Apocalyptic Common Ground
Peter Altschul, MS Copyright 2021
July 22, 2021
Imagine if more and more of us were covered in slimy goo, becoming partially blind and/or deaf as this viscous substance cocooned us. Media figures would interview some of the victims, speculate on the cause, provide guidance on how we can protect ourselves, and highlight the human suffering in tones ranging from somber to cheerful. Over time, scientists would identify the source: a comet racing towards us.
“It might or might not collide with Earth,” a spokesperson for the coalition of scientists exploring the phenomenon tells an interviewer on Vixen News, “but we must find ways to mitigate the suffering while diverting this foreign object.”
“But,” the interviewer splutters, “we should do nothing, as humans didn’t cause this.”
Radical environmentalists foresee a grim future in 12 years if we don’t act. They point to icebergs melting; rising seas; violent, unpredictable weather; violent, unpredictable fires that create their own weather; droughts, floods, a shape-shifting pandemic, wars, and famines; and desperate people trying to move to safer spaces.
“It will only get worse!” they thunder. “Repent and act … or die!”
Radical fundamentalist Christians foresee grim times in the near future, based on their understanding of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. Among other things, this book predicts hail and fire mingled with blood assaulting the earth, causing one-third of all trees and all grass to be destroyed. It predicts that a mountain burning with fire will slam into the sea, transforming one-third of all seas into blood. It prophesizes that a star will fall from heaven, poisoning one-third of all fresh water. It prophesizes moonlight, and starlight diminishing by one-third. It describes how locusts with men’s faces will torture non-believers for five months, after which fire and brimstone kill one-third of all humans. It speaks of wars, plagues, a massive earthquake, and stars falling to the earth.
“We’re in the last days!” they thunder. “Repent or live in hell eternally!”
In the late 1990s, I worked on a project to encourage pro-life and pro-choice activists to find abortion-related goals on which they could work together to accomplish. Over time, these activists discovered that they could comfortably collaborate on preventing teen pregnancy, promoting adoption, and speaking out against the abusive language and actions that were unnecessarily polarizing the debate … all without changing their beliefs about abortion. Might a similar process encourage radical environmentalists and apocalyptic Christians to work towards finding ways to prevent their predictions from taking place?
I’m not optimistic, for many fundamentalist Christians believe that God will snatch them away from non-believers into Heaven prior to the wars, falling stars, bloody waters, and other horrors. They reason that if God is behind these calamities, fighting against them is both sinful and fruitless.
Yet environmentalists and an increasing number of evangelical Christians believe that we have a sacred duty to do what we can to move toward a better world, understanding that pillaging for profit often produces pain. But bickering about Humankind’s role in creating climate change is blocking efforts to harness our ingenuity to address our relationship with the environment.
This bickering, though, didn’t prevent us from making great progress against a pandemic in a remarkably short time. How might we emerge from our cocoons of goo to prepare for rising seas and increasingly erratic weather? How might we address the pollution choking China, India, and other countries? How do we find a new balance between our needs and God’s creation?
Time is short, but we have moved beyond thoughts and prayers in the past to address fast-approaching comets.