Death to Doomsday!

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!

25 Replies to “Death to Doomsday!”

  1. I like Jesus’ warning: “Whatever spirituality you find that is strange, bizzare, or out of the ordinary comes from Satan.”

    1. Nick; Your quote says “Whatever spirituality you find that is strange, bizzare, or out of the ordinary comes from Satan.”. I don’t know where you got it from, but think about it.

      Many found the teachings of a young man from Nazareth to be strange and extraordinary. Were they right to reject Him? I don’t think so

  2. Once 22 December 2012 rolls around all the documentaries will disappear.

    Sometimes I think that the fascination many people have with the end of the world is a sign of a malaise. The mentality that “Life is pain and will never get better, so I might as well give up fighting the suffering and evil around me and hope for the End.” It’s very unhealthy in the individual from the pespective of psychology and theology and very close to the sin of Despair.

    It permeates the culture because any eschaton scenerio has the same appeal of a big budget disaster movie.

  3. Today on the History channel they were trying to ‘debunk’ the Shourd of Turin calling it something Da Vinci thought up. I am always amazed at the stupidity of ‘experts’ who love to have their name banted about to increase their book sales.
    I know a lot of kids on Yahoo Answers that are literally frightened out of their wits because of the junk on History and Discovery channels. They have no faith to turn to, their parents are off somewhere in the middle of a divorce, working overtime or on drugs so they are no help at all.
    There is a whole generation of ‘parent’s that aren’t parenting. They leave their kids foundering in the sea of misinformation from cable tv. The masses are facinated by doomsday because they never heard a Bible story in their lives, their parents were too “open minded” to teach them about faith. So they have nothing to hang on to but the remote. An old Irish priest back in Virgina taught me this wonderful prayer(of course it sounds better with an accent), “Lord, save us from dumbass people. Amen!”

    1. Tapestry, I understand what you are saying about those kids. My family knows some parents who want to give their children an “open” upbringing and it saddens me deeply what that will do to them. We must pray!

      What a prayer! That Irish priest sounds very much like an Irish monsignor at our parish. Are we thinking of the same person?

  4. I remember my mom purchasing a generator, batteries, lanterns, water and propane in December of 1999, because there was going to be great calamity and disruption of normal life when it became 2000. Somehow, I didn’t sweat it then either. My goodness, if one were to take all these things seriously they’d either be moving in hyperspeed or completely paralyzed.

    What was the other thing- the Bible code?? I remember seeing a show on that, but it was a while ago and I’ve forgotten the details, but it was also about the end of the world being hidden in the Bible, I think.

    1. On 12/31/99 my husband & I spent New Years Eve at the home of friends who raised lizards for a hobby. They were concerned that if the power went out their lizards would get cold and die.

      I was QUITE glad that the power stayed on, and I didn’t have to help keep lizards warm!

      1. The lizard story made me laugh outloud- picturing you (anyone, really) snuggling a lizard! What a memorable New Years that would have been.

  5. i actually enjoy all this speculation. i just remember: “you do not know the date nor the time. . . “, and i surely don’t. all the stuff about yellowstone? all true; but we still don’t know. a comet or asteroid? bound to happen, but a – we don’t know when, and if we’ll be in a position to avert it. climate change and its result? we DO know it’s happening, we know how to avert it, but there again, we won’t do anything about it because some folks are making billions out of it and have convinced enough other forlk who aren’t making the money out of it that nothing will happen there, either.
    i think it behooves us to be watchful and prepared to meet Him “way in the middle of the air.”

  6. As a nurse, I can’t tell you how many times I have questioned the wonders of our medical advancements. We can keep people alive for a LONG time. I have a real hard time with the suffering that is sometimes prolonged because family members can’t seem to let go of their loved one, and the loved one didn’t make his or her wishes know before disaster struck. I’ve also had a real hard time understanding the outcome of some disaster patients. The body and mind are truly amazing and at times, unpredictable. With this being said, there is no clear cut easy answer. Each case is unique. But, as I watch an elderly, frail cardiac or cancer patients be poked and prodded at, I find myself thinking, “What’s so wrong with dying? It’s the one common variable we all share.” I also find myself wondering if there is something wrong with me – viewing death as being one step closer to eternal love and peace is not a thought that is welcomed by many. I often wonder if there is something wrong with me that I just don’t get the inability of being able to let go of a loved one. It’s God’s turn to enjoy them

    1. St. Francis of Assisi wrote his last strophe of the “Canticle of the Sun” in reference to death: “Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.” A more poetic version is sound in the Hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King:
      And thou most kind and gentle Death,
      Waiting to hush our latest breath,
      O praise Him! Alleluia!
      Thou leadest home the child of God,
      And Christ our Lord the way hath trod

      1. Anon 2:32 I was speaking with a fellow parishioner about this very issue last week – aging and dying is a part of life; we shouldn’t resent or fear our approach to the next life.

        I have, however, recently reconsidered my decision to let my hair go gray instead of using Clairol or the like to disguise my advancing years.

        My terminally-illl mother has been hospitalized for the past several days. Last Sunday I was in Mom’s hospital room, awaiting her return from a procedure. During my wait, the facility’s multi (?!) denominational chaplain (whom my mother described as “odd”) stopped by and told me I was looking better.

        Now, granted, I do strongly resemble my mother. But I am NOT 72! I’m only 43! AAAAAAAARRRRRGH!

  7. what God foretells,Great. History Channel,ho hum.They seem to have totally forgotten who Created History,God.Long before the Creation.Mankind Lives what he created through HIS History,we’re not doing to good,Neither is the history channel.Respectfully with Love,Joseph J. Pippet

  8. I have a personal interest, so to speak, in this 2012 business.

    For one thing, one of the posters for the film shows my old ship, the USS John F. Kennedy, crashing on top of the White House, apparently having been carried there by a tsunami. That will be quite a wave, since the JFK was decommissioned a couple of years ago and is now in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard awaiting what no doubt will be a much less interesting fate. By 2012, she may be sleeping with the fishes, like her sister ship, USS America.

    More to the point, however, my smarter brother, David, who teaches at the University of Texas, is actually one of the “world’s leading authorities” on Maya studies, and in particular on their writing and calendar systems. I can sum up his opinion on 2012 being the end of the world: hogwash. That’s my word, not his.

    In 2006 I had to give an interview to Channel 4 News about the widespread concern (?) over the fact that June 6 of that year would be “666.” I tried to explain that the reference in the Book of Revelation is to a man, and not to a date, and that even if it had been a date, it would have no relation to the calendar that we follow today. Moreover, the same “concern” could just as well apply to 6/6/1996, or 6/6/1846, etc., to say nothing of 6/6/666. But more television time was given to the woman who was concerned about giving birth on “666.”

    Of course, 6/6/2016 is on the way, and again some people will worry about “666.”

    But with any luck the world will have come to an end four years earlier.

    1. Thanks Fr. Stuart for an amusing story and a look behind the scenes at TV news. Looks like they didn’t want facts or reassurance just more hype. Glad too that your brother is on to the misrepresentation of Mayan culture.

  9. I just wanted to clarify that I found Jesus’ warning in the book Behold My Heart Which Has So Loved Men. It is not a private revelation I received. I pray no one was deceived, and I beg for forgiveness if anyone was. I am not a mystic but a sinner.

  10. Cynthia BC-

    Now, now. My thoughts are not religiously sound, but, as we deal with the 40’s (you’re still on the young side at 42), remember the health in humor. It’s what keeps me smiling:)

    1. Our hair is silver, not gray – silver sounds so …..elegant!
    2. We get to use purple shampoo to highlight our silver hair and keep it from tarnishing, especially in the summer months when it gets chlorinated and begins to turn an odd shade of yellow.
    3. We still glow while men sweat.
    4. We don’t experience hot flashes, they’re power surges.
    5. If we’re not real careful, and don’t hit the weights, our arms grow bat wings instead of biceps. I’m contemplating their ability to help me fly away in 2012! When a big gust of wind comes through, I’ll simply hold my arms out and see if I can lift off and be carried away. No doomsday for me!
    6. And, when I land in the unchanged territory, I need not fear – for if I don’t work my abs every day, I’ll most certainly have an inner-tube that surrounds me and buffers the landing.
    7. Keep the faith. As one spunky priest says, “It’s all good!”

    1. I just remembered another time I was given cause to reconsider my no-hair-coloring stance:

      I was reading at home, and looked up to note that I was being scrutinized by my then-1st-grader, C.

      Me: What’s up, honey?
      C: I’m going to draw your picture.
      Me: That’s nice.
      C: (holding up two crayons) I’m trying to decide which to use. I thought your hair was mostly brown but I see LOTS of GRAY.
      Me: *sigh* How about you use BOTH because my hair isn’t ALL gray and it is TOO mostly BROWN.
      C: Okay, Mommy.

      When I shared this story with my husband, he laughed and said, “Good to be a guy.” He pointed out that men going gray look distinguished.

      I think I wouldn’t mind giving up the glowing for looking distinguished…

  11. There is definitely a good kind of freedom that comes with aging, though it does require humor. I haven’t allowed myself to go silver yet (and I like that term- has an awarding quality), but I am appreciative for the varied experiences that have come my ways these 40+ years. However, especially on early, damp and chilly mornings, when my knees don’t want to work properly, I do need to remind myself that I’m appreciative.

    And of that spunky priest to whom I think you are referring, a parishioner once suggested I might be old enough to be his mother. Can you believe that?! Ha! I’m the correct age to be his s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y older sister.

    Here’s a story I like about aging-
    God created the cow and said, “You will spend all day in the field with the farmer, suffer under the son, have calves and give milk to support the farmer and I will give you a life span of 60 years.”
    The cow said, “That’s a hard life to live for sixty years. Let me have 20 years and I’ll give back the other 40.”

    God agreed.

    Next God created the monkey, He said, “You will entertain people, do tricks and make them laugh. I’ll give you 20 years of life.”

    The monkey said, “That’s a silly life- tricks for 20 years! I’ll give you back 10.”

    God agreed.

    Next, God created the dog and said, “You will sit by the door all day and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life of 20 years.”

    The dog said, “That’s too long to be just sitting and barking. Monkey gave you back 10 and I’d like to do that too.”

    Again, God agreed.

    Lastly, God created man. God said, “Sleep, eat, play. Do nothing, just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. I’ll give you 20 years.”

    Man said, “What? Only 20 years? That’s not long enough! How about this- I’ll take my 20, the 40 cow gave back, the 10 monkey gave back and the 10 dog gave back. That makes eighty, okay?”

    God agreed.

    This is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, enjoy and do nothing, the next 40 we slave to support our family, the following 10 we do tricks to entertain our grandkids, and the last 10 we sit in front of the house and bark at everyone.

  12. I don’t know what this new fasination with ending the world is on the telly, but I don’t watch tv that much anymore…I think with the lack of ‘teaching about Jesus” in these past few years has definitly sent some going on a wild goose chase with fear! To me though …with all these ‘fear tactics’….it could be that some have to go thru hell in order to appreciate all that is good…..who knows…fear makes moeny for someone….and that is silliness at its highest! Have a Blessed Day!

  13. What I find interesting is that even the world accepts the idea that this must all come to an end, if even just subconsciously. We know this because of the hype and the craze about it all, if they didn’t accept it they would be booing it out of the box office. The biggest trouble is the looming question “What comes next?, If anything.”

    This question is continually at the heart of every person, “There must be something better than this life.” “This life is full of suffering, this must come to an end sometime, I couldn’t bear it if it didn’t.” And doesn’t God know it!?

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