With the combination of responding to Covid-19, massive economic contractions and the apparent weakness of political management in democracies in dealing with such crises, should this make us wonder about the long-term viability of our political and economic order?
The current, combined public health, economic, and political emergencies around the world seem designed to encourage a distinctly "end of days" feeling. Just perhaps we are more sophisticated and better educated than the Millerites in mid-19th century America. Their leader convinced them the end of the world was imminent. They should shuck off all their worldly possessions, and then gather together in upstate New York to await the end of the world and their ascension heavenward in 1844.
His followers did just as they were commanded -- but, not surprisingly, the world continued, a fate that tends to befall prophets of a literal doom or, alternatively, instant deus ex machina-style group salvation. (Think Sabbatai Zevi or Nongqawuse, perhaps.) Speaking generally, prophecies of an apocalypse never seem to play out, even if this has never stopped any of them, before or after William Miller.
Frequently, such prophets arise in times of trouble among a people desperate to escape from political or military...