The term "apocalyptic" is not only overused in many sectors of modern American public discourse--it is often
employed inappropriately or flat-out wrongly. (For a prime example of its ubiquity, how about ESPN's application of the term to the college football playoffs?) At the most basic, level, ἀποκάλυψις means "unveiling" or "revealing," not "getting-rid-of-via-mushroom-cloud."
But that ship has long since sailed, and my pendantic finger in the dike will not really stem the tide (metaphors mixed
intentionally, and gleefully). More specifically, Iran is regularly alleged to have "apocalyptic" plans for its
nuclear weapons program--a contention which I have refuted at length both in print and, back in 2010, in a lecture at the Hudson Institute. To paraphrase that philosopher and swordsman Inigo Montoya:
Dr. Ben Carson, currently polling second (behind Donald Trump) as a Republican Presidential candidate, was interviewed this past Sunday by Sharyl Attkisson on
her new show "Full Measure." Starting at 1:35 or so, the following exchange takes place:
Attkisson: "Are we
at the End of Days?"
Carson: "You could guess that we are getting closer to
that. You do have people who have a belief system that sees this apocalyptic phenomenon occurring and that they are a part
of it and who would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they gain possession of them.
"Is there a chance to change the course if it is something that is prophesized?"
"I think we have a chance to certainly do everything that we can to ameliorate the situation and provide....I would always
be shooting for peace. I wouldn't just take a fatalistic view of things."
The Four Horsemen of the Simpsons' Apocalypse!
1) Carson is a Seventh
Day Adventist, a denomination of about a million in the US but 18 million worldwide, which began in the 19th century. It's
largely Evangelical Protestant, albeit infused with several heterodox doctrines such as an insistence on keeping the Jewish
Sabbath, as well as the eschatological view that after Judgment sinners will be annihilated rather than cast into Hell.
2) "You could guess that we are getting closer" to the Apocalypse would
seem to mean Carson believes that it IS approaching.
3) The "people who...see this
apocalyptic phenomenon occurring and...would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons" would be, I think it's safe to assume,
the rulers of Iran. As I've explained before, and at some length, this "hotwiring the apocalypse" thesis is NOT true of either Twelver Shi`ism or
Iranian geopolitical imperative. It IS true of ISIS/ISIL, but I doubt Carson
was speaking of them.
4) In the most intriguing part of the interview, Attkisson asks a
man with a very real chance to be the next POTUS whether the burning eschatological cord can be stamped out. Carson
replies steps can be taken to "ameliorate the situation" and "shoot for peace" (a rather oxymoronic phrase,
that) because he would not be "fatalistic." As the famous Vulcan analyst would have said: "Fascinating."
Does Carson mean that Iran's alleged zeal for using nuclear weapons can be reduced or eliminated? Or does he mean, more
theologically (and grandiosely), that the Christian apocalypse itself can be headed off, or at least deferred, by actions
of the American President? (That would be a case of, I suppose, defusing the apocalypse rather than
hotwiring it.) Perhaps Carson thinks both are true.
It's probably good that a Presidential
contender who is also a conservative Christian believes the POTUS can actually tamp down apocalyptic fervor; this is certainly
preferable to one who wishes to inflame such sentiments. But it is unfortunate that he seems to share the Evangelical/Right-wing
misconception about alleged Iranian apocalyptic use of WMDs.
Sorry for my month-long hiatus from posting--but I've been finishing three manuscripts, which should publish
as books in a few months.
Here is the first one:
And the second:
My third book is on Tolkien; it is entitled High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History
of Middle-earth (to be followed, next year, by Bright Swords and Glorious Warriors: A Military HIstory of Middle-earth).
The cover, however, is not yet available.