Gabriel Winant in Salon:
In a recent poll, 8 percent of respondents in New Jersey admitted to thinking that Barack Obama is the antichrist. As in, they think the president is the Beast of Revelation, he whose coming portends the rapture, the battle of Armageddon, and the end of the world as we know it. Thirteen percent weren’t sure, perhaps waiting for more and better evidence to arrive via chain e-mail.
If you’re shocked by those stats, remember just how many Americans think the apocalypse is right around the corner. In a poll from earlier this decade, 17 percent said they expected the world to end in their lifetime. Perhaps that’s why, even though Jesus may have admonished that no man knows the day and hour, so many people can’t resist making a pseudo-educated guess about the day and hour.
One of the more popular theories making the rounds lately has centered on the Mayan calendar, which runs out in 2012. You get the drift — don’t make any plans for 2013. The New Agey claptrap is popular enough that it inspired Roland Emmerich’s upcoming apocalypse-porn blockbuster “2012,” due in multiplexes everywhere this November. With a hat tip to the citizens of New Jersey, Roland Emmerich and the ancient Mayans, we present this honor roll of doomsday panics and false messiahs — a whole lot of past predictions that didn’t pan out, and a few more current revelations that are looking iffy. This is the way the world doesn’t end. No bang, lots of whimpers.
Gabriel Winant provides a tour of the manias that have swept through hordes of people from 1534 to 2012. Remember — when the nuttiness begins — that you heard it here first. In the meantime, start buyin’ bottled water and ammo for your automatic weapons. The End Time is nigh! Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s fulfillment of Vannevar Bush’s vision, the nine manias are hyperlinked below for your browsing pleasure.
[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — [Bracketed Numbers] — Directory]
 The Münster Rebellion
 The Great Disappointment
 The Great Mennonite Trek
 Mrs. Keech’s Prophecy
 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Is in 1988
 Chevlai shel Mashiach
If this is (fair & balanced) human folly, so be it.
Noah Millman at The American Scene:
In the spirit of getting a random discussion going: what’s a big-deal bad thing that you have confidently expected to happen for some time, but for whatever reason just hasn’t happened yet?
For example: lots and lots of people have been assuming for some time that a really horrible war would break out between India and Pakistan. But it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, God forbid, it will one day, but so far it hasn’t. And the longer it doesn’t, the more interesting becomes the question as to why it hasn’t, and how we should re-think our understanding of that conflict.
So: what bad things have you been expecting for some time that still haven’t happened?
Here are three of mine:
– The Ukrainian civil war. It remains very surprising to me that Ukraine has managed to stay together as an independent and unitary state. Its eastern provinces and the Crimean region are very Russian-oriented, but the bulk of the country has wanted to escape Russian domination for a couple of generations at least. It has very little history as an independent political entity, having spent most of its history as part of the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, then part of the Russian Empire, then part of the Soviet Union, and poorly developed political and economic institutions. And it’s not like the neighborhood isn’t full of secessionist groups who try to escape newly independent countries and rejoin the former metropole – Ossetia in Georgia, Trans-Dniestria in Moldova, the Krajina region of Bosnia. So I’ve confidently expected for some time that things would come to a head, and there would be a civil war precipitated by the secession of the eastern provinces to rejoin Russia. There’s been a great deal of instability in Ukraine over the years, but nothing remotely approaching the level that I expected.
Rod Dreher on Millman:
He’s got two more. Go thee thither and gawk. Then come back over here and tell the rest of us what bad things you’ve been expecting to happen for years, but which haven’t gotten around to occurring. I’m in a hurry this morning, so no elaboration from me, but two of mine are 1) Avian flu pandemic, and 2) major Islamic terror attack on 9/11 scale.