My wife Amy is always accusing me of having a negative attitude. Ok… so maybe I do see the glass half-empty sometimes. Ok… so maybe I take things too seriously sometimes. Ok… so maybe I do think about the end of the world more often than I should.
Yes… really… I do. Not because of some morbid fascination though, but rather because I’m really honestly afraid for the survival of humankind. Our short-sighted, self-centered, drive for profits, penchant for war, abuse of our environment, and creation of menacing technology (like nukes, AI, weaponized diseases, etc.) vastly outstrips the maturity of our morality, spirituality, and wisdom. The human community is no better or worse than in any other era in history… we’ve always been this way. What has changed is the capacity for destruction we wield. The human community is like a toddler behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler truck: more likely to crash and crash into others than to drive safely to our destination. At least in more primitive times when, like a toddler, the human community was just beginning to walk. We could make mistakes, fall down, ‘crash’ and get back up and try to do better the next time. These days, the stakes are so high and our very survival hangs in the balance. Any crash is a fatal crash.
It’s not surprising then that the brilliant astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, in a series of articles in 2016 and 2017, has warned that the human community must really try and colonize another planet (like Mars) within the next 100 years. He cites the cumulative increased odds of our demise on Earth resulting from everything from climate change to war to asteroid strikes. His reasoning goes that at least if we ‘crash the truck’ on Earth… we have another ‘truck’ on another planet.
‘The end of the world’ is a feature in the expression of our Christian faith. The fancy word we use is apocalypse. It’s a Greek word meaning to reveal or uncover (by the way we get the title of the final book in the Bible from this: Revelation). Jesus speaks about the end of the world a few times in his teaching and ministry. One such time is in Matthew 24:
Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6 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. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.9 “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10 Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.
Its scary amazing how accurately Jesus’ description of the end of the world reflects the trials and tribulations of the human community. But, its not like we’ve just been getting worse and worse and worse through the ages… we’ve stayed the same sinful, arrogant, wealth and power-hungry human community that we’ve always been. So, its’ no wonder that Jesus should be able to describe ‘the end’ with accuracy. Since Jesus’ days our capacity for destruction has just continued to increase exponentially.
The politics and political currents of this world are just an extension of the flaws of our humanity. Just as one toddler can’t drive the 18-wheeler… no group (or government) of toddlers can. The ‘end’ is still inevitable: crash.
Jesus gives us hope though: “the ones who endure to the end will be saved”. The Kingdom of God is coming… indeed, it is already here… breaking into our midst everyday as a counter-example to the madness all around us: love in the face of hate, peace in the face of war, justice in the face of oppression, healing in the face of disease, hope in the face of despair. When we, as Christians, live in courageous defiance of all that is wrong in the kingdoms of the world today, we bear witness to that coming kingdom that is making everything right. Yes, there will be a crash, but the politics of Jesus promises us that, from that point on, God will be in the driver’s seat.