Feeling the Future at Christian End-Time Performances
How Christian depictions of the End allow spectators to experience—and feel—their place within the future history of humankind
The End is always near. The Apocalypse has sparked imaginations for millennia, while in more recent times, highly publicized predictions have thrust End-Time theology briefly into the spotlight. In the 21st century, fictional depictions of various apocalyptic scenarios are found in an endless stream of films, TV shows, and novels, while real-world media coverage of global issues including climate change and the migrant crisis often features an apocalyptic tone. Feeling the Future at Christian End-Time Performances explores this prevalent human desire to envision the End by analyzing how various live End-Time performances allow people to live in and through future time.
The book’s main focus is contemporary Christian End-Time performances and how they theatrically construct encounters with future time—not just images or ideas of a future, but viscerally and immediately real experiences of future time. Author Jill Stevenson’s examples are Hell Houses and Judgement Houses; Rapture House, a similarly styled “walk through drama” in North Carolina; Hell’s Gates, an “outdoor reality drama” in Dawsonville, Georgia; Ark Encounter, a full-size recreation of Noah’s Ark; and Tribulation Trail, an immersive thirteen-scene drama ministry based on the Book of Revelation. The book’s coda considers similarities between these Christian performances and secular survivalist prepper events, especially with respect to constructions of and language about time. In doing so, the author situates these performances within a larger tradition that challenges traditional secular/sacred distinctions and illuminates how the End Times has been employed in our current social and political moment.
Praise / Awards
“A timely and insightful contribution to our understanding of eschatological performance, past and present. The contemporary importance of apocalyptic thinking grows stronger every day. These thought patterns are hard to avoid and demand our understanding. The book will be of interest to scholars of medieval theatre and contemporary popular culture and those studying the imbrication of religion and performance more generally.” – Marla Carlson, University of Georgia
“A true pleasure to read. The writing is lucid and fluent, and it is generous to its readers, to the makers and believers it surveys, and to the larger field of research within which it situates its argument… The book will be welcomed within the field of theatre and performance studies, while also finding strong readership in religious studies.” – Daniel Sack, University of Massachusetts
"As this study impressively demonstrates, end-time performances may have a centuries-long genealogy, but in the hands of today’s evangelicals they respond to and enact a very contemporary zeitgeist. ...Feeling the Future at Christian End-Time Performances is a model of performance analysis, attentive to the histories of individual end-times attractions, their pre- and post-performance elements, audience demographics, and the responses of other spectators at the performances she attends."
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