The Return of the Apocalyptic
The 2015-16 Orr Forum
The apocalyptic has often been dismissed as the concern of only a few “primitives.” Today, however, we are inundated with apocalyptic visions, both religious and secular. It seems that that apocalyptic has returned, if it ever went away, and that for all the anxiety about the future, the apocalyptic is a force here and now.
All events are free and open to the public. Discussions will be held in the new Learning Commons at the John Stewart Memorial Library..
Spring Schedule of Events
A Front Row Seat for the Apocalypse: Fundamentalists & Filmmakers Imagine the End-times
Dr. Larry Shillock, Wilson College
Feb. 9 at 11 a.m.
Fundamentalist Christians and Hollywood filmmakers infrequently see eye to eye. And yet, both groups find themselves increasingly drawn to apocalyptic narratives that imagine mass death as an aspect of human experience. What does a shared fascination with death in the present and near-future tell us about the underlying desires of apocalypticism as such?
Jihadism and the Modern Apocalyptic
Dr. Megan Adamson Sijapati, Gettysburg College
Feb. 23 at 11 a.m.
The landscape of 21st c. jihadist movements cannot be understood apart from the heterogeneous and competing Salafi and Wahhabi movements of 19th and 20th century Islam. Today's forms of these religion-political ideologies, however, take unprecedented turns that support anachronistic—yet modern—apocalyptic visions of the role of Islam and Muslims in the world.
Yearning for the End of All Things: Who Wants That and Why?
Dr. Lee Barrett, Lancaster Theological Seminary
March 9 at 11 a.m.
Fascination with the end-times has recurred with regularity in the history of Christianity. However, each generation seems to project different scenarios of the sometimes feared and sometimes hoped for future. We will look at some of the motivations for this interest, and the ways in which diverse apocalyptic passions have given rise to divergent and often conflicting theologies.
Preparing for Doomsday
Dr. Matthew Sutton
March 29 at 11 a.m.
Sutton's talk analyzes the work of David Koresh, Harold Camping, and Billy Graham. While most Americans may want to separate the violent prophecies of Koresh, the date-setting urgency of Camping, and the mainstream evangelicalism of Graham, the work of these prophets of apocalypse has far more in common than most men and women realize. The ideas of Koresh, Camping, and Graham all emerged from the same long river of American Protestant apocalypticism and together they demonstrate the continuing power and appeal of doomsday beliefs in modern United States history.
American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism
Dr. Matthew Sutton
March 29 at 6:30pm
Sutton's talk focuses on how American fundamentalists and evangelicals across the twentieth century took to the pulpit and airwaves to explain how Biblical end-times prophecy made sense of a world ravaged by global wars, genocide, and the threat of nuclear extinction. Rather than withdraw from their communities to wait for Armageddon, they used what little time was left to warn of the coming Antichrist, save souls, and prepare the United States for God's final judgment, ultimately transforming American politics.
Millenarianism and the Refusal to Plan
Dr. Brad Littlejohn, Davenant Trust
April 12 at 11 a.m.
American religion has, from our first settling here, been dominated by radically optimistic and pessimistic versions of millenarian eschatology, in which either triumph or doom was deemed inevitable, and this has left a deep imprint on our national psyche and culture. Both strains, unfortunately, are ill-suited to prudent long-term planning in the face of natural disasters. It is this religious pathology, I argue, that bears much responsibility for American apathy and inaction in the face of climate change.
The Spring Scholars
Lee Barrett is Staeger Professor of Theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He holds BA, MA, MDiv, and PhD degrees from Yale University and is the author of several books and articles on the thought of Soren Kierkegaard, the theology of the Reformed tradition, and Christianity and popular culture.
Brad Littlejohn is Director of the Davenant Trust, an organization dedicated to renewing classical Protestant theology and ethics at the intersection of the church and academy. He also teaches philosophy, writes in the fields of ethics and historical theology.
Larry Shillock is Professor of English at Wilson College. His scholarship focuses on composition, critical theory, the English novel, film, and the history of affect. A book reviewer for The Bloomsbury Review, his recent scholarly publications have been devoted to the Iliad, The Time Machine, Heart of Darkness, The Maltese Falcon, and two television series, Spartacus and The Walking Dead.
Megan Adamson Sijapati is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Co-Chair of Globalization Studies at Gettysburg College. Her areas of specialization are religion and modernity, religious violence and non-violence, and religious revivalism and reform in South Asian religions, particularly Islam. She is a board member of the South Asian Muslim Studies Association, author of Islamic Revival in Nepal: Religion and a New Nation (Rutledge, 2011), and co-editor and author of the forthcoming book Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya (Routledge).
Matthew Avery Sutton is the Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of History at Washington State University. He is currently working on a new book tentatively entitled FDR's Army of Faith: Religion and Espionage in World War II (New York: Basic Books, 2019). He is the author of American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), Jerry Falwell and the Rise of the Religious Right: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012), and Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard University Press, 2007). He has published articles in diverse venues ranging from the Journal of American History to the New York Times and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the US Fulbright Commission, and the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation.
History of the Orr Forum