Friday, August 29, 2008

The Apocalypse

My wife and I were watching the news today.  It came time for the news anchor to recap world news and I slowly had the growing feeling that we are nearing the apocalypse.  A hurricane in the Gulf, thousands drowning in India, a plane crashing in Las Vegas, two planes almost colliding, a freak accident of hot metal lighting a brush fire in Boise, Idaho and destroying twenty homes.  And those are simply the ones that the producers of a cable news station decided to present.  

Of course, I have often wondered if the world is really getting worse, or if we are simply more informed about how bad it is.  Are we truly falling apart, or are we simply more aware of how much we are falling apart?  And what are we to do?  Can we do anything?

Actually, the word "apocalypse," which, due to a rather provocative movie and common parlance, has come to connote the end of the world, actually means an unveiling or uncovering.  It comes from the greek apokalupto, which is a compound verb from apo (adv. off, away; back/prep. from, away from; from above; far from; asunder from; since; immediately after; on the part of; by means of, because of, with; after) and kalupto (to cover or envelop).  This is why the final book of the Bible (Revelation) is, in Greek, the Apocalypse of John.  It is the thing that was uncovered or revealed to John.

So I ask, what does the state of the world reveal to us about ourselves?  With Russia putting pressure on Georgia, the Middle East ever in turmoil, injustices across the world, and random occurrences, like an oxygen tank exploding on a plane without any warning, how are we responding?  And what does our response say about us?  I know that I am the least person to take on world problems.  Sometimes the overwhelming press of our media-saturated age leaves me breathless and apathetic.  It all seems so big.  Where do I even start?  What does this reveal about me?  Is the toll of disaster simply an outcome of the fact that there are more and more of us here on this earth to kill?  If a hurricane wipes through a village of eight, only eight people, or maybe even less, will die.  If it wipes through a city of millions, thousands will die.    Were things simpler once upon a time?  If feel that the answer is no (I think of the many, many accounts in almost all of the religions of the world about some major type of flood and things like the plague).  Yet, we live in fear.

One of Barack Obama's claims about John McCain is that he is playing on our fear in order to win.  I understand that claim, and it does irk me that our fears can cause us to sometimes make poor choices, but I wonder if we don't have a lot to fear.  What is the balance of fear and hope?  When does too much hope simply become foolishness?  Is there ever a point where being afraid is a more true act of faith than having hope?  I, as usual, have no answers, though some part of me says that hope is certainly stronger than fear and, as my blog title attests, there is no fear in love.  What do you think, reader?  I would love to hear from you.


Q said...

I think the purpose of Revelation is to show us that we actually have nothing to fear. (I just preached on Rev. 13 a couple weeks ago). Even though the world appears in chaos and even absent of God, the truth is that God is very much in control and present in this world. That should give us hope, even when it seems foolish. Doesn't make it easy, and it may be easy for some to play on our fears (no names mentioned here) but we have a hope greater than those fears. The only thing to fear is God. Of course, I say all this and rarely live this way, but I think this is what we're supposed to strive for. That's my two cents.

Dana said...

Can you have hope without fear?

Certainly, certainly, you can have fear without hope, but something tells me that there's no reason to hope if there's not at least a twinge of uncertainty, of fear.

I think what we do--what we need to do--is take our fear and address it wisely, to do the best we can to reach the optimistic outcome which we do hope for. To use both our hope and our fear to do the work (and play) God has placed before us. Hoping without fear--without exerting the effort--is not true hope at all, but what you wisely referred to as foolishness. Letting fear rule us and keep us from hoping, and doing the work, is cowardice. I suppose the balance between the two would be that indescribably but innately recognizable strength...that--well--faith.

Do you think? Look at me ramble. :)
Miss you, Mark.

Marc said...

"Q" - interesting. Very "Old Testament Apocalyptic Literature" of you. Of course, you are right, many of these books in the Bible that talk about the end times and such are actually meant to be comfort for the community, a reminder that God is in control. I rarely live this way either. Sigh.

Dana - also interesting, I miss bouncing ideas off of you. hope + fear = faith. I kind of like it. Although I am not fully sure that hope - fear = not exerting effort. At the same time, I think that apathy is probably the true enemy of hope, or perhaps atrophy. Yes, atrophy, something dying, something just being left to sit and wither away. When everything is comfortable, hope is not useful. It's harder to hope, or at least harder to lean on hope when everything is okay and there is nothing to fear. But maybe that is really the great challenge, to hope when there is no need for hope. Okay, now my head is spinning...