doomsday.

2013 will mark my 20th year of being a Christian. I’ve been around the faith for a bit, and I have managed to see a few things. Some good, and some not so good. One thing is for certain, no matter the movements, there are always things to be learned, things to be kept and things to be left behind. (Pun intended.)

Whether it is the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, the Revelation/end times movement, (complete with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ fictional take, charts, calendars, star readings and archeological relics) word of faith and prosperity movement, the social justice movement and now the return to the church fathers movement; they’ve all been done before, and surely they’ll come back around every so often like fashion from years past.

However, the one fad or movement that seems to not go away but continually grabs the headlines is the apocalyptic end times movement. Led be Jerry Falwell, Jack Van Impe, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and others, these pastors seek to connect bizarre events, news stories and anything else that seems to fit  their interpretation of end times scripture into pronouncements about the end of the world. Everything is looked at as a conspiracy and with more meaning than what meets the eye. They prophesy, proclaim and pontificate to the masses that “the end is near”. Their chief belief is that this world is bad, evil and good for nothing, so we are just waiting for the wonderful doomsday when we can be evacuated from this dreadful planet. (This is commonly known as dispensationalism.)

The issue with this kind of teaching, is that it is motivated by fear and destruction. The other major calamity is the implication that this life here and now really doesn’t matter, other than responding to Jesus. It’s all about we’re going, not He’s coming. (When it’s actually quite the opposite.) Jesus himself stated that we would be known as his disciples “by our love for one another.” Not by our proclamations of the end, not by pointing to every odd occurrence, claiming them as end times prophesy and not by scaring and shaming people into responding to Jesus.

Jesus’ call was to “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” What kingdom? The kingdom of Jesus looks like renewal, reconciliation and restoration…of all things. Here and now. On into the future. And in the coming reign of God. How’s this accomplished? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Grace and mercy don’t hurt either. These, I’m convinced are much more effective at conveying the character and nature of God. Because God is like Jesus. And this is what Jesus was and is like.

It’s been more than 2000 years since Jesus ascended and stated that he would soon return. Countless civilizations of people have believed they were the chosen people to see the Apocalypse. And yet, here we are about to roll over into 2013. There have been innumerable declarations of end times. Click here to take a look.

They all have one thing in common. They were wrong. In one sense, it’s good to live like the end is near. Not taking any day for granted and doing all that we can do to help a broken world. In another, it’s a dangerous habit to always worry about the coming age rather than working for renewal, restoration and reconciliation here and now.

So while yet another prediction of the end of the world has come and gone, with no result, we move forward. Forward into a mad world filled with violence, greed, hatred and yes, weird natural disasters. But instead of always looking at these happenings as signs of the end of time, let’s look at them as opportunities. Opportunities to be voices of love and reason and compassion. Not voices of shock, alarm and sensationalism. So may all of us live like this is the last day on earth, while realizing there are many more joy filled days to come.

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9 comments

  1. Larry Stringer

    One of my personal observations about those that over-focus on the ‘end times’ or the supposed second coming of Jesus is that they tend toward conspiracy theories. If you look through you-tube for end times videos, you’ll notice conspiracy videos will undoubtedly be suggested to you. I think this tendency toward conspiracy theories is a natural extension of their beliefs, those given to ‘end times’ ideologies are looking to prominent figures when they don’t perfectly align with their ideologies (political and/or religious) and thus labeling them potential ‘anti-Christ’s.’ They adamantly perceive government as a method in which a devil will attempt to control (NWO stuff) and slaughter (chem-trail stuff) us. Hence, superstition breeds further superstition.

    • tylerskent

      I’ll be the first to admit Larry, I like some conspiracy theories. Like who really killed JFK? Or Tupac. But it’s just a passing interest. There’s a difference in that, and forming your faith and life around conspiracy theories, superstitions and end times signs. And I like what you said about labeling anything that doesn’t align with their ideologies as anti-Christ. Spot on. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

  2. Mark Miller

    Well written, Tyler. “The kingdom of Jesus looks like renewal, reconciliation and restoration…of all things. Here and now. On into the future.” I share your perspective; the call of Jesus was a call to love one another here and now, in anticipation. Even if you don’t believe in that anticipation, it’s hard to reject the premise of the sentence.

    • tylerskent

      Thanks for reading. I agree. I think too many times we try to make the call of Jesus overly complicated and sensationalized. When really, it looks like a man who loved, showed mercy and grace and had compassion on any and everybody. I also find that Jesus is much more concerned about the present life than worrying about the end of the earth and what happens after you die.

  3. Larry Stringer

    Here’s something I’ve long thought about Jesus, but never had a forum to assert it. While Jesus is often seen as this compassionate loving guy, I find it hard to visualize him in this way. His story didn’t only split history, he was the catalyst for the massive amount of division we see in the world today. The amount of violence directly attributed to Jesus is none, but the violence that occurs because of his division of Judaism and the subsequent christian church should be attributed to him. Islam might not even exist if it weren’t for the paved road to self proclaimed messiah-ship Jesus exemplified. Thus, spurring Mohammed and Islam, Joseph smith and the tablets, the Catholic inquisitions, the subordination of women and slaves, and the never-ending holy wars in the middle-east. I’d contend that if Jesus never existed, we’d be looking at quite a different world right now, and quite likely one without suicide bombers and heinous wars rooted in religious differences. So when someone tells me that Jesus was this great god/man/moral authority sent to save the world, I roll my eyes and wonder if they know the division his arrival actually has had on the world. He started us down the road to the religious division we see today. The recent evolution to a more liberal Christianity, in which I’d classify you and most of my believing friends, is only that, an extremely new and very rare perspective of an ancient and thoroughly divided religion. Food for thought.

    • tylerskent

      While I share many of your concerns of the injustices, wars, and mistreatment of different groups of people done in the name of Christianity, I do also see on the local church and global scale great things that are done in the name of Jesus. Part of the beauty/disaster of the free will we are endowed by God, is just that; we can choose heaven or hell. Here and now, and in the coming life. I think Jesus was a compassionate, loving man who exemplified a new kind of human. The reason he was and is still so divisive, was the same reason he was executed on a tree. He represents a direct challenge to our way of thinking and life. What do I mean? In the beginning God created…you know the rest. The beginning was a picture of wholeness or shalom between man and God, man and creation and God and creation. There was a hierarchal ordering to the world God constructed. When man decided to disrupt and disturbed this shalom, God granted their wish. Problem was there was now a separation and gap between relationship with God due to our own selfish, lustful desires; to be a deity. So here comes Jesus on the scene to demonstrate and show what this new human living in harmony with God, creation and fellow man looked like. I wholeheartedly believe, Jesus came and accomplished this, along with reconciliation to God. And just as strongly, I don’t think Jesus came to establish a religion. He was/is the stream of water that anyone can drink from. Be it Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. We’ve somehow, as Christians, claimed Jesus as our own, and quite frankly I think Jesus is standing on the side exclaiming that what we’ve established isn’t exactly what he had in mind. I just finished a book that I think you would find very fascinating. It’s called Selling Water by the River by Shane Hipps. I really appreciate your feedback and dialogue and look forward to more discussing.

      • Larry Stringer

        I respect your beliefs, but I can only respond to your comment by expressing my sincere disbelief in most of what you’ve said. Christianity can be credited with some good, though I’d argue it has had an overall negative affect when considered holistically, and being that it was the dominant religion for so long I’m not surprised to find as much good as we do. However, this conclusion will depend on how you see history, and this by itself doesn’t put Christianity out of business. I’ll briefly respond with some of my objections.

        Before you get to Jesus, you have to accept original sin. Original sin is something that I find disgusting, and you must afford it to have Christianity. It’s also the cornerstone of Jesus and the supposed necessity of his death, and I see it as a huge moral misnomer. Vicarious redemption, or scapegoating our misdoings on Jesus is a poor reflection of personal responsibility. It’s also a terrible thing to place on people. Believing that you’re born into sin, born failed, born sick, or born out of alignment with god works conveniently well with the advent and christian necessity of Jesus worship. When we make people believe that just by existing they have failed god due to inheriting some distant relatives sin, and then offer them a cure– which is the death of the same god that previously damned them, it just smells funny. You are in a sense telling people god was so angry that he demanded a scapegoat to vent his wrath on. The whole system is too convenient, barbaric, and beyond my ability to accept as fact.

        You mentioned freewill, and further asserted that this was something given to us by god. If I understand the christian notion of freewill, it goes like this: You are free to accept or deny the offering of Jesus as a savior. If you accept, when you die you will be whisked into heaven or paradise. If you deny the offering of Jesus, you are free to live out your life, but when you die you will be in a place of unending torture for your rejection of god. There is something fishy about this isn’t there? It’s like me asking you if you want to go to the movies with me, but if you don’t want to go you’ll have to be lit on fire. That’s not much of a choice. Who’s going to choose to be set afire? This is not the endowment of freewill, it is a direct threat from god. Do what you want, but someday you’ll pay the price. We have an issue with justice and hell is supposed to balance it out, but upon balancing it, we tip the scales to a place of horrid torture for people that are undeserving. Even our country abhors and understands the flawed ethics in torture, though with god it is a central theme in his plan for us. True freewill doesn’t include a punishment clause for the wrong decision.

        Don’t take this stuff personally I was a christian for a long while, and most of the time I was trying to find the best version of it until I ultimately realized it was beyond reality to do such…because these things are not real. Vicarious redemption fails on it’s own moral grounds by being tied to the ancient practice of blood atonement and ancestral sin. I reject that I’m punishable for ancestral sin, and I’m leery of any version of freewill that comes with threat of torture.

  4. tylerskent

    I don’t take personally anything you’ve said. You have, however, made many assumptions of my thoughts and beliefs that are of mainline evangelical Christianity. I didn’t ever make mention of torture/hell/annihilation. I don’t believe we are punished for original sin, rather the fact that we’ve contributed to the ongoing problem of sin. Which “sin” is a word so complex and multi faceted that it would require more of a conversation than a message board allows. I think, with anything in life, you can find some measure of flaw or inkling of illogical reasoning in anything. It seems that the pessimism you possess moves you to see Christianity as nothing but inherently problematic and the purveyor of war and evil. (And I agree and it’s undeniable the fact that there are numerous examples of this.) But again, anything that gives positive value or does good is equally possible to bring harm; even/especially religion. I can tell that you’re a very intelligent and well thought out dude. So I’d say keep digging, thinking, reading and discussing. Even though I am a Christ follower, I’m also a life long learner and seeker.

    • Larry Stringer

      I didn’t mean to generalize your beliefs! We are allowed our interpretations of religion, but we can’t change the basic definition of a Christian to include unorthodox ideas without, at some point, losing the value of the term. Hence, the equation of a Christian includes original sin, hell, judgement, heaven, love, and other qualifiers; and if we remove or redefine these attributes, the term christian will almost certainly mean something else. Which is why in my debates with ethical monotheists claiming Christianity as truth I am most often met with various term redefinitions, which I do find frustrating.

      I’m NOT a pessimist though! I’m a very optimistic person. I am excessively critical with ideas that make sweeping claims of the magnitude postulated by theists. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I am very much optimistic in that people are capable of abandoning religious ideas, much like you must feel about my antagonistic position. I think the position of being overly critical is demeaning to many areas of life, but not when discussing our origins. Such criticism should be heavily applied to any ‘theory of everything,’ which is what the god hypothesis is. This criticism isn’t because I feel a need to trump religious assertions, but rather that I have a true need to know the how/why/what of our existence and I’d rather have answers based in reality and not on spiritual inferences and superstitions that can neither be proved nor disproved.

      I also find it odd that by and large, the majority of Christians don’t even consider competing theories or books by authors who propose a different story of us. Most haven’t read Christopher Hitchens or Lawrence Krauss, let alone even heard of them. It’s very odd people so concerned with ‘truth’ make the loudest and biggest claims about the origins and purpose of life but neglect competing theories. In fact, those that have the least reasons to believe in religion are envied for how great their faith is. God is strange to be expecting servant-hood from humans with little to no reason for such, and then to reward those that can pull it off with the least reasons necessary. I would hope that if god created people with such a high capacity for logic and reason, the very things that separate us from the animal kingdom, that he would be delighted in our skepticism and exploration of his cosmos, that he would be excited that his creation has reached such heights as the moon, not frustrated that we can’t endure life with simple faith and obedience.

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