Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good news and bad news

I have good news and bad news. And since the good news is a kick back from the bad news, I'll start with the bad news. So here it is.

Bear with me. I have a bleak prediction to make. But then it gets better.

I'm not an historian but it occurs to me that the social conditions which preceeded the French Revolution (1789-1799) are remarkably similar to the kinds of things we're seeing on a global scale today. Rising food prices, extreme weather, poor harvests, unsustainable national debt levels, the effects of war, the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Sound familiar? In any event I suspect that over the next decade or so it’s going to appear to us that the world is coming apart at the seams. Here’s what I anticipate:

* increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters

* increasing frequency and severity of social disruption - from organized civil disobedience to spontaneous outbursts of rebellion to all out anarchy and terrorism, even in areas of the world where we would least expect it (like Norway or England or Canada (all spots that have been in the news of late)

* elevated rates of social psychological distress and social breakdown: addictions, mental illness, suicide and crime will all be on the rise

* continued volatility in local and global economies, resulting in downturns of all kinds: unemployment, defaulting on loans, bankruptcies, etc. etc.

* pressures on health care due, in the most "prosperous" countries to the demographics of aging and in the poorest countries to the politics of poverty

* the crash of our consumer culture as economies continue to teeter and one by one, crack and crumble

Imagine the withdrawal symptoms of whole societies that are top heavy with people who are literally addicted to consumerism and then quite suddenly are unable to get a fix! Whatever you think of the tribulation, I'm pretty sure we'll all agree that it will be a period of great tribulation in the generic sense. So, that's the bad news. Things will certainly be worse - chaotic, unsettling, unstable - over the coming years, before they are better.

But there's good news too. While this may be the trajectory for society as a whole, I see strong evidence that there is a prophetic coming of age - individuals and small groups everywhere who are seeing past the coming decay to a deeper and brighter reality that is beckoning us from beyond ourselves and beyond our circumstances. It will be rooted in the freedom that comes from detachment from having and striving and plotting. This freedom will translate into a way of being in the world that complies with unseen rhythms and an orderliness that defies human manipulation. Perhaps it will be the front edge of the new heaven and new earth.

So, when you turn on the news and are accosted by all the bad news of this age, take heart. As we die to old ways, old habits, old ambitions, we will experience new life and new hope. The best is yet to come!

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