The first blog will cover the social and global background, the second some comments about the church.
All that follows in this blog and the subsequent one is from Ian's pen.]
Is the end of the world drawing nigh?
Lately I seem to keep meeting people who tell me that we are living in the “last days”, and that Jesus is coming back very soon. While I heartily agree with the fact that we are in the last days, (Peter told us that on the day of Pentecost!) as I listen to many of these people, I cannot help feeling that there is more desperation and escapism in what they are saying than real hope. I have also noticed that even the South African Media has picked up on a recent prediction that has been flying around declaring that the world is going to end sometime during the month in which I am writing! (May 2011) If you are reading this, you can be pretty sure that was wrong!
Yet the more I have thought about this in recent days, the more I have come to the conclusion that these people are, in fact, right. The world as we know it, and have known it for many generations is coming to an end. I am not talking here of some great apocalyptic or cataclysmic cosmic event. I believe that as the 20th Century was drawing to a close, we were seeing the slow, but sure, demise of the modern world of the Enlightenment.
Now, before you jump and condemn me as “just another of those terrible post-modernists”, can I say that I am not really schooled in understanding what these various terms mean. I certainly have not studied or fully understood what “post-modernism” is all about. I am more of an observer of what is happening around me, and a “feeler” of things rather than a deep thinker.
The world, as we have known it, since the Enlightenment has been one which has been concerned with control through knowledge – scientific, economic, political and psychological. From the incredible advances in these areas, none of which I would want to undo, man is, or was, supposed to have “come of age”. What it appeared to do, however, was rather highlight the selfishness of humanity – protection of and provision for self, and destruction of “the other”. Those individuals or nations that were best able to “harness” the advances and discoveries have used them to dominate and control others, to line their own pockets, and to devise ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction and methods of exploiting the very earth itself. Poverty, hunger, suffering, deaths from preventable diseases, and so many more “plagues” have afflicted the people, especially the poorest, of this “enlightened planet”, not to mention the increase of war and meaningless bloodshed. So much for “coming of age”.
The “age of reason” has also been the age of empire building. Empires have risen, and fallen. The European Nations, once individually so strong, have all lost their great sway, and can only just hang on by the skin of their teeth by uniting together. The latest, and perhaps the greatest, is the American. They have dominated their “empire” not as the Europeans had done before them by a military and commercial presence in all their conquered nations, but by using their great economic power, backed up by their military power to try and control trade, especially oil production, to their own advantage.
But it is all shaking. The wars, first in Vietnam (which takes us back many years), and later, the “war against terrorism”, have shown how limited in actual fact the massive powers of the USA really are. The recent execution or assassination of Osama bin Laden, so celebrated in the streets of the towns and cities of the USA, would seem to be simply the turning of another page in an increasing drama of senseless violence.
Elsewhere we have more recently observed the amazing happenings beginning in Tunisia, spreading to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere – and who knows where to eventually? In these situations ordinary people, using the “power of the internet” which is beyond the control of the Empire builders, have begun to say “enough is enough”. These “people movements”, so unpredicted, so “out of order” with the thinking of the “moderns” is another “shaking”.
Then there is the economic. The financial collapse of a couple of year ago was again an almost “unseen”, unexpected event. The mythical bubble of never ending growth was well and truly exploded. Although we hear the oft repeated statements of governments and financial institutions of “recovery”, somehow, most of us remain unconvinced. My own feeling is that before the end of this year the dominoes are going to start falling once again. Maybe the virtual bankruptcy of Greece that has been confirmed as I am writing this, is the first of those dominoes to go, and will be quickly followed, I feel, by various other European countries. Even “mighty USA” is shaking. As they have tried to print money to get them out of their hole, the truth is that the hole has got deeper. China has been buying up USA Government bonds at quite a pace, I am told, and should they begin to sell… Well, I do not understand all this “economic-ese” but I gather things are very dodgy. Meanwhile India, it seems, has been in a position to stock-pile gold!
A line from an old Bob Dylan song, “The Order is rapidly fading” has been going through my head again and again over the last year. Perhaps it is more relevant now than it was when Dylan sang it in the 60’s. The world we have known is definitely fading.