I guess I’ve grown a bit weary about all the Doomsday stuff that seems to dominates certain channels on cable. In particular I refer to the Science Channel, the History Channel, and National Geographic Channel. At one time I found those channels very valuable in the informational programming they provided. But, about a year ago I just stopped watching them because it seemed to me that they had gone over to an all doomsday all the time line up. Flip to one of them and you’ll inevitably find a program about the asteroid that is overdue to flatten our world and snuff out life as we know it. If not that its the comet that is also overdue. If it is not that it would seem that Yellowstone National Park is actually a giant caldera and every now and then it blows up and devastates everything in sight plunging the planet into a volcanic winter. Did I mention that it is overdue to blow up? There is also a major landslide that is likely to occur on the African coastline and when it lets loose it will send a Tsunami 80 feet high that will devastate the whole east coast of the USA. Did I mention it is overdue to let loose? And then there is Global Warming which, even if it is true doesn’t seem to be a disaster, (the planet has been a lot warmer in the past and we’ve survived). But according to the presentations we are headed for catastrophe. Did I mention that this catastrophe is imminent?
Other shows are now appearing on these channels that warn of the year 2012. Apparently a Mayan calendar runs out on Dec 21, 2012 and this will usher in a great destruction of the world as we know it. You can read of this latest silliness here: 2012! The site even has a ticking clock so you can remember to pack your bags. Expect this silliness to increase to hideous levels as Christmas 2012 draws nearer. Some are now backing off and just saying the world will transition to some new stage rather than be destroyed. Did I mention that 2012 is imminent?
Finally, these same channels also feature Nostradamus specualtors who claim his prophecies are “running out” There is also a list of Popes that an Irish priest named Malachy put togther many centuries ago. Well guess what, we’re at the last (or the second to last Pope) on the list and then it runs out! Doomsday follows. Did I mention that Pope Benedict is 82?
So after a steady diet of this stuff on those channels I largely tuned out. But I remain puzzled as to our fascination with doomsday scenarios. Apparently this stuff sells because these channels put it out in large doses. They may have lost me for a viewer but obviously they’ve gained others who eat the stuff up.
So what’s this reflection doing on a Catholic blog? Well, cultural observations are part of what this blog is about. Doomsday is a major preoccupation and fascination with this culture of ours and I’d like to make a few observations of how this interacts with faith.
- When the Church cast something off the world usually picks it up – Some years ago it was common in most Churches to hear of the day of judgment and the second coming of Chirst. That day would be a day of fiery judgement when the wicked would render an account and the just be gathered in. The basic message was, “better get ready! Repent now.” But some decades ago such sermons ceased. They were replaced by the “Jesus loves you” sermons and endless reassurances all that fire and brimstone stuff was not for us. True enough, Jesus loves us, but the same Gospels that tell us that also speak of judgement. (More on that in another blog). But with the Church (inappropriately) casting this fiery preaching aside the world seems to have taken up the theme. So the evidence seems to be that people “need” this sort of doomsday talk at least from time to time. It seems necessary to our psyche that powerful reminders of death and judgment be present, perhaps to prepare us for what is inevitably in our future: death and judgment.
- Kooky! Now this doesn’t change the fact that there is a kooky side to all this when it is taken too far. We are all familiar with the crazy guy on the street corner waving a Bible and warning of the end. His message is not untrue but HE seems a bit unbalanced, doesn’t look to have bathed or shaved in a long time etc. And then there is rather odd little “Left Behind” series wherein the authors attempt a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation which comes off as a bit silly and contrived in places.
- So what then is the conclusion? The Church has a duty to preach eschatology (end times theology). Her preaching of this important subject should be sober but clear. The world as we know it is passing away. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, either as individuals or collectively. We ought to live reverently and be prepared to meet Christ who may come at an hour that we least expect. We should be serious about our spiritual life and setting our house in order. Wild speculations are not called for however since Christ was plain when he said we would know neither the day nor the hour. Consistent readiness is what is called for. But what happens when the Church fails in her duty to speak to this expectancy in the human soul? Well, what happens is all the kooky and crazy stuff above. Without solid and well balanced preaching about eschatology the world descends into a frenzied speculation like we see on the channels I mentioned and in some of the more bizarre end times stuff out on the fringes of fundamentalism. That people are hungry for eschatological (end times) data seems clear and part of the human psyche. This hunger was probably put there by God. But if we are not fed the true food of children we run off to junk food and silly speculations. In mid November through Advent the Church’s lectionary turns to eschatology. I will acquit my duty to teach the solid food of Church teaching on this blog during that time.
Who knows? maybe I will get hit by an asteroid. I might also get hit by a bus. Point is, be ready. Tomorrow is not promised. Give your life to God, entrust yourself to his care and be not anxious. Death to doomsday! Become alive in Christ and death will have no power over you!