“What does the Future Hold?”
Virtually every generation has cherished a less than hopeful view of the future. It always seems things are getting worse. Today’s kids will never uphold the values of their grandparents. The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived seven centuries before Christ, believed there had once been a golden age when people lived in harmony with each other and their gods. Then things began to spiral downward, which led to a less happy silver age. That was followed by the Bronze Age, which was characterized by increasing strife and worry. Hesiod believed that he himself lived in the Iron Age when things had gone from bad to worse.
The idea of a lost Paradise, a former golden age of innocence and wonder, seems to run deep in human thinking. Members of America’s Greatest Generation tend to romanticize the 1930’s and 40’s, when people worked together to endure the Great Depression and WWII. Boomers feel nostalgia for the ice cream trucks of the 1950’s and the student protests of the 60’s. Gen Xers cherish a fondness for the simplicity of the movies of John Hughes and the Brat Pack. Millennials savor the happy days when they experienced Mario Brothers and Pokémon.
Yesterday has a lot going for it. Today, tomorrow, however, seem perfectly horrible.
Consider this week’s headlines. Another major earthquake has rocked Haiti. Afghanistan is a nightmare. Uncontrolled fires rage in the west. Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped 1.5 years last year. The Delta variant of COVID has refilled ICU’s from coast to coast. NASA says a huge asteroid will pass by the earth in April 2029 on Friday the 13th no less.
Politicians seem angrier than ever. It’s a mad, mad, mad world.
When Ronald Bailey submitted the manuscript for an optimistic book he called The End of Doom, his editor told him, “Ron, we’ll publish this book and we’ll both make some money. But if it was about the end of the world, I could have made you a rich man.”
So what’s the truth? Is the world getting better or worse?
It’s not even close. The world is overwhelmingly a better place than it was 50 years ago-better than most of us ever thought we would live to see. The numbers don’t lie. In 1960, about 50% of the world’s population lived in grinding poverty. Today that number has fallen to 9%. Travel has never been safer.
Some 40 million planes take off and land every year and never make the news. On a global basis, the education of girls is now almost equal to that of boys. Infant mortality is steadily decreasing and 90% of children are inoculated against at least one of the diseases that used to ravage humanity.
There’s a long way to go. We wish there were no more wars and no more endangered children. Humanity must face the challenge of climate change and serious economic inequities.
Should this good news matter to followers of Jesus? Absolutely. Christians should always be the first to celebrate when hungry people are fed and children have a better chance to grow up in God’s beautiful world. Loving God means loving the people that God extravagantly loves- no matter who they are or where they live.
One thing we know, however, is we are 24 hours closer to the end of history than we were at this time yesterday. And in the 24 hours ahead? The Apostle Paul said it best:
“With all this going for us, my dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (I Corinthians 15:58-The Message)
Ron Naylor, Chaplain