Do you think the world is getting better or worse? And do you think God would agree with your answer?
I’ve been struggling with these questions a lot for the past few days – that’s partially why I haven’t posted anything in almost a week. Writing this edition of Disciplehood has been a challenge; I hope the result ends up being worth the effort.
I used to be quite confident that humanity is progressing, not regressing. After all, people on Welfare today live better than the emperors of Rome did; democracy is a rising force throughout the world; freedom and justice are becoming the norm; thanks to medicine and nutrition, people are living longer and healthier lives; thanks to technology, we can communicate with – and learn from – each other despite long distances at minimal cost.
But on the other hand, the majority of the developing world’s people live far worse than North Americans on Welfare; the disparity between rich and poor regions of the planet seems to be widening (or at least not narrowing quickly enough); oppression is very much alive and well (and arguably growing in some locales); medicine and nutrition are extremely hard to come by in many corners of the globe; our wonderful communication technology is used far more for titillation and frivolous, brain-candy entertainment than it is for education.
Child soldiers. War. Child pornography. Terrorism. Child labour. Pollution. Child obesity. Plastic surgery. Plastic explosives. Plastic people.
It’s very tempting to conclude that things on a global scale are getting worse, not better.
Meanwhile, if you’re a Christian, it’s probably even tougher to conclude that our Western society is making headway. We’re in the age of secular schools and Sunday shopping; of VLTs and all-night liquor stores; where being a card-carrying Christian is more likely to close doors for you than open them.
This is most decidedly a post-Christian era.
But is that a bad thing?
If believing in this Jesus guy makes our work, friend or family relationships more complicated, but we choose Him anyway, doesn’t that send a strong message to those friends, co-workers or family members about who this Jesus guy is for us, and who He could be for them?
If keeping up the appearances of being Christian won’t help you make friends, or give you the inside track on that new job opportunity, fewer people will become Christians for the sake of appearances. Maybe that means more churches are emptier, but the hearts of the people there are fuller.
Similarly, maybe the world isn’t getting uglier; maybe we’ve been blind to the ugliness that’s been there all along, and now our eyes are being opened to this harsh reality.
As unpleasant as it is, we probably need to dispel the illusions that closing stores on Sundays and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public schools each day will create a truly Godly society; we likely need to come to grips with the fact that rich countries are getting richer and poor ones poorer; that our luxurious Western lifestyle comes at the expense of people living in other parts of the world.
Perhaps like participants in a 12-step program, we need to collectively admit we have a problem (My name is Humanity, and I’m a selfaholic) as the first step in solving it. But in order to fully deal with that problem, we need to fully understand it, and maybe that process is finally gaining some steam. Unfortunately, we might need a collective rock-bottom experience to really come to grips with things.
If that’s true, is it correct to call this a Fallen World? Maybe a more accurate term would be Falling.
Peace be with you.