Apocalypse now and again: upcoming Elon symposium to explore apocalyptic belief throughout culture

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 02, 2017

Photo by Elon University

Beginning next week Thursday, there’s only one way to miss the apocalypse: class. Otherwise you’re in for three jam-packed days of lively discussion from scholars on the topic of apocalyptic thought and practice.

From February 9 through the 10, Elon University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society (CSRCS) will be sponsoring a symposium titled “On The Edge of Apocalypse: New Directions in the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion” in the Numen Lumen Multifaith Center on campus.

“Elon is committed to educating the community about the role of religious ideas in society and to advancing research—by both students and faculty—about the role of religion in society,” said CSRCS director and professor of religion studies Brian Pennington. “This symposium is an opportunity for Elon faculty to collaborate with other academics from the U.S. and Canada on a common research project.”

The three-day symposium will feature 11 scholars from all over North America and also provide students with a chance to receive feedback on their individual projects during its poster session.

Pennington defines “Apocalyptic thought” as the idea that refers to the world coming to an end through “violent, cataclysmic causes,” especially in its relation to religion.

“Often this kind of thinking involves God appearing on Earth or sending deputies to crush evil-doers and reward the righteous,” Pennington said.

According to Pennington, one main purpose of the symposium is to demonstrate how various and widespread apocalyptic ideas are.

“Therefore we have scholars who study many religious traditions—from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism—as well as those who study popular culture,” he said. “The topics of papers is incredibly varied: we have scholars speaking about Christian theme park The Holy Land Experience, Hindu fans of Donald Trump, the television show ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,’ and Black Lives Matter.”

Though Pennington acknowledges that some of the presentations and discussions may not appeal to a general audience, he says the keynote address to be given by David Cook of Rice University on February 9 is “definitely something we want Elon students, faculty, and the public to attend.”

For more information on the symposium and schedule, you can visit http://blogs.elon.edu/ontheedge/.