Making their case, Premillennialists have no more emotionally compelling argument than what we shall call the Argument from Aren’t Things Terrible Today (hereafter, AATTT). The AATTT considers social destabilization (crime, riots, inflation, immigration, etc.), moral erosion (LBGTQXYZ, drugs, pornography, the breakup of the family, etc.), international tension (select from among Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, etc.), political corruption (pick your party; pick your politician), natural cataclysm (earthquakes, climate change, hurricanes, wildfires, etc.) and the threat of UFOs to conclude that things are so terrible today that we MUST be nearing the end of time.
As an example, go to www.raptureready.com. This handy Premillennial website numerically calculates all the bad news into one easy-to-use “Rapture Ready Index.” The index has risen as high as 189. Today’s index is still quite high at 186. According to the AATTT, that means “fasten your seatbelts” because the end is near.
End in sight or out of sight, in our moment, things do look pretty bad (today’s headline: “Officials Sound Alarm Over Another Possible Wave of COVID Infections”). But are things worst-of-all-time bad? This article challenges the AATTT with a brief review of recent history.
Head’s up: Challenging the AATTT with history requires that we successfully address the biases of Presentism. Presentism is the normal tendency of people in every age to overvalue their own age and make their age the lens through which the past is evaluated. Presentism makes some think that today’s cultural achievements are much better than the past – aren’t we great! Presentism makes others think that today’s problems are much worse than the past – aren’t things terrible today!
Challenging our Presentism requires respect for history and an honest comparison between then and now. We’ll ask my mom, Ann Prather (1914-2005), to help us gain a more balanced historical perspective.
100 Years Ago
My mom was just a child a century ago when America was emerging from two terrible events and facing two more terrible events. The first of the terrible events in a terrible 30-year period in history was World War I, called the Great War, which cost some 40 million military and civilian lives worldwide. The Great War was immediately followed by the second terrible event, the Spanish Flu pandemic that infected 500 million worldwide and killed at least 50 million.
The death toll for the first two events: 90 million. By comparison, there have been about four million COVID-19 deaths worldwide to date.
Tiny Elkhart, Texas was touched by these two terrible events. Sgt. Monroe Swan, my maternal grandfather, survived the battlefields of WWI only to return home to die in Elkhart of the Spanish Flu. The virus also killed young Monroe Jr. and left my grandmother, Ella Swan, a grieving widow and my mom fatherless. They would suffer more.
Only Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties separated the first two terrible events from the second two, and some would include the crime that accompanied Prohibition (Bonnie & Clyde, Al Capone, John Dillinger, etc.) and the scandalous moral changes that roared in with the Twenties (“Flapper” clothing styles, women smoking in public, darkly lit “Speakeasies,” disrespect for the law, etc.) among the terrible events of those 30 years.
In 1929 the world was plunged into a third terrible event, the Great Depression, a time when Americans tasted The Grapes of Wrath sown in the Dust Bowl and precipitated by the disastrous “Black Tuesday stock market crash. Among the many financial losses of those terrible times was Grannie Swan’s farm which was taken by a bank. The loss of their farm put Ella and my mom on the unpaved streets to depend on the kindness of relatives. For several hard years, they moved from one place to another place and to still another and another.
Staggering out of the Great Depression the world was then plunged into World War II, the last in a series of four-plus terrible events over thirty short years. Some 75 million people died in World War II. Included in that number were some 300,00 American servicemen, and included in that number was Gaither Carradine, my mom’s first husband, who was blown to kingdom come off Mindanao on a troopship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Gaither and Ann’s only child, Kenneth, had been stillborn shortly before he shipped out, a victim of less sophisticated and less available medical care. Kenneth’s young body was buried but Gaither’s body was never recovered. The deaths of WWII were so many and the details so hard to come by that my mom did not find out what had happened to her husband for over two years after his death.
She was not alone in her sorrows. Living in the age of AATTT many do not pause to realize that their own families experienced the same terrible hardships over a 30-year period beginning about 100 years ago.
Take that AATTT.
Conclusion: Gaining Perspective
Successfully addressing the arrogance and ignorance of Presentism allows us to gain perspective and gaining historical perspective defeats Premillennialism’s emotionally compelling AATTT. Things might look bad just now, but they are not worst-of-all time bad. Ask my mom.
Born in 1914, my mom was a participant, victim, and intimate witness to four terrible events in quick succession that devastated the entire world. She lost her WWI-veteran father and younger brother to the Spanish Flu, lost a farm to the Great Depression, and lost a husband to WWII while also losing a child. I wonder what her life’s Rapture Ready Index would be.
She considered people living today to be spoiled softies and I do not have to wonder whether she would be moved by Premillennialism’s Argument from Aren’t Things Terrible Today. Neither should we.