The end of the world as we know it?

isis-church-1800-louis-sako-mosul-christiansThe photo above is of a centuries-old church burning in Mosul.  It survived invasions by Arabs, Turks, Crusaders, Turks again, the French and the British. No Muslim leader ever tried to destroy it, until now.  History is being misappropriated for mindless destruction.


I realize that it’s been several months since I posted on this blog. Partially, I’ve been busy. Also there didn’t seem to be any widespread panic in the media about the earth being hit by a meteor or a long-vanished culture predicting the return of the dinosaurs and so I got busy with other things, like (ahem) my new book, DEFENDING THE CITY OF GOD.
This book was begun as an investigation into life in the Crusader States between the waves of invasions from the east and west. I emphasize the interactions among the newcomers and those whose ancestors had lived there since before history was recorded. Also, I did my best to fill in the gaps left by later historians who weren’t interested in the lives of women, farmers or craftspeople.
As I researched and wrote, the Arab Spring began. As I continued, I had to keep checking to be sure that I was commenting on the past and not the present. In vain, I pointed out that the current uprisings were nothing new, just better recorded. Rarely were medieval sieges and invasions motivated solely by religion. The proof of this is the number of alliances between European Christians and Turkish Muslims, both newcomers. I also looked at something that we in the West are just picking up on, the number of communities of people who follow religions that are early Christian, Muslim splinter groups or faiths that combine bits from many sources. I found echoes of ancient prejudices in the news every day.
But now things have come to such a pass that I can’t find a medieval comparison. What’s happening now is much worse than anything that happened during the crusades. Again, I don’t think religion has anything to do with the upswing in violence and intolerance. But I do believe that there are parallels with the Crusaders moving in during a power vacuum and ISIS or ISIL or whatever, doing the same thing in the same place. What I don’t know is whether or not they will adapt to the culture as the Crusaders did or if they will be the trigger that brings about the end of everything.
Cheery, isn’t it?

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3 Responses to “The end of the world as we know it?”

  1. Edward Nelson Says:

    Hi, I ran across you when I was researching apocalyptic thinking as a human trait. Your history of apocalyptic ideas in history is so interesting- thank you. This ISIS group for is a sort of post-apocalyptic movement, desperately trying to erase their history and culture and seeking to reveal themselves as the true and rightful heirs to the old system. Harlan Ellison alluded to this in some of his older fiction when he wrote about “new gods” and how cruel they would be. The invasion of this area of great culture and diverse peoples by such vicious thugs is indeed sad and distressing. I look forward to reading through your histories as well as more of your blogs.

  2. Sharan Newman Says:

    I didn’t work much on post-apocalyptic work but have been blogging on my “Cassandra” page about how ISIS is similar to and different from crusade era Muslim groups.

  3. Edward Nelson Says:

    Thanks. When I consider ‘apocalypse” I consider itin the context of the Greek meaning: to be revealed (more or less). In a Catholic study of St. John’s revelation, they emphasized the metaphor of apocalypse as if a wedding veil was removed and the bride revealed in her glory for the first time. The popular use of the word, which you covered so well, is of course the science ficin/fantasy gotterdamerung sort of thing. And then add on the increasingly rigid dogma of the evangelicals from the Moody line of theology- rapture with a complex anti-Christ persecution (never really well explained, of course) with a cut-n-paste approach to biblical interpretation is dizzying in its ever growing mythologization of Christianity. But I am more and more seeing a trend of apocalyptic thinking even in the secular world. Yo ureferred to it of course in your book. But I find it fascinating as an indicator that apocalyptic thinking is not actually religious per se. A recent op-ed piece I ran into talks about apocalypse fatigue as discussed in a German newspaper highlights this:
    http://notrickszone.com/2014/09/17/self-inflicted-apocalypse-fascination-germanys-leading-daily-fed-up-with-end-of-world-scenarios-climate-catastrophe/#comments

    I found the article interesting. When I consider how many serious people are caught up in apocalyptic literalism, I nearly despair. Those caught up in it, hether Jehovah’s Witnesses or climate obsessed secularists, I find their actions and foibles to be far greater challenges to hope and faith than anything to do with dangers that actually materialize.

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