The end of the world as we know it

January 15, 2010


KAMPALA, UGANDA – The end is coming! Yawn.

I mean, it’s taking so long. We’ve been at this delivery so many times. The Bubonic Plague, the Pope as the Anti-Christ, rare planetary alignments, Hitler, Y2K. We, the Chosen, have cried wolf so often, nobody bothers to laugh anymore. History is littered with the rusted wrecks of our doomsday predictions.

Now the world has joined the choir. Angst is in fashion. Even Africans are warned. Run to the hills. No, to the arks. Do not stop for rainbows.

The hydra-headed mother of all disasters is upon us. Check the Mayan calendar. Ask Woody Harrelson. It’s all in the action flick 2012, just around the corner at my local theatre here in Kampala, Uganda.

How anti-climactic, this current hand-wringing over climate change. Copenhagen is a place once known for its beer. And now? Some of us are barely middle-aged. Do we give up the news for our remaining years? Be warned: with 24/7 cable, the birth of doomsday will become an unyielding marathon of woe.

The end is coming! Gulp. What if it really is? What if those four horrible horsemen of the Apocalypse are putting on their riding boots right now? Extreme weather does seem here to stay. Science and religion are singing strangely from the same songbook. There’s too much rain. We’ll be flooded! No, there’s not enough.

We’ll burn! Save the forests! Save the whales! God, save us all by telemail! The poor will suffer most. This means Africa,where scores of millions are impoverished farmers.

Christian Aid says by the end of this century, if we make it that far, climate change could kill 182 million Africans. This, the fate for world citizens who contribute just four per cent of greenhouse gases. Headline: Madagascar falls into the sea.

We, the rich, become the voyeuristic spectators. The end is coming! Sigh. If we must, let’s accept it. But what is this new baby? The end?

Or the beginning? Science says our old girl of a planet has already been walloped by comets and asteroids umpteen times. She’s had receding seas, prolonged volcanism and carbon oxidation.

She’s had five great mass extinctions and continued on every time.

Hollywood’s take, at the end of 2012, shows Earth’s survivors steering their massive arks to Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Tectonic shifts raised the continent thousands of feet. The have-not brother saves the human family.


If we believe our Scripture, we know another storyline with a more satisfying continuum, one of a new Earth reborn as our eternal home: a heaven that’s less “out there” and more “right here.” So while we need not be entirely cheerful in the face of Armageddon, we can still offer the worried world something different.

The end is coming! No, really. Your end can come today if you get hit by a milk truck.

We so easily lose this perspective. And, yes, the end is coming for humankind on that unknown day when the good Earth burns up, blows up, or finally rolls up its things and says “So long everyone!” Eternally speaking, it’s not a huge deal.

More troubling is our subculture’s all-toocommon view that since Christ’s return is imminent, we can ignore the environment. That’s like saying, “Since our child is dying of cancer, why feed her?” No, regardless of its demise, we are the stewards of God’s creation. This, after all, is humanity’s first job, given to us in Eden.

Martin Luther once said if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he’d still plant an apple tree today. In our hearts, we know this truth: what we do now always affects the future. This is the message for all. When the patient eventually becomes terminal, when the ship truly is sinking, we still need to work on her repairs.

This is foolishness to some. But we’re called to something higher: to plant those trees, and to care for each other, not for just our planet, but for what our planet will become.

Now could you pass that shovel, please?

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January 15, 2010 • Posted in ,
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