Apocalyptic Framing

Last week during our CMRC seminar we discussed apocalyptic theology. We discussed two of Catherine Keller’s publications: a chapter from Apocalypse Now and Then and her article “The Heat is On” from 2007. Below are reflections on that conversation.

During this week’s conversation, I found myself wondering if the current Democratic Party has constructed its identity as the party that will “save us from an apocalypse” in which a looming apocalypse (whether environmental, social, ethical, or all of the above) must exist in perpetuity in order for the Democratic Party to maintain its relevance.  This in turn reminded me of Jon Stewart’s summer feature film, Irresistible, that makes a similar argument. (The film itself is underwhelming, but did pose some interesting questions.)

–– Rachel van der Merwe

During our meeting, I mentioned one of Marshall McLuhan’s (many) aphorisms: “information overload produces pattern recognition.” This article discusses a term coined by psychologists, thin slicing, which espouses an idea similar to what McLuhan suggested. Thin slicing is defined as “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.” With respect to climate change, and myriad other contemporary social and political issues, I think the overabundance of available information (and concurrent crises of authority) has resulted in many people relying on thin slicing as a cognitive shortcut and coping mechanism. 

–– Art Bamford

I’ve long found Catherine Keller’s notion of “counter-apocalypse” useful in resisting the tendency among activists to simply adopt a mirror-image “anti-apocalypse” against what they oppose. As I wrote in an essay a few years back, Keller also helps inoculate against the theory-of-change that things must get worse before they can start to get better. As we approach apocalyptic precipices of several kinds at once, it’s a reminder not to accept the official, top-down revelation as the only revelation worth seeing.

–– Nathan Schneider