So this little news popped up in my feed this morning.
Poll results released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Friday showed that sixty-nine percent of Americans believe there is solid evidence that Earth’s temperatures are increasing. This is good news, as so far this year has been the hottest ever recorded, despite the recent chill covering the United States. But the pollsters also asked about the cause of recent natural disasters, and the responses from some religious people could impact how America responds to climate change.
While 62 percent of total respondents ascribed the cause of recent natural disasters to climate change, 49 percent also thought biblical “end times” were the cause. For white evangelical Protestants, these numbers basically reversed — 77 percent pointed to the apocalypse, and just 49 percent attributed extreme weather to climate change (the numbers add up to more than one-hundred because people could offer more than one cause).
One of the more pernicious effects, I think, of our country’s Christian obsession with the end days is the consequence of apathy.
It’s not like we all need an additional excuse to be apathetic about problems facing our world and the poor. We don’t. God knows I dive into apathy too often. But the idea of a soon to happen rapture or soon to happen apocalypse makes spending effort trying to feed the world or make Middle East peace a reality or change to alternate energy sources to mitigate and stop global climate change a fool’s errand.
After all, why spend the time, effort, and money into making the world a better place when Jesus is just going to show up and blow it all to hell in a few years anyway?
The apocalypse and our own death should be the farthest thing from our minds. We should seek these things simply because they are good, regardless of how long we have left to live or how long it is before God decides to wrap up our collective story. And we should seek them because despite what your pastors tell you and despite the general zeitgeist of the culture, you don’t know if we’re living in the Last Days or not. You just don’t.
Early Christians were convinced they were living in the last days, and 2,000 years later, their theological and biological descendants labor under that assumption too. Google rapture predictions or apocalyptic predictions sometime. There is a long list of preachers and religious figures telling folks that the world will soon end, and it doesn’t.
There’s no reason to assume that this generation is any different.
Now that doesn’t mean that it might not happen. But if it were to happen and God were suddenly to show up and tell us all that it’s over, I’d rather be trying to do something good for the world than to be sitting around waiting for the end. Wouldn’t you?