Misplaced Apocalypticism

[A form of this post appeared in the Daily Chronicle newspaper on 12/10/2019]

Apocalypticism, the belief that the end is near, is helpful only to get oppressed people to tomorrow. It encourages them to hang in there.

 

It is less helpful, and can be destructive, in getting through today.

 

Listen carefully and you will hear many citizens excusing horrible things out of their belief that if their side loses, civilization as we know it will come to a flaming end. President Trump is a big bully who plays fast and loose with the truth, and who sweeps aside all decency in public discourse, diplomacy and in the checks and balances of our form of government. But we excuse all of this because it’s all “necessary evil”—all “the ends justify the means.” We bless the mess he makes because he stacks the judiciary to bring an end to abortion, and makes the world safe for Christmas. If we don’t win with him all civilization will collapse.

 

On the other side of the spectrum we hear many excusing a candidate like Elizabeth Warren for claiming that every billionaire and every big corporation is ready and willing to sacrifice the public good on the altar of greed. That little “rhetorical flourish” is okay since we need a revolution—no small steps—and folks like us, in this critical moment, are our only hope of avoiding catastrophe.

 

This “us against them,” and “ends justify the means,” and utter fear of the end, all spell the doom of today. Today we truly don’t need saviors for our apocalyptic moment. Today we don’t need people with all the answers. Today we need people who need people—people who know how to listen to, and work with, others to do the pragmatic things–to make the compromises that will move us forward.

 

We don’t need more fear of doom that scares us into making deals with the devil. We need a president and a citizenry who know what good, biblically apocalyptic people believe: The end is not near. It’s not even the end. There is hope beyond tomorrow, beyond the end, and beyond what “our side” can do and “their side” is totally against..

 

There is always hope because the world doesn’t belong to the doomsayers. The world belongs to a God who just wants us all to get along.

 

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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