Main Menu

Tag Archives | Millerites

Birther eschatology

Many moons ago I taught high school students in Sunday School. It was an exceptional group. One of the most popular features of the class was the weekly $5 or $10 word, some fancy theological term that I would explain, and then they would feel good about knowing something their parents didn’t (except for our pastor’s kid). The $5 words were shorter or simpler than the $10 words. “Eschatology” was one those $10 words.

Eschatology is the branch of theology dealing with the end of the world. Modern evangelical Christians use the phrase “end times,” and Birthers have been using the phrase “universe shattering” of late. I introduced this month with an article titled, “Birther apocalypse,” and I will end it on a similar theme.

Of course today is the last day of March, the last possible day for the birther’s anticipated “Universe-shattering March Reveal.” Nothing happened on the Carl Gallups radio show last Friday, and I haven’t heard of any press conferences scheduled for today. I think it safe to say that March will end without the universe being shattered.

If interested, you can click back to my 2012 article, “The Long Form and the Great Disappointment,” for a quick look at an apocalyptic Christian sect called the Millerites and how their predictions of the end of the world didn’t pan out. That group fell apart after a couple of bad predictions. The modern Jehovah’s Witnesses were influenced by the Millerite tradition. They predicted the beginning of God’s kingdom on earth to occur in 1914. They postponed the date a few times, converted it into some sort of heavenly event, and then quietly gave up on dates.

The birthers, like Christians in general, have been undaunted by multiple failures of predicting future events. Christians have come up with literally hundreds of date predictions for the end of the world, as far back as 4th century. Birthers have been saying “any day now” for 5 years. Specific Christian sects do not seem to survive more than a couple of failed dates—new dates come from new sects. Birthers, however, don’t seem to have any limit for disappointment. It almost seems that Mike Zullo  can get away with an infinite number of failed promises. Perhaps the difference is that he’s never quite specific, whereas Christian apocalyptic prophets set dates, or maybe birthers aren’t really all that committed to Zullo in the first place and so the disappointment is less.

There are obvious parallels between Christian and Birther eschatology, and some differences. One parallel is in the righting of injustice and the vindication of the righteous. Christians look to the final judgment of the wicked and birthers look to Obama being removed from office and convicted of a crime. They look towards universal recognition that they were right all along.

Another parallel is the punishment of their enemies. The Christian Book of Revelation described the ultimate end of Satan:

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
(ESV) Rev 12:9

and

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(ESV) Rev 20:15

The birther parallel to Satan’s angels is what the Birthers would call “O-bots.” They look to the execution of Obama for treason, bringing to Mind LoneStar1776’s YouTube video, “Public beheading.” The O-bots are destined for a similar fate.

Where Birthers and Christians differ is that following the travail of the end of the world, a time of joy results:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(ESV) Rev 21:4

By contrast, the extreme right wing seems to be married to perpetual doom, no matter what happens. When Obama leaves office, they’ll just latch onto something else that’s destroying the world.

Dr. Conspiracy’s Guide to Eschatology

Christian Birther
Satan NWO Banksters
The Beast / Antichrist Barack Obama
The Whore of Babylon Ann Dunham
The Devil’s angels Obots
The Day of the Lord Universe Shattering
The Lake of Fire Federal prison
The Messiah Mike Zullo
The Church The Birthers
The Great Tribulation The Collapse of the US Economy and race riots
The faithful acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God The faithful acknowledge Obama is the son of Frank Marshall Davis
Heaven / The New Jerusalem (no corresponding concept)
The Scroll that only the Lamb of God was worthy to unroll The Reed Hayes Report
144,000 The number of birthers
The three plagues that killed 1/3 of mankind ObamaCare, ObamaCare and ObamaCare
The Rider on the White Horse Joe Arpaio
The Last Judgment Alabama Supreme Court decision in McInnish TBA

The Long Form and The Great Disappointment

According to the polls, there was a veritable collapse in the number of birthers in the wake of President Obama’s release of his long form birth certificate last April (2011). Most concluded that Obama was born in Hawaii just as he’s always said, but some doubled-down on conspiracy thinking with claims that the President had presented a fake document and a cottage industry of self-credentialed document experts arose to deny the long form’s authenticity.

Most recently the State of Hawaii has twice provided official confirmation of the certificate, first to the Arizona Secretary of State and then to an attorney who filed it in Federal District Court in Mississippi. Proof like this is a sore blow to those who claimed that the White House forged the birth certificate. Some I believe are now convinced that the certificate is legit but others add Hawaii to the list of conspirators.

All of this reminds me of a religious movement led by William Miller in the 19th century. He predicted the second-coming of Jesus and many of his adherents sold all their possessions and stood in expectation of the cosmic event predicted for October 22, 1844. That non-event became known as “The Great Disappointment.” The Wikipedia has a fine article on the topic, and I find it instructive to look at how those disappointed dealt with it. Some explained it away and doubled-down on their beliefs, while:

[p]robably the majority … simply gave up their beliefs and attempted to rebuild their lives.

What is said of the Millerites may be instructive in understanding modern-day birther believers:

The Great Disappointment is viewed by some scholars as an example of the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. The theory was proposed by Leon Festinger to describe the formation of new beliefs and increased proselytizing in order to reduce the tension, or dissonance, that results from failed prophecies. According to the theory, believers experienced tension following the failure of Jesus’ reappearance in 1844, which led to a variety of new explanations. The various solutions form a part of the teachings of the different groups that outlived the disappointment.

Any day now ….

For further reading:

  • Bruce & Stan’s Guide to the End of the World: A User-Friendly Approach (Bickel & Jantz)
  • Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (McGinn)
  • Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages (Weber)