“This is the way the world ends….not with a bang but a whimper.” –T.S. Eliot
The other night I noticed a trailer for another dystopian movie coming out soon, this one “The Fifth Wave,” a so-so story about an alien invasion that comes in waves of devastation. I got hooked on the storytelling a couple of years ago and thought it was a pretty good story for about half the book. Then I found it fell into the traditional YA plothole of human girl falls in love with a guy who could be an alien. The book spends the last few chapters worrying less about the plight of the human race and more about whether the guy really, really loves me. Hmm, guess I’m too old for this stuff.
But it got me thinking about how MANY end of the world stories have been shared in the past few years. It might be more obvious to me because I have written my share of them myself. But don’t you think there are a lot of them out there? I think it started around the year 200o with the Y2K scare when everyone thought our way of life was coming to an end because we didn’t have enough zeroes in our computers.
A quick look online led me to this survey and video of scientists on the most likely ways for the earth to end. So it’s not just teens and us doomsayers who are thinking about it. The list includes asteroids, solar apocalypse, nuclear war (which is less likely than it was), climate change (which is more likely), global pandemic, super volcanoes, artificial intelligence, bad global governance and what is referred to as “unknown unknowns,” or simply stuff we don’t know exist, including aliens. If you think about it, I am sure you could add to that list as well, but these are the really smart guys here. Where would you put your money?
If you’re a Christian, you’ve got to have mixed feelings about all the focus that’s been put on the end of the world. On one hand, it’s good to know that people are concerned about it, which makes it easier to talk about such things as whether you are right with God and whether Jesus is really coming back or not. On the other hand, there is such a thing as overkill. Talking incessantly about the end of the world could be equivalent to the boy who called wolf too many times. The world could become desensitized to the end when it really comes. Then when it is time to raise the real alarm, no one will be listening. It’s the danger that a church with the name “Adventist” falls into; when you are talking about Jesus coming “soon” for 160 years, the concept of “soon” loses its meaning.
So what’s the solution? We talk about this in our department where I teach here at Southwestern Adventist University. It’s not enough to teach students to communicate religious truth effectively. To do it effectively these days, you have to present those old truths in ways that catch the attention of those who have been desensitized. The truth is still valid. We just have to get past the cliches and say it in ways that make sense in the context of today.
Because the end is coming. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. But one of these days.