As the third and final season of HBO’s “The Leftovers” airs — and as the U.S. faces intense challenges involving Russia, Iran, North Korea and other contentious nations — the topic of the end times has reemerged in pop culture and theological circles alike.
This week, PRRI, a well-known public polling firm, distributed a press release highlighting some of the organization’s past findings on Americans’ end times views. To briefly recap: 49 percent of Americans believe that severe natural disasters are evidence of the biblical end times (52 percent of Republicans versus 48 percent of Democrats believe this is the case).
The polling firm also noted a stark difference between evangelicals and mainline Protestants, with 77 percent of white evangelicals and 74 percent of black Protestants attributing “the severity of natural disasters to biblical end times,” compared to just 35 percent of mainline Protestants and 29 percent of Americans who are unaffiliated with a faith (mainline Protestants are overwhelmingly white, hence the lack of a racial breakdown on this indicator).
With these findings in mind, Faithwire caught up with PRRI’s research director Dan Cox this week to discuss some of these fascinating end-times results, specifically the massive eschatological disparity between evangelicals and mainline Protestants.
“These groups have significantly different religious beliefs,” Cox said. “For instance, 63 percent of white evangelical Protestants have a literal interpretation of the Bible compared to only 25 percent of white mainline Protestants.”
“However, both groups share concerns about the pace and direction of demographic change in the country,” he continued.
Cox also explained why he believes so many Americans see current events as evidence of a biblical end times scenario, saying that “the obvious answer is theology.” But he also pointed to a broader cultural context that he believes is at play.
“White Christians, a group that has had a privileged position in U.S. society, are seeing their influence wane,” he said. “Their numbers are declining and their views on issues such as marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage are increasingly out out of step with prevailing cultural preferences.”
Cox said that a “feeling of cultural displacement” and the idea that the “country they knew was disappearing” has shaped political behavior, including 2016 voting preferences. Over time, he said that end times views possibly haven’t changed all that much but have perhaps become “more salient” in recent years, again noting the cultural changes affecting white Christians.
“As white Christians have lost cultural and political influence in society, there has been an increasing tendency to embrace apocalyptic rhetoric,” he said. “Part of Trump’s appeal to white conservative Christians was his willingness to speak in the most dire terms about the country’s political and cultural future. This rhetoric resonated among many conservative Christians.”
As Faithwire has reported, a plethora of domestic and international happenings have led many Christians to feel as though the end times is approaching — and some of those purported signs have little to do with a loss of social power.
From chaos in the Middle East to Israel’s re-emergence, you can read more about other purported signs here.
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