Great Disappointments & The Civil Divide: Why the Alarm over September 2015?

It is with some confidence that I write that a date in the near future will be significant. It is also due to the potentially life-threatening social ramifications that I post my assessment before these potentially disastrous dates, rather than waiting until the date has passed. The dates, all in late September, 2015, have the potential for great infamy and, unless prevented, significant tragedy.

The (First) Great Disappointment:

Though not the first event of its kind, The Great Disappointment was a pivotal moment in American religious history. In 1831, Baptist preacher William Miller began to lecture across the country that the Apocalypse would occur between 1843 and 1844. As time grew near, the movement that surrounded this prophecy, Millerism, developed into a major American Christian movement, leading thousands to await the Second Coming of Christ. The expected date of parousia, October 22, 1844 , came and went. The end of Millerism, however, led to even greater reliance on Bible prophecy in American religious life and the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other Adventist churches, many of which remain as active religious organizations to this day. Many Millerites left for the Shaker sect of Christianity. Many more simply returned to their previous denominational affiliations.

This Great Disappointment galvanized thousands (upwards of a million) of disparate American Christians in hopeful expectation, yet the events of that date were not only of religious consequence. Faithful had given up much of their worldly possessions and were now rendered destitute. A Millerite church was burned in Ithaca, NY while others congregations saw vandalism, angry mobs rioting and attacking parishioners, et cetera. Largely, however, the aftermath of the Great Disappointment was one of religious disillusionment localized to adherents and their families and those outside of the Millerite movement were not immediately affected.

The (Second) Great Disappointment:

It is with apology to all the former followers of Harold Camping that I claim that September 24, 2015 (and not May 21, 2011) to be the Second Great Disappointment. Knowing full well that there is more than legitimate claim to such a moniker, I make this statement to point out the gravity of what can only be described as a thoroughly modern American tragedy.

The social, religious, political, and technological differences between 1844 and 2015 are too great to discuss in any detail, but those differences will come to make all the difference between what could superficially be described as two ‘somewhat similar’ prophecies. The basis, at least initially, for the importance of September 28, 2015 comes from San Antonio Pastor John Hagee. A devout believer in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Pastor Hagee pointed to a tetrad of four ‘blood moons‘ coinciding with Jewish holy days between April 2014 and October 2015 as a clear sign from God that Christ would return during one of these celestial events. In an Op-Ed posted on FoxNews website in March 2015, Hagee gave the most detailed reasoning for his prediction. Among his points, Hagee suggests that past tetrads had coincided with major events for the Jewish people and the state of Israel (the fate of which Hagee sees as integral to the fate of all humanity). The only remaining ‘blood moon’ of this tetrad will occur on September 28, 2015.

The predictions of one Texas pastor would have likely gone unnoticed, even with the release of his book on the subject, before the era of Web 2.0 and the advent of social media. It was early in my study of belief in the rapture and the audience interest in the 2014 movie Left Behind when I saw the first mentions of the ‘blood moons’ rapture prediction. The late September 2015 prediction began to show up more and more on my Facebook timeline. It seems that my interest in belief in the rapture and the movie Left Behind, along with ‘liking’ the History Channel show Ancient Aliens meant that Facebook’s algorithm (and my own curiosity) led me to Facebook groups of various fringe belief communities. One such community, believe that a secret planet called Nibiru will produce a global cataclysm. Another group focuses on the idea that global elites, who are truly satanists, will release demons posing as aliens into the world; thus Earth will seemingly be overrun by extra-terrestrials (though they are truly, to be certain, ‘fallen angels’). The latter group regularly pointed to the Hagee ‘blood moon’ prediction, but the date shifted from the 28th to the 23rd or 24th of September as time (and discussion) went on. The believers in the (suspected) incoming planet Nibiru also pointed to September 2015 as the potential date of catastrophe. This seemed inexplicable at the time but recurring posts on both sites were linked to an alternative news website called Before It’s News. Before It’s News is a website where anyone can log in, post on the website, and make a ‘news article’ on any topic they desire, though the website’s charter focuses on UFO, Space, Sci-Tech, Alternative and ‘Self Sufficiency’ news stories. Type in ‘September 2015′ into Before It’s News’ search bar and you will see 207,000 news stories predicting everything from the fall of the dollar to destruction of every major U.S. city, to the Rapture and the opening of an intergalactic portal (due to CERN).

This much, the overlapping interconnections of religious, UFO, and similar fringe beliefs having similar ‘alternative news’ stories contributing to their expectation for September, 2015 would likely have meant nothing more than the non-event of December 2012 when Mayan prophecy yielded no strange fruits. This is, however, until another, much more infamous, ‘alternative news’ tycoon Alex Jones (Info Wars) announced that an upcoming military training exercise would be used as the pretense to declare martial law in the United States. The training exercise that has thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of Americans fearful is called Jade Helm 15.

The first public mention of Jade Helm 15 was made by Alex Jones on March 22, 2015; two days before the actual federal government’s initial announcement. Jones’ article titled “Feds Preparing to Invade Texas, List State as ‘Hostile’” accuse the federal government of ‘invading’ Texas, but also alleges that the training drill is proof of the erosion of Posse Comitatus, and the Fed’s attempts to suspend individual rights and privileges. Later mention of Jade Helm 15 on InfoWars include assertions that the training drill will lead to a ‘false flag’ operation, or fictitious disaster, to force martial law to go into effect.  The accusation of a potential ‘false flag’ meant to legitimize martial law is, essentially, a call to arms to various groups who variously refer to themselves as patriots, militiamen, and/or 3%ers; all of whom see the federal government as a potential enemy and believe that their right to bear arms may be impinged upon. The rhetoric of these groups, coupled with their growing numbers since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, have led to tense and dangerous situations in several states. The last day of the Jade Helm 15 drills, September 15, 2015, have led to a conflagration of alarm for several fringe ideologues as the date is relatively near to the September 28, 2015  ‘blood moon.’ From there, the lines between religious and non-religious fear and expectation becomes blurred.

Here is an excerpt from a conservative ‘alternative news‘ article:

Have you noticed that there is a tremendous amount of Internet buzz about the month of September 2015?  Never before have I seen so much speculation about what would happen in one particular month.Some people believe that we will see an economic collapse next month, others believe that there will be some sort of historic natural disaster, and others are convinced that the judgment of God is coming.

The above article links to a YouTube video that suggests the end of the world would occur September 23rd, 2015, the source; InfoWars. The video lists, in rapid fire succession, a suspected asteroid impact with the Earth, a potential destruction of the entire Universe as a result CERN, suspicion that several large Wal-Mart and Target stores are being used as military staging grounds, various claims that revolve around the belief that the world is controlled by an occult-obsessed  Illuminati, and biblical references to a Shemitah or Jubilee Year which are all said to be scheduled for late September. InfoWars, by not specifically claiming one narrative to be more likely then any other, allow for a consolidation of narrative; in this way, the alarm can reach a wider audience with a variety of worldviews and ideologies. That alarm, by the way, has resonated.

Domestic Terrorism Related to Jade Helm 15:

‘Oath Keepers’ militia group, who brought semi-automatic weapons and tactical gear to Ferguson, MO on Monday, August 10th were responding, in part, to the state of emergency that the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, and a seemingly unrelated gunfight, caused in the small city. This follows a month of significant activity among militia groups, self-proclaimed Jade Helm ‘Preppers’ and  Three %ers (three percenters) including the arrest of a Mississippi man for shooting at military personnel at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, MS and the arrest of three North Carolina men plotting an armed showdown with police and military, allegedly in retaliation for Jade Helm 15’s existence. All these incidents have a similar tone of anti-government fervor and paramilitary fringe philosophy, and the likelihood of several more such events occurring in the run up to late September is great, and disturbing.

There is no doubt that the current state of the internet has played a role in the consolidation, galvanization, and radicalization of both foreign and domestic terrorism as well as proliferation of fringe beliefs and ideologies. Anyone can write an article on ‘Before Its News‘ or any other ‘alternative news’ website, post videos on YouTube and add said video to an ‘alternative news’ article, post the link on several groups on Facebook, submit the link to Twitter, and that story becomes the truth, or a likely theory, to like minded people throughout the world. The old word-of-mouth format for conspiracy theories and face-to-face proliferation of fringe ideologies is long since obsolesced by the lightening fast pace of Web 2.0.

The ‘Whats” and the “What ifs?’

Facebook activity surrounding Jade Helm 15 encompasses approximately 60,000 people. Before it seems like I am making a direct connection between people who are currently concerned or fearful of Jade Helm 15 and potential domestic terrorists let me dissuade that set of assumptions. The vast majority of people who are concerned with JH 15 are reacting to a set of conspiracist beliefs, including fear of the Federal Government, distrust of President Obama and a distrust of the ‘powers that be’ in general. Such beliefs are much more common than one might suspect within the United States. The fact that such beliefs intersect with that of fringe ideologues should be no surprise; such conspiracist narratives were spearheaded by white supremacist groups and various interest groups that believe large scale cover-ups to have existed for decades (one of the most common of them being UFO enthusiasts). A tangled web, to be sure, if someone were trying to describe a massive uprising of like-minded fellows. These are not comrades, per se, but rather the various continua of beliefs that may be held and that are increasingly easy to have intersect and overlap. The result being that, yes, the same ‘fearful’ dates can raise alarm bells for various Christians, may rouse suspicions for various individuals or groups with imperfect trust of the ‘powers that be’ and, unfortunately, provide an opportunity for ill-willed would-be terrorist.

Then there is, of course, the general public; it is my hope that every security group, private or public, will take extra care to note and scrutinize any potential threats and consider them potentially serious. It is to the general public that late September 2015 is, and should remain, just another early Autumn, another in a series of passing seasonal changes that can and should remain uneventful. If a major domestic terror attack does occur in September 2015, it will be due to the various compounding fringe ideologies and anxieties that I have described above.

The mounting civil divisions in America, ever growing in appearance and negative social effects, stand in the balance. These divisions are neither permanent nor are they necessary, but these divisions stand to become complete and unassailable in the wake of a domestic terror attack, if such an attack is seen as necessary (or patriotic) by a large enough percentage of the population.

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