Craig Parshall, General Counsel


Watching for the End

December 2, 2009

I waited to see how long it would take the media to analyze the new blockbuster disaster movie 2012 through that ever-handy prism of the secular press: those Christians sure love doomsday. It didn’t take long. Yet interestingly, 2012 has very few references to the Bible. The main character, played by John Cusack, does make a quick aside (reminding us of a John Lennon lyric) about how good it would be for the world to cut “through all the…petty divisions…no more Jew, Palestinian, Christian, Muslim. It’s just people.” A crazed prophet in the mountains, played by Woody Harrelson, inserts a quick citation to the book of Revelation in one of his run-on sentences about the end of the world. And of course, there is a hard-to-miss visual hat-tip to Noah’s flood.

The movie is premised (if I may use that term) on a supposed prophecy of the Mayans – not the prophets of the Bible. Scholars have scoffed at the interpretation, and astronomers say that the astrophysics of the movie are silly in the extreme. The Associated Press (AP) quotes cinema director Terry Gilliam, who explains the interest in end-of-the-world movies this way: “We always need a boogeyman, we always need the end of the world…I think it’s the problem of being in a Christian society. It’s based on it. If you don’t have the end of the world, you don’t get heaven and eternity.” The Huffington Post’s Tina Dupuy laced her article about the film with jibes at Pastor John Hagee and CBN founder Pat Robertson. On the other hand, CNN.com had a surprisingly respectful interview with an evangelical pastor imbedded in its review of 2012, pointing out what much of the secular world has missed: that the word “apocalypse” doesn’t mean “disaster,” but rather “revelation.”

So, what is the draw for movies like 2012, which brought in a box office busting $225 million on opening weekend? We could speculate that films like 2012 are simply the modern version of Aristotle’s classical definition of tragedy: stories that engender “pity” and “awe” mixed in with a large dose of “spectacle.” But I think it goes deeper than that. In August 79 A.D., Pliny the Younger recorded that pitiful, awesome spectacle of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the fiery destruction it brought down upon the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. His account should be a haunting message to followers of empty religions, and a motivation to Christians. He wrote: Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness forevermore. End-of-days stories resonate with something inherent in each of us; as Ecclesiastes tells us, God has set eternity in our hearts. This world – this earth – is not eternal. The Bible tells us that someday it will all pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth will be established. There will be a new order, with Jesus Christ, the Savior, to reign as King. All that remains is for each of us to ask ourselves today: where do I stand with Him?