Francis Ford Coppola popularized the term “apocalypse” in the 1979 blockbuster, Apocalypse Now.  Contextualizing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now equated “apocalypse” with napalm-engulfed rainforests, machine gun spraying helicopters, impulse killings, drugs, porn, dysfunction, and gratuitous combat, all to the surreal accompaniment of Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries.  

What made the film definitively apocalyptic was its exposure of the hell of Vietnam. Colonel Walter Kurtz’s (Marlon Brando) dying whisper providing Coppola’s intended wake-up call to counterfeit glories of combat—an apocalyptic denouement to an American culture obtuse to the realities of war —“the horror, the horror.”   

Apocalyptic is an adjective derived from the Greek noun apokalupsis (“revelation”).  An apocalypse is a public disclosure of previously hidden cosmic truth.

Still showing in the Ukrainian theatre is Apocalypse Putin, the exposure of tyranny for the 21st-Century viewer—a living parody of The Gettysburg Address—Putin’s manifesto of governance from Putin, by Putin, and for Putin—the alpha and omega of totalitarian narcissism.  

Apocalypse is apt because these are historically revelatory times on a global scale.  COVID-19 revealed the vulnerability of humanism when a microscopic virus shut down professional sports, live entertainment, residential education, global tourism, and international supply chains—life as we knew it—irrespective of racial, economic, religious, and national boundaries.

Now, following decades of deception, Putin has unveiled his heart of KGB darkness, outrageously demonstrating just how much evil one human being can inflict. Deep in the darkness of extreme narcissism, Putin has embraced tyranny.  Lust for absolute sovereignty has disabled his capacity for reason, compassion, law, truth, human decency and just governance—his skull obstinate, his chest petrified.  

On angry impulse, collateral damage is Putin’s intent—power grids in the freeze of winter, hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, train stations, immigration corridors—Satanic indiscriminate pulverizing of innocent people. With each missile, Putin slithers Russia toward self-destruction: her economy, military, political credibility, international reputation, and economic growth in steady decline.

For those with “eyes to see,” Putin’s atrocities also expose the camouflaged lies of postmodernism. Putin brings evil to the surface—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—profoundly absolute, not relative, truth.  Situational ethics, disinformation, and propaganda have worked for tyranny but not humanity.  What consequences await misinformation and rationalization at home, if the not yet realized absurdities of American spin culture persist?

Apocalyptic subverts the epistemological subversion authoritarians like Putin rely on to forecast the certain triumph of law and justice.  With Revelation 14:14–19 echoing in the background, The Battle Hymn of the Republic boasts, “His truth is marching on.”  Today’s tyrants will suffer “the grapes of wrath.”  They always have and always will.  Punishment fit for crimes awaits.  What is being said in secret will be shouted from the rooftops.  History will have the final word.  May it always be that case that even Presidents can’t evade taxes unpaid or obstructions of justice.  

In the interim, authentic apocalyptic eschews moral indifference.  Out of propaganda’s reach, apocalyptic is intolerant of both immorality and amorality Dispassion is a culpable vice: “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you from my mouth” (Revelation 3:15–16).  Tolerance of evil complies with evil and therefore is indicted as evil.  Fifty shades of rationalism surface as the fifty deceptions that they are.  Intelligence cannot look the other way.

Apocalyptic commends moral outrage: “This you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6).  “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment” (Revelation 18:20).  To not hate what Putin is doing is a symptom of intellectual as well as religious obtuseness—an amelioration of authentic Christianity.  For just war is requisite for the new heavens and new earth.  For eternal shalom to govern the new Jerusalem, first Satan must be thrown into the lake of fire and his followers killed by the sword (Revelation 19:17–21).

Apocalyptically enabled eyes see apocalypsis now—canons blasting nuclear power plants, dismembered civilians on war torn streets, raped hostages, tortured prisoners, body bags, mass graves, vigilante executions—layer upon layer of horror.  Senseless carnage.

Like 666, KKK, and , poorly painted Zs have become symbolic of brainwashed stupidity and satanic evil.  “Mariupol” and “Kharkiv” now symbolize annihilation commensurate with Dresden, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and the World Trade Centers.  “Putin” is an emetic, a caustic word symbol of tyranny coterminous with “Hitler,” “Stalin,” and “Bin Laden”—names whose mere mention induces disgust—emotive nausea.  

Apocalyptic exposes propaganda’s counterfeit culture and lies. 

Putin’s perversion of Russian Orthodoxy befits the genre. A living antithesis to Jesus, Putin and his Russian Orthodox cronies perpetuate heartless imperialism in the guise of Christianity, while outrageously incarnating what Jesus forewarned, “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15–16).  Fruits indeed, rotten to the core.

The classics reserve “tyrant” for all that is Putinesque.  The Greek historian and political theorist Thucydides (ca. 460-400 BC) cited history as humankind’s best deterrent.  To prevent tyranny, governments must be wise to its perverse tendencies from historic precedents.  Revisionist historiography that disfigures truth impedes wisdom and is culpable for tyrannical reincarnations.

But Thucydides’s wisdom has fallen on deaf ears.  Though educated in Hitler’s invasion and Stalin’s purge, the deaths of twenty-four million Russians in the former case and twenty in the latter (civilians included), Putin shuns history to orchestrate tyrannicide with blind indifference.  Culturally versed in Christian orthodoxy—the Golden Rule for God’s sake!—he contravenes integrity with every breath, recoiling in hubris when his victims protest.

Xenophon (ca. 430-354 BC) operates deeper into the heart of darkness: ‘this is exactly the most pitiful aspect of tyranny.  It is impossible to let go of it.  How could a tyrant ever raise enough money to pay back in full the people he stole from, or serve all the prison sentences to compensate those he imprisoned?  How could he recompense all the people he put to death by coming up with an adequate number of deaths to die?”

Such is the miserable plight of Vladimir Putin.

Plato (ca. 424-347 BC) penetrates still further: “the real tyrant is really enslaved to cringings and servitudes beyond compare, a flatterer of the basest men . . . envious, faithless, unjust, friendless, impious, a vessel and nurse of all iniquity, and so in consequence be himself most unhappy and make all about him so” (Republic, 9.6.580).

Aristotle (ca. 384-322 BC) concurs: the tyrant stirs up wars (Politics 5.9.5), governs over unwilling subjects through deception and force, appropriates wealth through deception and force (Politics 5.8.22), refuses to leave office (Politics 5.8.23), eliminates open discussion and debate (Politics 5.9.2), distrusts friends (Politics 5.9.5), and impoverishes opponents, so they can’t educate or collude to revolt (Politics 5.9.4). 

In Hebrew literature the tyrant is the fool of folly, “The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good.  He plans wickedness upon his bed; He sets himself on a path that is not good; He does not despise evil” (Psalm 36:3-4).

Cicero (ca. 106-43 BC), Rome’s golden orator, echoes his Greek and Hebrew predecessors to prescribe alertness to tyranny as requisite for politics.  The checks and balances, Cicero advised, would later inform the division of powers charted by America’s Founding Fathers: “Here, then, you have the origin of the tyrant; for that is the title given by the Greeks to an unjust king” (De Republica 2.27.49) . . .   “When Tarquinius had been banished, the title of king came to be as bitterly hated by the Romans as it had been longingly desired after the death, or rather the departure, of Romulus . . . after the banishment of Tarquinius, they could not bear even to hear the title of king mentioned” (2.30.52).

Where is there hope for humanity, if unchecked self-worship leads inexorably to the heart of darkness, as Paul also affirms in Romans 1:18-31?  Putins are a reality.  Who will be next—Xi? Ayatollah? Kim?  A monarch’s power to destroy and inflict cruelty is undeniable.  They do not relent.  As Xenophon surmises, “Neither you, nor, for that matter, any monarch else I ever heard of, having once possessed the power, did ever of his own free will divest himself of sovereignty” (7.19).  The tyrant always wants more, no matter the cost.

Who’s to say that Hitler’s next reincarnation won’t trigger a global nuclear holocaust—an apocalyptic end with “horror” the consummate denouement of all that is and was and is to be?

A foolproof solution is nowhere to be found in our polarized academy, the statehouse, or Pollyanna cultural Christianity.  

Whatever our tradition, we must will humanity’s triumph over tyranny through authentic sacrificial love, critical thinking, and critical action—spiritual metamorphosis from narcissism to nobility enabled by a character vaccine capable of transforming calcified hearts of darkness into regenerated hearts of holy agape love (Romans 5:5).  

In its second year of atrocities, Apocalypse Putin is still showing on the world stage. To turn a blind eye is to choose dehumanization if not utter destruction.  Humanity’s only alternative is intelligent courageous sacrificial surrender to the author of truth.  The alternative burns before us in Ukraine.