What’s up with the apocalypse?

Redeemer University College uncovers our collective cultural paranoia and our cravings for stories about the end of the world at the Beyond Worldview conference

Whether a laptop, a smartphone or a nuclear missile, the world is moving quicker than ever before. In the 21st century, we’ve seen technology change drastically and seen the many benefits globalization provides. But have these massive cultural shifts also increased our collective paranoia?

Alissa Wilkinson, associate professor of English and humanities at The King’s College, New York City, dove straight into our fascination with and fear of the apocalypse in her talk “What’s up with the Apocalypse?”

Wilkinson was one of three Christian thinkers who dug into faith in the digital age at Redeemer’s Beyond Worldview lecture series. Redeemer’s Centre for Christian Scholarship hosted James K.A. Smith, Kevin Schut and, Wilkinson. Students, educators and community members packed a lecture hall as the headliners spoke on topics from video games to zombie apocalypses.

Overall, the Centre aims to connect outstanding Christian scholarship to everyday life. Talks like Beyond Worldview, and the Christian research from which they stem, are crucial in equipping Christians to be culture makers, not just media consumers.

This year, in a nod toward Redeemer’s new Media and Communications Studies program, the focus of the Centre’s conference was on media and culture. Hence, the video games and zombies.

Nowadays, television shows, books, and movies are rife with the destruction of an apparent apocalypse. The Walking Dead and World War Z portrays humans becoming undead, Game of Thrones depicts a world preparing for an extraordinarily long winter and Battlestar Galactica renders villains with exceptionally heinous agendas.

But stories about the apocalypse are not unique to our culture or era. “We’ve been telling stories about the apocalypse basically since we’ve been able to tell stories,” Wilkinson continues. The Bible is bookended with narratives of apocalypse: the flood in Genesis and the second coming of Jesus in Revelation.

The difference between these ancient stories of apocalypse and our own stories of disaster is that, Wilkinson argues, our stories trend away from hope and are fundamentally pessimistic. This trend away from hope makes our stories dystopian; not apocalyptic in the original sense of the word.

From the Greek apokalypsis, apocalypse is more accurately defined as “the destruction of perceived realities,” Wilkinson says, “or an unveiling, an uncovering.” The key is the hopefulness inherent in the original meaning. “It is destruction, but with the intention of renewal;” states Wilkinson, “hope is included.”

The trilogies The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings provide a pertinent comparison. While both stories contain a collapse of social order, the dystopian Hunger Games ends with the continued destruction of society, while the apocalyptic Lord of the Rings sees a redemptive end brimming with the hope of new life and restoration.

“We must remember that apocalypse is hopeful,” contends Wilkinson. Suffering and pain can give meaning to our lives. Christians should examine their own sense of apocalypse—when we plead “come, Lord Jesus,” we plead for the hope we have in Christ.

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About the author

Redeemer University College is an undergraduate university that is known for providing a quality liberal arts and sciences university education and fostering a spiritually vibrant and caring community of learning on a beautiful and environmentally friendly campus. redeemer.ca