I just finished the book (Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love by Elizabeth A. Johnson) this morning, and I’ve been wandering ( and wondering) about for a couple of hours since. I’ve spent a part of that time diving back into Margaret Swedish’s “Living Beyond the End of the World: A Spirituality of Hope”. These two books have been like reading Apocalyptic Scripture ( with a strong dose of both major thrusts of apocalypse: 1. Sin, darkness and destruction and 2. Promise and Restoration). Both these books availed themselves of that healthy, realistic balance of both themes, but ” Living Beyond the End…” …takes on directly the hard task of accepting the reality of what’s happening, Â which is to be heavy on theÂ firstÂ thrust; Â the dire, death-threatening circumstances we face.
It’s not only just “threatening”; Â this has been at work inducing death; Â the deaths of species at an unprecedented rate. Â The death of people from unprecedented and extreme weather inducing disasters, Â creating refugees, Â disease, Â and wars. Â And these will only worsen as we continue to do everything to worsen the problem: Â clear cutting forests to make way for technological agriculture and even agriculture for the purpose of producing soybeans and corn and palm oil for fuels, Â which are being found to be woefully inadequate alternatives, Â not to mention the relative loss of that arable land for growing products to be used for food, Â and the forcing out of small farmers from the process as the large corporations bring in the heavy machinery, Â producing massive amounts of additional CO2.
It is the role ofÂ apocalypseÂ to “UNVEIL” (which is the meaning of the word). Â To tell the story that needs to be told to reveal that something is dreadfully wrong. Â This seems to be the biggest struggle for our culture, Â which wants to hold on fast to the idea that “we got this”. Â The faith in “unlimited progress” is “dying hard” (holding on for dear life seems more accurate). Â And Â this is most disturbing when I see it at play in the church. Â I see, Â everyday the continued absence of an appropriate sense of urgency. Â I see denominations avoiding the topic altogether on their denominational websites, Â which are their number one public facing source of information about who they are. Â The websites represent a way to tell their story and describe what they are about. Â There seems to be scarcely any awareness that we face anything like an unprecedented civilizational challenge, Â which would seem to put this on an emergency footing. Â This is a challenge that goes deep into who we are as a people, Â inducing re-evaluation, re-thinking and reformation of our theology itself Â (since much of Western Christianity has been negligent in giving blessing to the “full-speed ahead” of industrial civilization’s shaping of our desires and values which have sent us hurdling down the path of “Overshoot”: Overshoot being the title of William Catton’s book on how we humans have overshot the natural sustainability processes and resources of the earth).
If we are faced with such a challenge, Â and need a full-scale re-orientation of our economy, way of living, Â and also our theology (so as to recover the deeply ecological message that our Western hermeneutic has lost), Â isn’t this something that ought to be found somewhere in the church’s descriptions and stories about itself? Â Doesn’t this warrant , Â at the VERY LEAST, Â Front Page news? Â Definitive re-assesment? Â Laser-sharp focus on what we have to do going forward? Â Or are we caught up in the denial that this just can’t be, Â and that someone will come up with a heroic solution. Â Are we operating on the denial that we are facing dire physical ramifications (and indeed, already experiencing them), Â and just continuing to “Amuse Ourselves to Death”? Â Isn’t there something about the church being a prophetic presence in the world; Â a call to speak the truth and not waiting for the world to “get it” but to simply “live it” and to be able to articulate a word about “the hope that is within us”?