The Four Horsemen of the American Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. Public domain.

Lately, I have found myself turning to the Book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John and transmitted to the world in the first century A.D. Everyone is familiar with the vision of the four horsemen in Rev. 6:1-8, where they appear with the opening of the first four of the seven seals that bring forth the cataclysm of the end times.

The first horseman, armed with a bow and crown, rides a white horse, which scholars sometimes interpret to symbolize Christ (which seems rather bizarre). The second horseman rides a red horse and wields “a great sword…to take peace from the earth.” The third rides a black horse and carries a “pair of balances,” apparently heralding famine but equally likely, as it seems to me, justice. The fourth horseman rides a pale horse and is identified as Death, “and Hell followed with him.”

Chapters 17 and 18, dealing with the rise and fall of Babylon, are equally fascinating. The Babylon of chapter 17 is generally interpreted as a religious domain and that of chapter 18 as a politico-economic power, but the two are one, representing the might of the Roman Empire. Elaine Pagels writes in Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation, “it’s impossible to understand the general meaning and purpose of Revelation’s message without considering the time and setting in which it was given. The Apostle John’s prophetic message was delivered to seven churches in Asia Minor. While each church had its specific challenges, the most worrying threat was growing persecution from the Roman Empire. The new Christ-followers were under pressure to bow to the emperor-cult and to engage in idolatrous and immoral practices.”

In our “time and setting,” one might think that we are witnessing the last days of the American Republic, following massive electoral fraud, the suppression of facts by the media, the ubiquitous practice of censorship by the tech platforms, and the (so far) pusillanimous refusal of the courts to rectify the greatest electoral scandal, by several orders of magnitude, since the defeat of Andrew Jackson in the “corrupt bargain” of 1824.

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Given the cultural forces that have been at work undermining the joists and beams of the nation, the impending calamity comes as no surprise. The four horsemen are riding again, and their names are Feminism, Climate, COVID-19, and the Democratic Party.

Feminism sits astride the white horse, obviously, crowned in ostensible purity. This destructive and malicious ideology of spurious “equality” has dissolved the vigorous masculine spirit that has long sustained the greatest nation on the planet, and it shows no sign of relenting. A nation that has been radically feminized will not survive in the carnal jungle of politics and war. As Michael Ignatieff writes in The Lesser Evil, “liberal societies cannot be defended by herbivores. We need carnivores to save us.”

Climate, aka the red horse of Global Warming, is taking the peace of daily living from domestic assurances, depriving the country of reliable sources of energy, fouling the landscape, polluting the environment, empowering a class of robber barons profiting at the expense of the people, and establishing infrastructural control by a cadre of demagogues—it could also be called the green horse. (Watermelon environmentalism: green on the outside, red on the inside.)

The black horse of COVID—or, more accurately, the official response to the virus, replete with false information as the First Trust COVID-19 Tracker points out—has panicked the populace, led to misguided draconian measures, caused shortages of consumer goods, promoted the manifest injustice of elite immunity to law, inflicted disproportionate suffering and increased lethality, and facilitated mammoth economic collapse from which there may be no full recovery. The black horse has trampled the nation’s prospects for both the present and the future.

And the Democratic Party, charging on the pale horse of corruption, lies, calumny, hypocrisy, vandalism, corporate welfare, racial conflict, electoral treachery, the murder of innocents called “abortion on demand,” and totalitarian principles associated with socialism and communism, followed by the Hell of the Press, the academy, the jesters of Hollywood and social media, has plausibly ensured the ideological transformation of the Republic into the two-headed Babylon of secular idolatry and political control, or alternately, the Roman Empire of harassment and persecution. In any case, it signifies the Death of legitimate governance.

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The new apocalypse is in process of completing itself but, unlike the hope and encouragement promised by Revelation, there may no final victory “in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that is ours.” Together the four horsemen of the current moment are the “dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whoever loveth and maketh a lie” anathematized in Revelation 22:15. They are not merely poetic images but expressions of actual events. As D.H. Lawrence wrote in Apocalypse, “by their bite shall ye know them.”

I cannot pronounce on the tenets of any specific communion, but I do believe that without faith in the transcendent, however mysterious and elusive, and without holding to a morality based on the values of truth and courage, then in consequence “whatsoever worketh abomination” (Revelation 21:27) will wreak destruction upon a people and a nation.

The four horsemen of the American Apocalypse are riding hard and, in the absence of popular conviction and institutional integrity, the sequel will not be in doubt. In Holman Hunt’s celebrated painting The Light of the World, based on Revelation 3:20 and representing Christ standing before a closed door, it is instructive to note that the door has no handle and can be opened only by the dweller inside. The religious symbolism is obvious and is elaborately explained in Jeremy Maas’ Holman Hunt and the Light of the World, but in our context, the message is that the citizens of the country and the courts within have been called to open the door and let in the light of truth. The fate of the Republic hangs in the balance.

Light of the World Revelation
The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt, public domain.
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