Truth, justice and a better tomorrow
Published 4:12 pm Friday, June 17, 2022
We are living in apocalyptic times. Wait! I don’t mean what you probably think I mean! Growing up, the word ‘apocalypse’ meant two things to me: a character from the X-Men and the End of Days as prophesied in the Bible. Now, when I say ‘apocalyptic’, I don’t mean either of those things.
It’s a badly misused word, stolen by a particular type of Christianity that firmly believes we are living in the End of Days, that season of the world’s life just before Jesus returns to make everything perfect. That is, of course, after some significant violence and bloodshed! The Book of Revelation paints such a vivid picture of how and what Jesus will do upon his glorious return, and you wouldn’t be judged for finding it a frightening vision, especially for those not on the inside of the Church.
However, not every Christian tradition interprets the Book of Revelation that way. My own denomination doesn’t. We take a different approach, a more literary understanding of the words in Revelation as metaphorical language that doesn’t directly prophesy the end of the world. We believe that the End of Days remains a mystery, shrouded by the veil of the future. Nobody can see that veil, or penetrate through it. The future is the future and we can’t know exactly what it will bring.
There’s another, actually literal meaning of the word “apocalypsis”, the Greek root of anything apocalyptic. It’s a word that means ‘to reveal’. It’s not always about prophesying the future, but revealing a deeper meaning in the present. To be living in apocalyptic times simply means to be living in a time in which much is being revealed. Just think about the last two years. New science has emerged because of the pandemic. But so too has the still-selfish impulse of the modern world, being revealed when so many of us were called upon to love our neighbor but we chose self-interest instead. The police brutality we have witnessed reveals what actually wasn’t well hidden at all. We are a nation with racism still in its heart, and we must exorcise that demon if we ever want to grow beyond the conflicts and divisions that mark our common life. The hearings on the January 6th coup are apocalyptic, for they are revealing the depth of duplicity and deception used against the American people.
To be living in an apocalyptic time is to live at a turning point in history. I can’t imagine that these past few years, and the years to come, will not be written about in history books as a crucible out of which a different kind of nation has grown. That growth is not promised to be positive, however. We must be the ones to ensure that what is revealed drives us away from the forces of pain and anguish that dominate our world. We must be the ones to make the decision that, whatever comes our way, we want to leave a better world for the little ones behind us. Truth, justice, and a better tomorrow. That’s the mantra of those for whom the forces of the apocalypse only embolden us to ensure that better tomorrow doesn’t remain purely imaginative. Will you make that mantra your own?
Chris Adams is the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.