Monday, May 12, 2014

Mutually Assured Destruction

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

The descriptions and depictions of the Second Coming have long frustrated many seeking solid answers. Jesus describes the signs that will appear in descriptive, but vague terms. Surrounding a corpse, we’re told, are always vultures. The moon will darken and the stars will fall from the sky. It sounds dramatic and impressive enough, but what does it really mean?

Without solid facts to support a case, we can only concede that we’ll know it when we see it. Each of us has experienced times where God seems distant. I’ve always been skeptical of believers who claim that God conveniently always agrees with them. Put that way, there are no periods of spiritual famine or reason for doubt. The evocative language of these verses boils down to this: regarding the presence of God, we’ll know it when we see it.

I recognize that my own comprehension is limited and that much exists that I will never understand, no matter how old and wise I grow. Each of us tries to live a pure life that is often contrary to our impulses. Society’s priorities make demands on everyone, religious or not. This is why I cannot understand the need for bickering and conflict, on a one-to-one basis or as a group.

Our basic nature is up for debate, but many of us have begun to believe that ours is evil, not good. If that were the case, we really would live in an Orwellian police state. We would dwell within a grand conspiracy theory. We may have lost our innocence, but if we have, what comes next? Are we only a star slowly dying out, moving ever closer towards eventual collapse? We ought to be allies, not adversaries. We make decisions every day to either violate or to hold fast to our values. Life requires some compromise, but we’re in charge of when and where we ought to compromise or stand firm.

How will we know when we’ve struck the right balance? We’ll know it when we see it. Words alone are insufficient markers for progress and understanding. Some may not share my understanding of a higher power, but everyone has to make peace with the unknown. The most miserable people I have ever met are those who have not surrendered to mystery. They keep spinning their wheels looking for answers, and finding none.

Believing that one is subordinate to greater forces does not imply surrender. Christians routinely talk about giving their insecurities and fears up to God, the only being powerful enough to bear 100% of the burden. I wonder whether non-religious people have similar coping strategies. Anger, disappointment, and fear are constantly problematic for everyone. There was a time in my life where I tried to tackle them myself, and found I could not.

The task reminded me of going deep sea fishing as a child and managing to hook a huge red snapper. I struggled for twenty minutes with my reel, trying to pull the huge fish, through force of will and effort, into the boat. Eventually the line broke and I was left disappointed. Fighting with ourselves and others produces similar results.

The activist mantra is that if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. There was a time in my own life where I uttered much the same thing. But it’s such a lonely sentiment. Back then, I wanted to snap people out of their private reveries, to get them to see the Truth. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen others as lost sheep, not enablers of profiteers or charlatans. That’s a great leap forward for most of us.

As our planet continues to grow in population, we’re going to be faced with unprecedented challenges. We will be forced to cooperate, not fight, over scarce resources. We can take the opportunity to make war, or we can opt for peace. War is easy. I see war every day in the comment section or on the roadways. Our fascination with the End Times takes a secular and religious context. The end of the world may be sooner than we think. Our destruction will be mutual.  

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