Apocalyptic fever, by Brian Schrauger

The greatest threat to Israel’s existence is not Iran’s erection of nuclear weapons or Ahmadinejad’s publicly declared lust to use them against the Jewish state. Neither is it Hamas, Hizbollah or Fatah. The greatest threat to Israel’s existence is a global epidemic of apocalyptic fever.

A working definition of ‘apocalyptic fever’ is obsessive utopian beliefs that drive its victims to acts of self-destructive behavior. Like any epidemic, apocalyptic fever is indiscriminate: all nationalities, all ideologies, all religions are vulnerable.

The primary symptom of apocalyptic fever (AF) is public advocacy for immediate and extreme changes in personal and corporate conduct.

Accurate diagnosis of AF is not an easy task. Its victims may seem rational and calm while others look and sound fanatical. Contrary to popular instinct, either appearance may—or may not—be symptomatic of apocalyptic fever. The key, then, to correct detection of AF is focusing on words, not appearances; conduct, not affectations; content, not delivery.

Take, for example, the matter of globalization. Technology and trade have created a world in which all nations are economically interdependent. This is not a new development. And inasmuch as it has resulted in a general increase in worldwide standards of living, the interdependence of nations not only is a fact of life, it is a good thing.

The obvious, and literal, downside of this dynamic is today’s global recession and its attending threat of Great Depression. The world’s response is fear. As it should be.

Fear, kept fresh, is usually healthy. When we hear an angry lion roar, it informs us to move away from the beast, not toward it. But when fear goes bad it is anything but healthy.

Fear gone bad should be easy to detect. But it is not, especially in one’s self or culture. Why? Because fear gone bad is a kind of insanity. Its victims refuse to take cover from a rabid, roaring beast. Instead, they freeze. Or worse, they continue moving toward it, believing it will be conquered by taming it, joining it, or by divine intervention. In short, fear gone bad is the perfect environment for apocalyptic fever.

Fear gone bad is the prevailing atmosphere in our world today. No surprise, then, that recent calls for radical changes in global construct are welcomed and embraced.

From Cairo a secular leader calls on religious followers for a “world order” that must not fail while five times crying, “Holy Koran.”

From Rome a religious leader summons a secular institution, the United Nations, to reform itself in order to fulfill the “urgent need of a true world political authority” with “effective power.”

In response, the pluralistic-secular world applauds with relief. At the same time conservative religions are a bit too eager, a bit too certain of an imminent, if bloody, vindication by appearance of their given messiah. Meanwhile the real world continues to stagger with growing threats of horror too ghastly to imagine: nuclear annihilation, biological catastrophes, continental starvation, genocidal slaughters.

Why do we act like these threats have been resolved when, in fact, they are alive and growing? Why do we not persevere in a posture of healthy fear? Why do we drunkenly abandon our sober responsibility to act with justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?

The reason, I propose, is because there is an epidemic of apocalyptic fever on a global scale. And its current strain is an existential threat to Israel.

It is not an existential threat because of a reluctance to recognize Israel as a sovereign state. It is an existential threat because of its demand that all states sacrifice their sovereignty for the greater good.

Supranational world orders have happened throughout history: empires led by Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. All of them knew success. But the ‘common man’ was always fodder for the ruling class. Jews were always abused, no matter how much they tried to accommodate. And every world order was centered around worship of anything or anyone except the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The only times Jews have been free are when they have been a separate, sovereign, independent state, a single nation under God, as they are today. Israel is more than a homeland for the Jewish human tribe. Its biblical charter is a blueprint for the world. Israel is mandated by God to be a nation-state with permanently limited borders on property that is owned by God.

This model is “a light unto the nations.” It is the foremost example of a broad biblical prescription for a healthy world construct: a world order that consists of nations with unique identities and boundaries. And individual sovereignties subject only to the one-and-only God-who-is, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Is there a way to inoculate against apocalyptic fever? Is there an antidote?

Yes. Israel and all who love her must stay sober and alert, abstain from hyperbole, stand firm against the seductive lure of a new world order, and live the Sh’ma no matter what the cost.