Having had quite a nasty case of writer’s block, in the last day or so, I watched both Noah and Left Behind – Russell Crowe and Nicholas Cage – deal with the apocalypse. Noah’s apocalypse wasn’t the apocalypse, but it was an apocalypse – an end to a way of life and a beginning of something new. Rayford Steele’s apocalypse was hinted at in the plane and in full view from Chloe’s perspective. Their apocalypse is the one that generations of Christians have been looking forward to because of the something new that happens after it. I guess the difference is that once it takes place, there’s no more of the Bible left to be fulfilled, it will have been finished.
The comfort of apocalypses is that it gets you off of the hook: why bother preaching at all the unrighteous people when you can just not and watch them suffer for seven years? That’s the same attitude that Noah had about the upcoming destruction of Ninevah. He got mad when the people actually repented of their sins. “But God, I wanted you to destroy them the old fashioned way! Fire! Brimstone! Hail! Flesh wounds!” Come to think of it, some of Jesus’ disciples wanted a town to be destroyed for not throwing out the welcome mat for Jesus. I know that they took hospitality seriously – I’m just glad that modern Christians weren’t put to that test, we’re worse at it. But hey, we’re great at loving – or so we think.
It’s also comforting to know that as bad as things get here and now, the apocalypse will be so much worse for the people who are left behind. You won’t be among them, (hopefully.) You can look forward to the big feast. Then again, if we truly consider ourselves to be an enlightened civilization, would we want to cease suffering, not perpetuate it? I guess that points to us not being that enlightened. We’re okay with others suffering on the other side of the world so long as we ourselves do not suffer any pain or loss. We admire pacifists for their principles, but endorse violence even from a young age. I just don’t think I could hurt anyone, and I know I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone. So why should I be okay with it if my inaction leads to lots of suffering?
Perhaps Christianity is a cycle of apocalypses – it’s creation the apocalypse of the end of the system of temple worship. It’s acceptance the apocalypse of the Roman Empire and the start of the Holy Roman Empire. The apocalypse of the one church that began a pattern of division and schism. The Reformation – another apocalypse. Even now, we’re seeing a lot of destruction in the lives of believers – quite apocalyptic in a sense – as we deal with questions about sin and acceptance.
I know, when we picture the apocalypse we picture unprecedented death, destruction, and suffering. But there’s another meaning to the word – uncovering. What if we started to do more than wait for the end? What if we uncovered compassion and tried to end suffering here and now? What if we did more than get the word out that the end is near, but that the kingdom of God is at hand? What if we realized that our righteousness was nothing – that we were Ninevites who needed to pray for mercy? What if we extended that mercy to everyone? Now that is an uncovering I would look forward to.