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Apocalypse when?

Books | Sticking to our callings rather than heading for the hills

Issue: "Agony and ecstasy," April 7, 2012

The 1994 genoicide seemed like the apocalypse to many Christian Rwandans, but America has also had its fascination with hard-to-imagine horror. Many Christians grew up with The Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series. Cormac McCarthy's The Road, an artfully written secular variant, made it to Oprah's Book Club and onto movie screens. Riots in the late 1960s and economic downturns in the 1970s brought out predictions of doom. A third of a century later, here we go again.

Today, survivalists anticipate that economic downturns will lead to rioting and killing, because-the Christian ones say-man without God is a beast. That's in some way the backdrop for hot-selling horror stories like Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse (Atria, 2011) by James Wesley, Rawles, who professes Christ. The comma between Wesley and Rawles is intentional: Rawles told one interviewer that the first two names belong to him but his family "owns" the surname. Odd, but it's a useful reminder that all whom God kindly adopted into His family-John Doe, Christian-have a responsibility to stick to our callings and not merely head to the hills.

Survivors is not as well-written as some articles Rawles has penned, but I'm more concerned that the tide of apocalypse will sweep some of us away from our posts. Many have told the story of how early Christians refused to run when epidemics struck, and instead grew the church (and their own hearts) by nursing those close to death, and sometimes dying in the process. Our callings have significance, as Tom Nelson writes in Work Matters (Crossway, 2011) and Amy Sherman does in Kingdom Calling (IVP, 2011).

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We've been down this road before. Jay Rubenstein's Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse (Basic, 2011) is a page-turner filled with fascinating profiles of Western Europeans who fought their way to Jerusalem more than 900 years ago. Like Perry Miller writing about the Puritans, Rubenstein doesn't buy the religious arguments of those now known as crusaders-they called themselves pilgrims-but he takes seriously the ecstasies some of them felt and the sacrifices they made. He shows why the conquest of Jerusalem, after three years of betrayal and death, was so bloody.

Whistling past the graveyard?

By Marvin Olasky

David Horowitz (Zuma Press/Newscom)

In A Point in Time (Regnery, 2011), David Horowitz praises stoic Marcus Aurelius, meditates on death, and writes that he is "comfortable with the idea that soon I will be no one and nowhere, and comforted in a stoic way by the knowledge that it doesn't add up." The first part of that seems extraordinary to me: I can understand how atheists might try to be resigned to nothingness, but comfortable? The second part makes sense: If we cannot solve a mystery, faith that there is no solution makes the fault lie not in ourselves but in the stars.

Ex-leftist Horowitz includes a great story about his father, a Communist, who shaved every morning and "would tear a tissue into little squares and place them over the spots of blood where the skin had been nicked by the errant blade." Young David watched and listened as his father would explain that the razor's makers were "the capitalists" who desired "to make profits and not to serve human needs. Consequently, Gillette would never create a perfect blade, or one that would last longer."

Horowitz notes, "My razor now bears the same company name but comes with a track holding five finely spaced blades that vibrate with an electric pulse regulated by a microchip. The shave this complex device provides is so smooth I can hardly feel the hairs being severed as it passes. ... To succeed, capitalists had to develop products that met their customers' needs better than those of their rivals. In other words, what made profits possible was the satisfaction of human needs."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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