Religious Studies

Christopher Stroop: Apocalypse Now?

7:00pm - 8:30pm EDT October 23, 2018

Location: Dow Science Center, Dow L1

Historian and writer Dr. Chris Stroop will discuss apocalypticism in pop culture, public discourse, and politics. What is it that drives humans’ obsession with the end of the world? 

Dr. Christopher Stroop grew up being taught that the end of the world was imminent, unsure whether he would get to start a career or get married before the “rapture,” or that moment when Christ would supposedly appear in the sky and take believers to heaven, leaving everyone else to suffer a period of apocalyptic horrors culminating in the Battle of Armageddon. As a skeptical adult aware of the kind of psychological harm such beliefs can do to children indoctrinated in them, Dr. Stroop has become both a scholar of religious ideology–his doctoral dissertation focused on Russian Christians’ Providentialist and apocalyptic interpretations of the First World War–and an activist leader in the exvangelical community and movement, through which former radical evangelicals work to overcome religious trauma and to expose the dangers of religious extremism Despite the dangers posed by at least some kinds of apocalyptic beliefs, however, they have proven resilient, and often downright seductive. What is it that drives humans’ obsession with the end? What happens when we map prophecies onto history, geography, and current events? And how might increasing awareness of the presence of apocalypticism in our culture help us to clarify our values and address social problems? It was with the goal of exploring questions like these that Stroop put together an ambitious, interdisciplinary arts and humanities theme course for the Honors College at the University of South Florida, “’The End of the World as We Know It?’” Apocalypse and Dystopia in Life, Art, and Geopolitics,” which he taught in spring semester 2018. This talk will distill some of the key takeaways from the course, which include not just answers but also the kinds of questions that will hopefully leave room for lively discussion in Q&A.