The Truth Without All The Facts

The main problem with A Doomsday Reader: Prophets, Predictors, and Hucksters of Salvation, edited by Ted Daniels, is that this work is intended as a guidebook or compendium of sorts for a reader concerned with prophecy and Christian salvation. However, Daniels consigns his work to the inferior status of the lofty dissertation, or more accurately, an extensive annotated bibliography for a term paper, of this contentious subject by his choice of style and configuration.
This main hindrance, which appears to actually have been purposeful, comes from the format for which Daniels chooses to present information to his reader and openly excludes any contradictory statements to further support or refute his assembled facts.
To begin with, Daniels constructs Doomsday as a three-parter, with Part One highlighting the religious and political philosophies behind secular enlightenment, Part Two illustrating the evil lurking within those political and religious realms, and Part Three relating the tragic results, all well-known and controversial events, and how chaos originated by the all-consuming, apocalyptic movement known as the Revelation.

In the Introduction, Daniels spends a few discerning pages explaining his definition, literally and figuratively, for the critical terms a reader might come across when researching Christian prophecy and Revelation. Then, after a short explanation of his theory “that apocalypticism…is inherently political and that [a reader] might come to understand it better by taking that aspect of it fully into account” (Daniels 15), the book begins with his collection of essays and carefully constructed footnotes on his topics.
However, Daniels’ theory is more or less left behind as the reader becomes disoriented by the essays and assembled information. His thesis, which he shrewdly never states in its entirety has a fundamental problem that he attempts to ignore by presenting his information as pure fact, with nothing to dispute, deny, or, for that matter, confirm. And, because he offers no further insight into his claim, it can only be accepted as is, as fact, and while his chapters do provide a focus on his theory, they do nothing to prove anything other than to illustrate that he is more than adept in compiling facts to suit his purpose.
For example, in Part One, Daniels highlights two main examples of leaders, Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler, who politically enforced their ideals for secular millenarianism, or, as Daniels has chosen to refer to it, the apocalyptic movement. Daniels uses Marxism to show how “like earlier apocalyptic ideologies…the interaction of opposing forces—in this case, labor and capital—drives events in the world” (56).
It is a deceitful method of relating the truth, because apocalyptic ideologies, which he defines in his Introduction as “a struggle between the forces of good and evil” (4) focus on spirituality and redemption, not jobs and money, but he is clever not to mention this again because Marxism would then have nothing to do with his point at this moment. Now, the facts cannot be denied that Hitler was indeed a bad man, but in truth, his position was one of purification, of ridding the world of the tainted race, the “ape-men” (65) and was not about religious enlightenment.
Daniels gets around this fact by offering that “Hitler’s program combined two related elements common to many apocalyptic movements: revenge and purity” (70). With that said, a reader can be led to believe, because of Daniels’ previous definition for apocalypse as basically anything or any movement that has the potential to destroy the world, that Hitler could be very much an averted anti-Christ. With no other testimony or evidence contrary to this, a reader is forced to accept Daniels’ claim as fact.
Now, the biggest problem with his thesis comes from his claim that the apocalyptic nature inherent in all people is caused or, more succinctly, manufactured, by politics. By saying this, Daniels is expunging the reality and responsibility from people who knowingly commit suicide thinking that their salvation is at hand if they choose to follow the best salesman. To follow, dumbly and blindly without question because someone believes glory comes with a sacrifice like suicide (which is ironically the greatest of all sins, according to Christian religion) is not something that can be placed in the broad category of political maneuvering.
It can be orchestrated by a political mastermind, yes; but that political mastermind is also very nearly as blind and dumb as the herd of sheep they lead to slaughter because they too believe, without question, that their own redemption or whatever freedom they are seeking comes from controlling the lives of others, and how well they manage at the task. While this can be defined as apocalyptic nature, because it is utterly destructive, it is not inherently political—it is inherently human.
But to say that the apocalypse and the movement that will one day revolutionize the world is inherently human is perhaps too extreme for a book of this sort to delve into. Daniels is most certainly aware of the controversial nature of his subject and understands, too, how people read and react to this subject when taken as a whole. If he focused on the problem and the ultimate destruction of the world as originating from being human, a large segment of his audience would close the book in disgust because they are, instinctively, because of the nature of the topic, seeking answers.
And, with an efficiency to be admired, Daniels is cleverly able to grant those answers—even if it means skipping a measure of the truth. But, with any decent argument or frankly, any decent production of information, the fact and the fiction of the accumulated information need to be presented side by side so that the fact, if it truly is fact, will stand on its own because, by its nature, fact has more power and authority than any fabrication ever will. With this method, information can be highlighted and validated at the same time.
While this may work in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Daniels, is not an authorized authority on the subject and therefore requires room in his work, or at the very least, acknowledgement, for such interpretation. Otherwise, the reader is being led into the exact trap that Daniels expresses is responsible for sending cults off to commit suicide for a holy comet in Part Three. In this way, Daniels actually forbids a reader to consider their options, and instead, ironically commits the very same sin that he compiled Doomsday Reader to argue about: herding the people with cunningly used portions of fact.
And, with his choice of format, Daniels also neatly removes himself from any sort of literary or spiritual criticism because he assigns himself as the editor of this work, and does not hold the mantle of the author. Moreover, as is his way, every chapter ends with a “Notes” section in which all sources and facts gleaned from weblogs, news, and the Bible are posted in the standard APA citation style. While this is not unusual in a reference book of this sort, it becomes a bit disconcerting when every chapter ends with two pages of sources to review.
At that point, a reader is left to wonder how much, if any, of the information came from Daniels. Or, more importantly, why he chose the facts he did to illustrate whatever version of the truth he hopes to prove. But with a topic this controversial and completely emotional and sacred for a great deal of the religious community, fact needs to be presented with disconcerting arguments as well, or at least offer in his extensive Works Cited, since he took the time to make it happen, authors or websites that offer some form of skepticism.
In this manner, Daniels is able to present all of the related information on this subject without ever being forced to declare his position or specify an exact opinion. But, more importantly, Daniels never offers any information to refute his truths either, so for that reason alone, Daniels is removing himself and his information from interpretation because the method he uses presents everything as fact. His sources, as they are quoted, are to be accepted and believed as fact, no questions asked, no tokens granted.
Overall, while Daniels attempted to compile a compendium of information for the reader interested in prophecy or the Revelation, his theories and ideas are hardly presented at all, unless a reader gives the same weight to the slightly audacious Introduction, which offers his brief, indeterminate premise for creating and organizing his work. And, by choosing so specific a format for assembling his work, his information can be taken no other way, especially because every chapter, and very nearly every paragraph, ends with a footnote, and not an opinion.
It is his chosen format that lends to an attitude of distrust from a reader because Daniels cannot be taken fully and with complete authority on such a controversial theme. If anything, Doomsday Reader serves more as a tidy and eloquent annotated bibliography for a term paper than as the foremost guidebook for understanding prophecy and the terms required by the Bible for Christian salvation. Works Cited. Daniels, Ted, Ed. A Doomsday Reader: Prophets, Predictors, and Hucksters of Salvation. New York: New York UP, 1999.

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