Straight Up to Heaven
For readers who are fascinated or horrified by this virulent interpretation of the Book of Revelations, here’s more information from the glossary provided by RaptureReady.com:
At an unknown hour and day the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven, while remaining in the air, he will snatch his Bride, the Church, out from among this sinful world. Christ then takes the Church to heaven for the 7 year wedding feast. The earthly reason for the removal of the Church is to make way for the rise of Antichrist and to fulfill Daniel’s final 70th week.
President Trump has many of these radical Christians participating in his White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative which, according to the Religious News Service, “will ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government.”
What Are the Chances? Meet Robin Wright
In order to foresee a civil war we have to take a close look at the potential causes. It helps also to examine previous cases. Robin Wright, who has been a contributing writer to The New Yorker since 1988, wrote an insightful article there, published on August 14, 2017. In it she addresses the question of where the United States is headed in these troubled times. “How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’ most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence.” She quotes last year’s report from the Southern Poverty Law Center: “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century.” Wright adds, “The organization documents more than 900 active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.”
Wright’s sources are not politicians nor pollsters. They are mainly historians with measured and disinterested notions of what happened before and what might happen next, and why. One of her interviews was with Keith Mines, whose personal history passes through the US Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and the State Department, “navigating civil wars in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.” (With this curriculum and itinerary one wonders what he might have been doing in all these civil wars. Never mind, let’s hear what he has to say.)
Mines was asked by Foreign Policy magazine to evaluate the risk of a second American Civil War. His conclusion was that the United States faces a 60% chance of civil war over the next 10-15 years. Other experts consulted by F.P. predicted between a five and ninety-five percent possibility, with an average of 35%. “And that was five months before Charlottesville,” says Wright. So much for, “It can’t happen here…” Some experts think there is a distinct possibility that it might.
This is not to suggest that a second Civil War would look like the first one, with opposing armies entrenched along geographical lines defending territory. According to Mines, today’s civil wars tend to be low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly changing locales, not driven by major issues like slavery or states’ rights, rather lots of disparate issues. They include the use of scattered demonstrations and actions, social networks and sophisticated hacking and misinformation campaigns. Grouped issues and alliances make everything more complicated. Occasional terrorist attacks are used to attract attention and engender panic.
Wright cites Mines’s five conditions that support his prediction:
- Entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution…
- Increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows…
- Weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary…
- A sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership and…
- The legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct or solve disputes.
Robin Wright also quotes Yale historian, David Blight:
“We know we are at risk of civil war, or something like it, when an election, an enactment, an event, an action by government or people in high places, becomes utterly unacceptable to a party, a large group, a significant constituency.” The nation witnessed tectonic shifts on the eve of the Civil War, and during the civil-rights era, the unrest of the late nineteen-sixties and the Vietnam War, he said. “It did not happen with Bush v. Gore, in 2000, but perhaps we were close. It is not inconceivable that it could happen now.”
“Who do we put our faith in today? Maybe, ironically, the F.B.I.,” he said. “With all these military men in the Trump Administration, that’s where we’re putting our hope for the use of reason. It’s not the President. It’s not Congress, which is utterly dysfunctional and run by men who spent decades dividing us in order to keep control, and not even the Supreme Court, because it’s been so politicized.”
A lot of “military men” have been booted out of the White House since Blight’s comment.
Want to Feel Optimistic at Any Cost?
Dylan Matthews, writing on VOX.com on June 1, 2018, will give you some hope:
But much more common than civil war or complete democratic collapse are moments when one or more segments of a domestic society decide to break the implicit social contract that forbids the use of violent remedies for intranational disputes–think the Italian Years of Lead, the French OAS, the Weather Underground.
When electoral politics begins to look exhausted as a route to revolve major political disagreements with life-or-death stakes, conducting a few bombings at home might begin to look reasonable.
But we do not live in the Book of Revelation. There will be no final judgment in which the virtuous are given power and the wicked are damned. There will just be a continuous struggle between competing factions with diverse ideologies and interests, with none ever gaining a truly permanent upper hand.
Progress is still possible. The terrain of the dispute changes, such that the once sharply contested is suddenly tacitly agreed to by all parties with any power (like universal suffrage, Social Security and a large standing army with global bases). But the dispute remains.
If you can bring yourself to trust Matthews’s line of thinking, you’re practically home free. But I have some reserves. Italy’s Years of Lead in the 1970s and 80s, for example, when the country was plagued by seemingly senseless, random terrorist attacks, actually formed part of Operation Gladio, a Europe-wide CIA/NATO operation designed to discredit the left and sow fear of communism in Italy and the rest of Europe. Why doesn’t Matthews know this or, if he does, why did he fail to refer to it?
On the other hand, you might prefer to be more realistic and to remember that 35% of the experts consulted are convinced that the USA will have a civil war in the next 10-15 years.