Copyright© 2011 by Ralph Couey
June 10, 2011
*Somerset, PA Daily American
June 10, 2011
*Somerset, PA Daily American
June 11, 2011
A few weeks ago, a Christian radio broadcaster and numerologist Harold Camping announced that the world would end on May 21, 2011. This kind of thing is not all that unusual. For Camping, this was the third such prediction. All three dates have come and gone, and yet the world ticks on.
Most of us laugh when we hear about such predictions, but there still remains a shred of anticipation when the designated day arrives. Even now, most of us eye December 21, 2012, the date of the so-called Mayan Prophecy with a sort of nervous twitch.
But there were many who took Camping seriously. One woman in
, was so distraught, that she attempted to kill her two daughters and herself to spare them from the end of the world. A concerned friend discovered the plot and called 911. Police and paramedics were able to save their lives. Antelope Valley, California
I won’t try to divine the motivations behind those who make such pronouncements, or attempt to diagnose their failures. I will however mourn the human wreckage that inevitably lies strewn in their wake. I only know that in Matthew 24:36 we are told:
“But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
As far as I’m concerned, that means that I’m not to expend my time in worry about it.
Humans have always been fascinated by the end of the world. This is not solely the province of fundamental Christians; all human cultures have crafted their own ideas about that moment when the curtain falls for good. The question of the why behind this obsession bears some looking into.
Every generation of humans have dealt with trials and tragedies in their time. Many have looked around at the mess and concluded that the only salvation lies in destruction, hence the inevitable cries of “The world is coming to an end!” Mired in those difficulties, it can be hard to see clearly the path leading to solutions. Adding to the despair is the uncomfortable knowledge that the problems of humanity are almost always caused by humanity. We were collectively gifted with the wisdom and intelligence to not only solve problems, but prevent them from happening in the first place. But the darkest parts of us, the pride, greed, envy, arrogance, and animal passions always seem to get in the way.
In order to address challenges, we first have to acknowledge our responsibility for them. And I think that’s why the end of the universe holds such an attraction. If we think the end is inevitable, and soon, than we no longer have to try; we no longer have to take responsibility. All we have to do is sit back and wait for it.
I have a real problem with that.
The future of the universe is not something I can change. But the immediate future of humanity in the very small corner of the world I inhabit is something I can influence, and even change. The second of God’s greatest commandments is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” That’s the here and now we should be focused on, not some as-yet indeterminate destruction down the road. Worrying about the future takes time, energy, and resources away from the very pressing needs of the present. It also screens us from taking compassion for each other.
In about 5 billion years or so, the sun will begin to use up its nuclear fuel. It will turn red and grow, engulfing the inner planets one by one, earth included. Between now and then our planet could be smacked by a 10-mile-wide asteroid, it could be bathed in the destructive rays of a gamma ray burst. The climate, as it has done numerous times in the last 4 billion years, could shift, either freezing or baking humans into extinction. So far, humanity has only achieved a bare fraction of the 250 million-year reign of the dinosaurs, and there are no guarantees of our long-term existence. None of these possibilities we can control.
But there are those among us in the here and now that we can help; who we can even save.
Let us love each other; care for each other; help each other. Today.
If the end does come in our lifetime, we can then at least face it with a clear conscience.