Friday, March 10, 2006

The day after

Last night I watched (you guessed it) The Day After, the story of a nuclear war and its consequences for Lawrence, Kansas that aired on the ABC network in 1983.

As a former political science major and one-time debater, a favorite fantasy is what exactly would happen in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Would the government survive? Would society break down completely? Would it be 'the end of the world as we know it'?

Given the scope of my current interest, my mind after churning around for awhile turned its attention to the Catholic Church. Would Rome survive a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union? If it didn't, what would become of the Catholic Church?

In the year of the Lord 1984, the remaining cardinals of the Catholic Church gathered in Sao Paulo to elect a successor of Peter. This conclave would see a number of firsts, but there would hardly be any reporters present to cover the story. Despite the high number of cardinals in the Third World who survived the war the year before, many cannot make the journey due to the lack of transportation while others are busy shepherding their flocks through civil war. In the end, the conclave consisted of only a handful of cardinals, though they were fully recognized by their brethren.

After locking themselves in the cathedral, the voting was swift. There were few candidates left to consider anyway, as more than two thirds of the College of Cardinals had been killed in the northern hemisphere. The Brazillian cardinal chosen to lead the Church took the name John, recalling the disciple of the Book of the Apocalypse...

The new pope faced many challenges. His see was a smoldering ruin, the heartland of his Church ruled by opposing generals commanding troops dressed in space suits. Records were lost forever, the government of the Holy See was extinct. Communication was reduced to letters or the occasional rationed phone call or radio message. How would the Church survive rapid decentralization?

Christian fiction is for obvious reasons apocalyptic. What would be far more intersting is the post-apocalypse (the man-made kind at least).

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