Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Waiting for the End of the World

Though it is the title of an underappreciated song from Elvis Costello's first album, waiting for the end of the world historically has not proven to be a fruitful activity. During the past couple millennia, several religious movements have isolated themselves from the world, huddling together to await the end of history. So far, none of them has been right. The world is still here. Many of these groups are Christian in orientation, which is interesting because 1) the Bible's eschatology is one of completion or fulfillment rather than termination and 2) in Matthew 24:36 Jesus says, "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Despite all the evidence saying that doing so is a really bad idea, a Russian cult has spent months holed up in a cave in anticipation of the end. Along the way, two of their number have died, one of cancer and one of "excessive fasting." Initially, 35 cult members camped out in the cave with the intention of staying until next month, when, according to cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov, the world will end. They had threatened mass suicide if Russian authorities were to intervene in their cave dwelling antics. Now, curiously, the nine cult members who haven't died or left the cave in frustration say that they will emerge from the cave by April 27, the Russian Orthodox Easter, days before the world ends.


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