by Maria L. Evans
True confession time: When I am feeling pressured over people and situations where others want to turn their emergency into my problem, I like to sing R.E.M.’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine,)” if only to remind myself that, indeed, it is NOT the end of the world.
That said, we have to be careful, though about taking an “end times” approach to life. In fact, a story from last summer has haunted me for months. Although I’m certainly not of the “end times theology” stripe, the story has made me think about how the attitude of “I’m taken care of , so I’ll just count my blessings and not think about everyone else,” is one that needs serious adjustment.
I remember being incredibly shocked by that article. “Really? Four out of ten Americans think the world will end by 2050? Seventy-six percent of Republicans are end-timers?” I had to sing my R.E.M. song several times after reading that, just to ground myself after that head-shaker.
The article does, however, reveal a certain amount of background as to why there is everything ranging from apathy to downright disbelief when it comes to global warming. If the world’s coming to an end, why bother? The implications reach far beyond the subject matter itself, into wider discussion. What other things ultimately harm us because we’ve created an “end times theology” to go with it?
I wonder sometimes if a form of end-timerism hasn’t, in places, crept into our abilities to re-imagine the Episcopal Church. The world surrounds us with all kinds of news that mainline Christianity is dying. The people in the pews are graying, the fastest growing faith group in young and early middle-aged adults is “spiritual but not religious,” and in so many circles, the rank and file American thinks the word “Christian” means, “hates gays, hates women, hates poor people.” When we’re surrounded by that, it becomes incredibly tempting to simply retreat into a world where the most we need to discuss is whether to use Eucharistic Prayer B during Advent like we always do, or something different. “Why should I do anything when the end of Christianity as I know it is coming? I feel safer just doing what we’ve always done. I guess if it’s gonna die, it’s gonna die. So I might as well work at keeping it just the way I like it.”
The risk of these wide platforms for change within the church is that the words themselves become trite, or “code.” (I’ll be the first to admit, I think we should be vigorously re-imaginging, but I’m getting a little tired of the word “re-imagine” itself. Kind of like how I got tired of the phrase “a nimble church” during GC 2013.) Yet that risk is probably a better risk than succumbing to end-timer-ism.
No doubt, re-imagining is painful. It reveals what’s moribund and needs to have the plug pulled and die a natural death. The most fundamental tenet of our theology, though, is that we are an Easter people. Many of us have come to believe in the Resurrection because we’ve lived through the light and the dark of our short time on this Earth, and have grown to believe in our own personal resurrections. Can we take one step further and believe in the possibility of faith community resurrections?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid