The Prophet is one who has special knowledge or wisdom that others are not privy to. The True Prophets of old were those who communicated directly with the Divine and then shared the knowledge with the village or kingdom of which they served. Usually a prophet of old warned others about pending issues but also gave a true and good way to avoid the problems. Joseph in the Bible is a good example. He was brought before the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time who warned Egypt that 7 years of famine was coming immediately following 7 years of plenty. The warning allowed Egypt to save up grain during the good years so they could survive the bad years. There were also "false Prophets." False Prophets were those who made Prophesies that were not from the Divine but were motivated from selfish reasons, usually for personal monetary gain.
Today our culture has divided this noble calling into two false prophet varieties: 1) The Prophet of Hope, and 2) The Prophet of DOOM. The Prophet of Hope offers us the vision of the shinning city on the hill, of what the best of us could be and of the bright future ahead. He is hoping you'll jump on his band wagon and ride it to party central. We do admire the Prophet of Hope. We smile and nod condescendingly at their optimism. We laugh and pat them on the back (all the while shaking our head inwardly and saying, "Poor naive Prophet of Hope"). Experience teaches us to expect the worst because when it doesn't happen, we can relax. We certainly aren't disappointed. A good example of the Prophet of Hope is Gene Roddenberry. We love Star Trek and wish/hope that this wonderful world will come true. But most of us smile and nod, knowing that it'll be more something like Blade Runner or Alien (where all the corporations run the future).
The Prophet of Doom on the other hand is listened to very carefully. He projects fear and always talks about the worst case scenario. We listen and ponder. His language is admired and fawned over. It is full of images of despair and misery. The smart Prophet of Doom is one who offers an escape (which is usually by following his advice and buying his book or video series or voting for him and his party or listening to his lecture, etc, etc.).
There is a curious reaction to the Prophet's. Hope we listen to but never forgive if he is wrong. He will be blasted and derided for the naive fool we knew he was. Another good example of the Prophet of Hope is Harry Dent who wrote, "The Roaring 2000's". He wrote this book at the end of the 90's during the stock market boom and predicted "The Dow will be in the 20,000's by 2010." Virtually none of Harry's predictions have borne out to be true. He certainly didn't even mention the incredible Real Estate boom. He gave real estate on paragraph and cautioned against investing in this "slow and lack luster" investment. Today you can buy his book new at a large discount on Amazon and buy it used on Amazon starting at 1 penny.
However, on occasion DOOM and HOPE meld and are borne out to be true (as was Reagan and his battle with the Commie's) he is seen as a great man, perhaps even "true Prophet" and is elevated to sainthood today. He warned of the cost of doing nothing (Doom) but promised of a shinning tomorrow (Hope). The halmarks of the true prophet. It takes great courage to be Hope or a Ture prophet. The true prophet is usually killed or destroyed because we can't stand to be in the presence of truth for long (espeically if we ourselves are living a lie and are invested in that lie).
Alternatively, Doom is always heralded as a genius when he is right but completely forgiven when he is wrong. It takes no courage to be a prophet of Doom. Doom is never front page news when he is wrong. We breathe a sigh of relief that Doom is wrong; glad in the knowledge that we have another day before the "world" ends. His incorrect books are filed away (but often still referenced because the smart Doom will leave his prophesies open ended with no exact date). Examples of Doom are the 17th and early 18th century over population experts.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population (first published in 1798), Thomas Malthus proposed that while resources tend to grow linearly, population grows exponentially. He argued that, if left unrestricted, human populations continue to grow until they would become too large to be supported by the food grown on available agricultural land, causing starvation which then controls population growth. He argued that this had happened many times previously in human history and estimated that this would occur again by the middle of the 19th century.Of course by the technology of the day, that was certainly true. But who could have predicted the advances in chemical fertilizers, advanced machinery, complex food processing,
and other technology advances that have not only given the world the food it needs but it is actually at a surplus. The only reason for starvation in the world today is food distribution issues and dictators that want to oppress their people. All the current Enviornmental Guru's and Global Warming prophets are merely Doom prophets recylcing (pun intended) the old over population arguments of the 18th century.
You can see these two styles of Hope and Doom playing out in every endeavor of our culture. But particularly you see these two types happening in Religious organizations, Economics, as well as Politics. Our culture is one of anxiety. Anxiety that the communists or terrorists or criminals or Corporations or sinners or whoever is the bad guy of the day, is around every bush and only our willingness to fall before Doom and follow his teaching will save us. Doom offers no permanent solution (and if one is found then another bad guy or reason to fear is quickly invented). This is why Bush's numbers are so low. Bush is the Prophet of Hope while every Democrat rings the bell of Doom. With every new solider that dies, their Doom prophesies are seen as correct. Poor naive Bush, he was so hopeful but we all knew that was nonsense. No one looks at Northern Iraq that has never had a single American Solider death nor Southern Iraq, which is very peaceful. We focus on Baghdad.
When I was a kid, the tent revival evangelists would come into town. My parents took one out to dinner after a revival service one night. My Dad asked him, "Why do you preach on Hell all the time?" His answer was surprisingly refreshing, "Because I don't get as big an offering if I preach about only heaven." He had learned the rewards of the Prophet of Doom. People are motivated out of fear faster than from hope. They'll run to the literal or metaphorical Altar quicker from Doom than Hope. However, hope sustains in the long run, while Doom never sustains. Doom often becomes the self-fulfilling prophesy (i.e. The Branch Davidians and Jim Jones are good examples). Doom does not feed but quickly burns out. Eventually, we long and need hope. Truth sustains us through the dark nights and motivates us toward action. Doom builds weapons and fortresses. Hope and Truth build cities and civilizations and a brighter tomorrow.