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Spirit on Tap – Apocalypticism and Conspiracy Theory”
September 24, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Dr. Robert Paul Seesengood
“They Did It”: The Connections between Conspiracy Thinking and Anti-Semitism in Popular Culture (and the Revelation to John).
My scholarly work centers on analysis of biblical language and imagery in popular culture (current and ancient). How scholars and religious leaders say the Bible should be used or what it “means” is critical for understanding doctrine and official practice. But how people in congregations actually incorporate the Bible (and its language, stories and characters) into popular culture reflects more how the book actually intersects daily life and general thinking.
For the past few years, I’ve been looking in particular at how various “conspiracy movements” (many, but not all, political or anti-government groups, racial-identity groups, or groups opposing economic or medical practices) construct their ideologies — what language, symbols and stories they use to express their ideas. It will surprise few people that a very popular biblical book for many of these groups is the New Testament’s Revelation to John (also called the “Apocalypse” of John). Very often, this book is merged with other 19th and early 20th century conspiracy movements, most commonly Anti-Semitism as expressed in hoax documents such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
My work has looked at the ways Revelation and its images have been employed (consciously and unconsciously) by various apocalyptically themed hate groups. I would argue, as well, that their rhetoric occasionally “bleeds over” in other popular culture expressions such as film, gaming and “news.” Words and images will have an effect on us, often in ways we don’t immediately perceive, and in our media-saturated, post-internet world, we are each far more likely to come in contact with literature and cultural products once deemed “fringe” or “extreme.” It’s important, then, I would argue, to notice these connections and intersections and think carefully about the language and images we see.
Dr. Robert Paul Seesengood is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Albright College. He is the author of Competing Identities: The Athlete and the Gladiator in Early Christianity (2006), and has written numerous articles on Paul and Pauline studies.