The belief that things are worse now than they’ve ever been before, is, ironically, a conviction that has been around for a very long time. Every generation, it seems, has held the view that it was all so much better back in some ill-defined time in the past and the likes of today’s wickedness and degeneration has never before been seen. With things as bad as they are, it can only mean one thing: God is going to intervene pretty soon to put things right.
This is how religions start. It’s what Jesus thought (Mark 8.38 and 13) and Paul (Roman 13) and most of the other New Testament writers (e.g. Ephesians 5; 2 Timothy 3). Many of today’s Christians believe it too:
There is no doubt whatsoever, that the signs of the end of the world in the Bible are pointing to our generation. Anyone can see the great moral degeneration that has happened over the past 50+ years. The moral depravation of this world has reached such a point that we are now like Sodom and Gomorrha just before God destroyed that city with fire … 2 Peter 2:6 …’And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly.’
But really, things today are no worse than they were back in the primitive past and in many ways they’re a great deal better. In general terms, we live longer, healthier lives and more of us are literate and educated. Many of us enjoy a very comfortable existence. There are fewer wars and violence is decreasing. Equality and opportunity exist in many parts of the world for all kinds of people; we are more welcoming of difference and by and large we treat each other better. Of course there are problems, but there always have been. Life in the first century, when Jesus lived and died, was short, brutish and insanitary. The culture he found himself in was paternalistic, maintained by slavery and ruled over by invaders who were cruel and violent. Who can blame him for thinking it couldn’t get any worse? It did, of course, mainly thanks to his legacy, but it also got better. Either way, God did not intervene.
What’s more, he won’t be doing any time soon, no matter the strength of conviction of those who feel he will or should.
He’s prevented from doing so chiefly by the fact he doesn’t exist (quite an impediment, I’d have thought) but also because for those in the affluent west – who are usually those who shout most about how dreadful things are – everything is pretty damn good.
As Jesus discovered (or was it Chicken Licken? I get confused) portents of doom do not bring about the end of the world. We might, one day, actually manage to destroy ourselves and this beautiful planet we live on, but if we do, it won’t be because our morals have changed for the better nor because we’re teaching evolution in schools (another sign of the end, apparently). And it certainly won’t have anything to do with a vengeful God.
If you stop thinking the world is going to hell in a hand-cart, you’ll very soon see that it isn’t.