I have noticed yet again in recent days talk all around me from many of my Christian friends, extended family, church members and acquaintances about “something bad coming”, and their response ranging from a general angst to a deeper paranoia, to desperate actions to stockpile supplies, buy firearms and even divest from investments. When I try to inquire of the reasons they mention as to this sudden sense of imperilment, they will often mention “the usual suspects” such as President Obama not permitting another election, the Muslims taking over (with Obama’s help), financial meltdown, race wars with the black community, and widespread “Christian persecution” in the form of criticizing Christians for denying services (both in private businesses and state employees) to their neighbors with whom they disagree. The more interesting ones are the apocalyptic-fueled ones that are imminent in nature (as in days or weeks), such as the “Blood Moons”, “Shemitah Year” and “The Harbinger” (my apologies if you have already been destroyed via cosmic event by the time you’re reading this).
In some ways I can relate in my own experience and past line of thinking to some of these, having been marinated in apocalyptic Bible Prophecy teaching and media for most of my life as well as Christian talk radio. In fact, I can usually ascertain the origin of the source material my colleagues use to express their fears by the words they use, and whether the narrative was communicated to them via World Net Daily or other Christian channels, Michael Savage, Fox News, or transmitted via third-party Facebook- like channels. I was there when everyone said the “generation after the budding of the fig tree” would signal the Rapture in 1988, the Y2K end of civilization, the alignment of the planets on May 5, 2000, the Harold Camping “thing”, and even the Mayan calendar signal on December 21, 2012. Back when FEMA and other agencies were warning about an impending pandemic that may cause us to remain in our homes for up to three months, I listened to them and looked into such provisions (although I admit I didn’t get too far). A flood like we had here a few years ago or even the remote “mega-terror” attack I guess could also trap us in our homes for some time, and I assume a nuclear exchange can’t be totally dismissed if we continue to butt heads with Russia in the Ukraine, although I think it is highly unlikely a major state player launches one, because we all own too much of each others’ stocks, bonds and real estate! A stock market downturn usually occurs every few years in September or October regardless of any “blood moons”, and the beat goes on.
However, I think the real symptom of the “apocalyptic fever” many Christians in America are now feeling is most likely (but not certain) to be due to the easy gullibility and insecurity of American Christians, and the ample lineup of groups both inside the Church and without who stand ready to exploit and profit from it. While this “mania” has been perfected amongst the wealthy, undereducated and complacent American Christian community, its origins go back to the start of the very Church. When the going first got “tough” with Christ and His followers as the Jewish leaders unleashed their trap to persecute and arrest their movement, Jesus did not flee, seek protection from the Romans while asserting His “rights” or even appeal to the Jewish law for proper decorum; He faced and confronted His enemies voluntarily and without resistance, even though it meant certain pain and agony. He even told His followers to “put away your swords” and healed the servant of His own enemy. Meanwhile, His followers enacted the first official “Christian siege bunker” operation, running for the hills and hiding in places, rather than ministering to their Lord and standing with Him while He suffered alone. At least some lady friends and His mother were brave enough to anoint His body, and a couple of Sanhedrin leaders brave enough to speak up for His body and take his corpse for proper burial. Meanwhile, the Christian leaders Jesus said “the gates of Hell” would not prevail against, who had cast out demons in His name and healed, and whom had witnessed Christ’s own healings, cosmic transfiguration, raising others from the dead, control of the elements of nature and feeding the masses amongst other miracles, suddenly appeared to be uncertain that Jesus could protect them from the Pharisees anymore, so – they hid in the dark. Jesus had to go looking for them behind locked doors. When He appeared there He “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:14). No wonder the most common thing Jesus always had to tell His followers was “fear not”; it’s still the most common thing He must tell them. At least they left this experience ready to take on the Sanhedrin, Rome and the rest of the world, and willing to trust God and even offer their bodies and lives rather than shrink in fear. For Christians today who can bear witness to the faithfulness of Christ’s resurrection and the accomplishment of His plans then and through the ages – what is the excuse for their cowardice today?
The next thing Jesus told them in that room was to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15). Obviously, they could not accomplish the first and primary mission of the Church from their Lord by staying hunkered in their “panic room”. Evangelicals pride themselves on their central mission to the Great Commission to “preach the gospel to every creature”. How do they plan to do this from their bunker? How will they have time to waste spreading the Good News when they have fortunes and property to protect?
Older Christians these days seem to be worried and panic-stricken about everything. It’s not just about Muslims, although at almost 1 percent of our population, most of whom came here to escape persecution from their Muslim peers elsewhere, and without control of any national power structures they seem certain that they will impose sharia law over the tens of millions of American gun owners and military any day now. It’s not just about the black community, whose lack of economic opportunity and role models will keep them from expanding to bother white folk’s suburb serenity, or the gay community, although many Christians must fear that if they have contact with such “afflicted” it might spread and might threaten their fragile hold on their own masculinity and sexual preference, or lead to widespread “conversions” as heterosexuality falls out of favor for some reason. Very soon Obama won’t be around to kick around anymore to blame for any possible traitorous act or American problem, and may even let us have an election like last time, leaving them to go back to saddling Nancy Pelosi with the guilt for America’s problems. One of their biggest problems causing them to lose sleep is their own youth. These youth’s Baby Boom parents have not effectively instilled in them the Cold War values they grudgingly accepted from their own “Greatest Generation” parents, those being a duty to see the world in tribalistic terms on a national, religious and cultural level, remaining on perpetual “high alert” while under “perpetual attack”, and thus putting their trust and allegiance in their society’s authoritarian power structures, be it the military, police or institutional religious leaders. They find their children too tolerant, asking too many questions, and not making enough enemies of outsiders to be “respectable”. They fear that American power and “leadership” by means of military and economic gunboats over the rest of the world, who resents our freedom rather than our heavy-handed bullying, will be lost on their watch, as well as a white European culture dominance at home. This cataclysmic loss of cultural dominance at home and abroad in these days would obviously force Jesus’ hand to return at once to set things straight.
Today I heard my pastor teach from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount passage concerning the “eye”, or what they understood at the time to be the window to the soul. Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness” (Matt. 6:22-23). In other words, how we perceive the world around us with our “eye” will determine the nature and extent of the “light” that is in us. The English standard Version says that “if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light”. A “healthy” eye can see all the wavelengths of light and process them, not just some, as well as perceive shades of gray, and not just black or white. It can see lightness, and not just only darkness in the world around it. If it perceives only darkness on the outside, the “darkness” in the body will result in ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, or major depression – even isolation and distance from God. A diseased eye can also be myopic and have limited range of vision, not perceiving other factors on the perimeter that would influence the overall perception of the reality the eye perceives. Furthermore, the eye will see where the head turns to direct its attention. If the thinking head turns only to what bad news the TV broadcasts on air or the words of demagogues on talk radio, TV and Facebook (particularly Christian leaders from emails, TV and the pulpits), then one will see a world only of endless threats and decay.
I want to end with a warning to my Christian friends who are too busy getting the bunker stockpiled rather than ministering to a hurting world. Revelation 3 includes a description of the Church at Laodicea, which many people rightfully associate with the modern American church. They were known for being very wealthy and self-sufficient, and thus wanting to be left alone. Jesus said He had a very different view of their “success”, and said they were in a dire peril unbeknownst to them and had no reason to be content, not due to external threats but due to their own attitude, to the extent that He was ready to “spew them out”. He counseled them to buy from Him gold refined in a fire, and white raiment. Such “gold” can only be bought by persecution – the very thing American Christians are so desperately trying to prevent, but which Jesus uses to refine His children in need. Regarding “white raiment”, Revelation 6 shows how they can be procured when they are given to the martyrs who gave their life for Christ. Are we to resist the hand of God and seek to avoid such a destiny if He chooses it for our spiritual well being?
The most relevant analogy to what we face today was told by Christ as a parable in Matthew chapter 25. He tells of a lord who left his business in his kingdom to his servants, giving them various amounts of talents (monetary coinage) to put to use for his estate while he was gone. As we all know, the two with larger sums engaged in their community and produced greater returns. However, the one with only one talent chose to bury it in the ground – the ultimate bunker in which to hide! When the lord returned to assess their progress, the first two received commendation, and a promise now to be rewarded with “his joy”. However, the one with one talent justified his “bunker mentality” by honestly admitting that the threat that caused him to take such draconian action was not due to outside enemies, but rather his own perception of the unreasonable and unreliable character of his own lord to assist him in the public engagement of bearing fruit from his investment. He said, “Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, [there] thou hast [that is] thine.” (Matt. 25:24-25). Did the lord honor him for his cautionary and fear-filled retreat? No – he referred to him as a “wicked and slothful servant” (v. 26), who had a wicked view of the character of his own lord as unreasonably demanding, which impeded his success in the “marketplace”. He noted that even the shady secular world would have done more with the resources he gave (v. 27). He not only removed the Lord’s assets vested with him, but also cast the “unprofitable servants” into “outer darkness” (v. 30). What will all these “bunker mentality” Christians today answer to their Lord, particularly if His return is as imminent as they suggest, if He finds them not at work as they were tasked but rather buried, afraid in a hole? How will He respond to their perception that He will not be with them as they engage in a sometimes hostile world, doing the work of the “ministry of reconciliation” assigned to them? If they are afraid today of Muslims, gays, liberals or others today, how afraid will they be of their LORD when He comes here to assess their progress?
It makes me now understand Christ’s strange rhetorical question in Luke 18:7-8, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”