A growing conversation among Christian fundamentalists asks the question that may have been inevitable: is the oil spill in the gulf a sign of the coming apocalypse?
About 60 million white evangelicals live in America, and about one third of them believe that the world will end in their lifetime, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Broadly speaking, these Christians subscribe to a theology called “premillennial dispensationalism.” In this world view, they are warriors on the side of God: a cosmic battle—culminating in apocalypse, judgment, and, finally, the reign of Jesus in “a new heaven and a new earth”—will come soon. The most determined of these believers mine the Book of Revelation for signs that the end is near. A text of terrifying and mysterious prophesy, Revelation forecasts the apocalypse in coded language; Christians have spent lifetimes trying to break that code by correlating its verses to current events. (A New York minister named William Miller used Revelation and other sources to predict that the world would end on Oct. 22, 1844. He had previously predicted—wrongly, obviously—that the date would be March 21, 1843. The Millerites, once a powerful and fast-growing sect, quickly became extinct.)