The New York Times reports this morning that end of the world prophecies have unleashed strange behaviors at schools.  Rumors of violence and school shootings have shut down several schools altogether. Matt Wandrie, a superintendent in the Detroit area, responded:

“It was like ‘my niece’s neighbor’s daughter says there’s going to be gun violence at school on Friday,’ ” he said — and added that students were overheard in the hallways saying things like “Let’s go out with a bang on Friday.”       

“If you’ve got students who are disenfranchised or unstable or members of a community who really believe this end of the world stuff,” he said, “whether I think it’s credible or not, as a fairly logical person and human being, I’m not going to take that risk.”       

All of this destructive behavior raises a larger question: What does belief that the world is about to end do to those who hold that belief? If children grow restless and nihilistic in an apocalyptic atmosphere, perhaps adults who worship in apocalyptic religions are nearer to destructive behavior than those in more peaceful views of the world.

There were those in the Reagan administration who famously scoffed at environmental efforts because they believed the world was to end. The President of France was deeply shaken when, in private conversation about the Iraq invasion, President Bush began to ramble about the Gog and Magog of Revelation. Why work for lasting peace or save the environment if the world is about to end anyway? Why not go out with a bang?

Perhaps that dead end thinking is why so many cult leaders, wanting to trigger irrational and violent behavior in their followers, teach that the world is about to end. Perhaps that is why the rest of us should renounce nihilistic worldviews as well. Jesus once said, “judge the tree by its fruit.” Perhaps Christians should spend less time trying to understand the second coming and more time understanding the first.

The NY Times article quoted above is linked here.