And I feel fine. Or so goes the iconic song by REM.
Or is it? And how do we actually feel?
I know there is a segment of Christianity that is addicted to constant predictions about the end of the world and all the hysteria that goes with it. Frankly I don’t understand why any of these folks are ever listened to anymore. They have been wrong so much that the predictions sound more like a meme than anything serious. Does anyone actually take predictions about the end of the world seriously? I mean really, even Jesus said that no one knows when that will happen. Jesus! The one Christians are supposedly following. But hey, what does he know anyway? #sarcasm
Jesus had a few things to say about the end of the world type of things.
The most commonly cited might be from Matthew 24:6-8 –
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”
We have war going on in Ukraine and now in Israel/Palestine. The Israel/Palestine war has added apocalyptic emphasis is you read Revelation through a certain lens. There have been plenty of preachers who have made a nice fortune in books, videos, and merch selling the end of the world. They ought to be ashamed, but it is apparently just too profitable. We’re supposed to be proclaimers of Good News, not fear. We’re supposed to be talking about how God cares about creation and will restore all of creation, not destroy it. We’re supposed to talk about how God has consistently been coming to creation and humanity to show how much God loves God’s creation, not proclaiming some made up destructive theology about God swooping people away in some kind of “holy” escape plan so they can watch God’s hissy fit of destruction, vengeance, and violence on creation. If your theology includes the necessity of violence, vengeance, and destruction, then it’s probably based on twisting God into just another tyrant and the Kingdom of God as just another human empire.
Back to wars and rumors of wars. Did you know that the world has pretty been in a constant state of conflict for as long as anyone can remember? This isn’t anything new. I’m not sure if the world has ever known a time of actual, real peace. I’m not talking about just an absence of conflict. I mean real peace.
The Council on Foreign Relations has a really neat visual that shows a map of the world and where all of the current and ongoing conflicts and wars in the world are. If I counted correctly, it currently marks off 27 such instances. 27.
The World Population Review also has a neat visual which shows a map of the world and the type of conflict that nation is currently engaged in. It also offers a definition of war and gives details about a variety of these conflicts.
And that’s just a military conflict. That’s not counting the non-military conflicts that take place. The House of Representatives in the US could be considered a conflict zone, albeit not involving physical violence (at this point, although there have been episodes of members yelling at each other in Conference Meetings).
Regardless of the conflict, or where in the world, it can feel overwhelming. We are in a time in which we are flooded with information. Often it feels like we can’t escape it. We see it whether we want to or not. The amount of information we receive in just 24 hours is overwhelmingly exponential in nature compared to the amount of information people received even just 50 years ago. Humans weren’t designed to handle this kind of input – especially of information that is distressing. It causes manifests itself into health problems, relationship problems, anxiety, depression, and who knows what else.
So what are we to do? Worry about the end of the world? No. That won’t help any of us. And anyway, if we believe in a God that is just vengeful and angry, then aren’t we just believing in a God that is more human than anything else? That’s how humans act – just look at history, or just look at the world around us. How about we stop projecting humanity onto God and instead start seeing the image of God in others. We need to train ourselves in this because it takes effort – especially when we seem more prone to easily seeing an enemy rather than the image of God and our connection to others.
There isn’t a nice simple solution to all of this. I don’t have magic words to make it all better or make it go away. The world will do what the world will do – none of us have any control over that, and really no influence either. I’m not arguing that we should be ignorant of what happens in the world either.
The question becomes, what is our foundation and our hope? Where do these things reside? In a political party? Seriously? I pity you if that is where your hope is. Political parties come and go, and you are not their primary concern (with the exception of obtaining your money or your vote). How about a politician or public figure? Again, seriously? Politicians and public figures come and go even faster. And they are human and are very imperfect. Again, you think they care about your personally. Really? How about an ideology? Seriously? You think something made up and constantly changing has any capacity to care? How about being right? Oy. Being right might make you feel like you have a sense of control and knowing, but the reality is, we don’t know, and we aren’t in control. You may not like to hear that. OK. Good luck to you. Maybe look in the mirror and ask why you are afraid. Maybe you put your hope in something else, like a gun. Sure. I’m sure the gun cares. Why does it seem that some people are willing to go to great lengths to protect guns when a gun isn’t capable of returning the favor?
What is your foundation and hope in? That’s the real question we should be asking in this time of chaos in the world. A time that really isn’t new at all. And instead of practically wishing for an end to the world, how about we focus on how we go forward, living, and even attempting to make the world a better place. Even if we are only focusing on our small little corner of the planet. Because here’s the other thing I feel pretty confident about – we’re not supposed to save the planet. That’s too big. And we don’t have the capacity to do that. We’re supposed to be stewards of our little corner and walk with others who are stewards of their corner. And together we make an impact on the world. Alone, we are overwhelmed. But together, we actually make an impact. And we have hope. And a future.