a sort of psychic twilight zone. Public opinion research finds a widespread intellectual conviction that the weapons are necessary and deterrence will work, and an equally widespread fatalism that says we are bound to blow ourselves and our world to hell. We all know that the weapons exist. They are discussed on television almost daily and in some parts of the country their physical presence is ubiquitous. Yet the knowledge of what those weapons can do is so horrifying that we press it down into the unconscious mind where it stews with all the other unnamed and thus unchallenged traumas of our individual and collective lives.

But a thing so horrible as the fiery destruction of all we love cannot be simply repressed and forgotten. Inevitably that kind of fear will find expression. One form of expression is to name it, face it, and try to set about eliminating it. But for most of the nuclear era, socialization, schooling, propaganda, and a bipartisan consensus on nuclear deterrence have militated strongly against that solution. Such an approach would eventually require devising a new basis for national (and international) security. And we all know how inconvenient that could be. So instead the nuclear dread has crept out sideways and expressed itself indirectly in personal behavior, popular culture, and popular religion. For those living under the shadowy cloud of destruction “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” can easily become a way of life, and to an alarming degree in contemporary America it has. While such things can never be scientifically proven, it seems self-evident that the prospect, and in fact the likelihood, of a nuclear holocaust contributes to our widespread acceptance of drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and high-debt conspicuous consumption (by individuals and by their debt-drunk federal government). America has always been an individualistic society. But the flight from social responsibility (whether in the form of family, church, or even the minimal act of voting) that we have witnessed in the postwar years is unparalleled and defies full explanation without some reference to the nuclear sword of Damocles.

It was in popular culture that nuclear dread first surfaced. In the first nuclear decade we saw hundreds of films involving mutant animals (giant spiders, ants, and caterpillars among others) who rose up to devour entire cities. In almost every case the movie monsters were the result of nuclear radiation. In Japan this trend was most pronounced. For the Japanese, Hiroshima and Nagas...

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