I can’t get enough of apocalyptic Christianity. I think this may be about the fact that the Bible says that the day and the hour of the end of days is unknown, and yet so many people are so anxious about it they predict it. And while that sort of “end-times” prophecy may seem to come from the more “extremist branches” of Christianity, Mennonites are no strangers to this. Claas Epp, as I learned in seminary, was a Russian Mennonite minister who was convinced the second coming of Christ was going to happen on March 8, 1889. He thought that Christ would meet his faithful church in Central Asia, and that his church was actually the church Philadelphia as discussed in the book of Revelation. In 1880 they set out on a trek to find this mysterious location and ended up somewhere near Turkestan. However, with Mennonites being non-resistant, problems arose when robbers came after them. Someone was murdered, and it strained everyone’s pacifist beliefs. And of course, March 8 came and left. Epp then said his prediction was based on a leaning clock, so he predicted March 8, 1891. When that day came and passed, Epp became more fanatical and told his congregation that he was the Son of God. After this his congregation started to dwindle, for obvious reasons. Claas Epp thought we were there…but we weren’t there yet.
My own experience in apocalyptic Christianity happened when I was very young. I think I’ve mentioned this in a sermon before but I remember a very intense sermon by a fundamentalist pastor saying that there’s no point in, as he put it, “worrying about the trees,” because Christ was coming soon. Christ would take care of the trees. This ran in stark contrast to what I was learning in school about recycling, conserving water, and using less fossil fuels. I got my family to recycle and I biked when I needed to go uptown and even though it was less than a mile, super safe, and completely bike-friendly, I felt like an environmentalist hero. I asked my Sunday School teacher about what the preacher had said and she told me I worried too much. The next time I thought about the end times was with the popular book series, Left Behind, which my fellow evangelicals read as if it were a supplement to the Bible. My mentor took me to see the movie. I was quite honestly terrified, mostly of being left behind myself and facing the great tribulation because I didn’t pray as much as I should or was too bossy. These folks in my early years thought that we were almost there…but we weren’t there yet.
- Matthew 24:36 - 44
- Revelation 3:1 - 6