After the election, I began re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Because the world around me felt so apocalyptic, and she seemed to be the best one to handle such a situation.
I mean “apocalyptic” in every sense of the word. I mean it in that it feels like the world around me is about to change significantly, or even end as I know it. But mostly, I say “apocalyptic” because of what this election season has uncovered and revealed.
That’s the real meaning of apocalypse in Greek: “to uncover/to reveal.” If you think about it for a moment, it makes complete sense that this is the word we would also use to describe world-altering/ending events.
Look at what is uncovered when the world starts shifting and the dust is shaken off. We see the cracks in our systems and how they are closer to toppling over than we expected. We notice the people upon whose backs those systems were built, the ones who have always known the truth about how the world works, but we have been too preoccupied and privileged to notice. We see the darkness which permeates it all, and it is frightening.
Apocalypse is not a new cultural phenomenon. We see it in everything from The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner to The Walking Dead. It’s as if something in our collective psyche has sensed this cosmic shift just waiting to happen, and our imaginations ran with it.
Here we are, on the cusp, perhaps already falling over, and I am looking for everything to hold onto.
Enter Buffy, the Queen of Apocalypses. (The plural is necessary)
In season one, Buffy resists the Master, an ancient vampire who seeks to rule the human world, and after dying briefly at his hands, Buffy destroys him. In season two, Buffy’s beau Angel loses his soul, tries to destroy her life AND the world, and she has to avert the damage by killing him (after he becomes good again). In season three, the town mayor turns into an all-powerful, giant demon snake on graduation day to usher in a new world order before Buffy’s gang and the senior class blow him up. Season four sees the gang taking down a corrupt government organization whose creation tries to create monster-human hybrids, season five sees the gang battling a chaos-seeking god, season six tackles the apocalyptic desires of regular humans and Buffy’s own friend, and season seven concludes the series with a final confrontation with the First Evil.
And those are just the season finales.
So when things feel apocalyptic, I turn to Buffy, because she knows how to handle these situations. Apocalypses don’t break her but push her into leadership. They turn some of her enemies into reluctant heroes and make heroes out of her “ordinary” friends. In Buffy, as in life, apocalypses have the capacity to unbalance power. They can enable people in power to grab more of it, or give the underprivileged and marginalized a chance to finally have a taste of it. Buffy and her gang work hard to make sure the power stays out of the hands of those who would do great harm with it and instead put it in the hands of those deemed less worthy.
This is part of God’s story, too. In the Revelation from John, apocalyptic imagination runs wild. There’s fantastic imagery and symbols, which represent the corruption of empire, the oppression of others, and the love of God finally putting this evil to rest. There is an ushering out of the old ways of power to give cataclysmic birth to a new way of life. This final “uncovering” reveals the powers of the world as they are, in all of their atrocities and corruption, and the revealing of the world as it was meant to be, ruled by God through Jesus, with restored communion and relationship, and tears wiped away. This is the day when heaven comes to earth, and evil is forever banished from it.
So what do we do when it seems like the Hellmouth has opened, and demons are spewing out?
What do we do with a promise for all weeping to cease when we can’t stop the tears from flowing night and day?
That’s what we’re grappling with now. For those of us who have had the blind removed from our eyes and the carpet pulled out from under, the initial revelation is shocking and horrifying. When we see, as Richard Rohr describes it, that “[our] leaders…mirror what we have become as a nation. They are our shadow self for all to see,” the sight is not a pretty one. It is a terror, perhaps the kind which God described to Jeremiah when foretelling Jerusalem’s destruction, a terror repulsive to the world but to which a majority of the citizens remained blind.
Apocalypses render the world bare. They wipe the collective slate clean. Things can begin anew. These are times for pain, despair, trial, resistance, upheaval, and change, all to make way for a new way of life, closer to the way it was meant to be.
So now, with the Hellmouth open and an apocalypse underway, we continue to do Buffy’s work.
We live as Slayers and Scoobies in this apocalyptic age. We resist, uncover, and unmask evil and corrupt systems to reveal what they are to the world. We resist by protesting, creating art, being with people on the margins and offering them our encouragement, listening ears, and assistance in their movements. We start bringing about the final revelation every day.
Apocalypses happen, more often than we realize and more often than we may want. But they give us opportunities: to upset structures, to usher in a new and more just era, to take power from the powerful and give it to the disenfranchised.
Let’s do this.