Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the human race?
Civilization has made so many astounding advances in technology, medicine, energy, architecture, the arts, food production, space exploration, and so on, that one could easily make the case that humanity is on a positive trajectory through time.
However, for every advancement in one area, there are whole populations that are disenfranchised; who have no technology, no food, no health care. And sometimes it seems there is a dark side to progress itself, with byproducts such as pollution, deforestation, or social alienation.
The story gets darker still when we turn on the news and see evidence of terror, large-scale persecution, epidemics, slavery, starvation, and massacres, to name but a few of the man-made horrors that still beset the world.
It seems that technological or cultural achievements are not enough to give us a wholly sanguine view of our common future. Because by themselves they cannot give us peace and lasting happiness, and how optimistic can one be without these blessings?
Pride, greed, envy, and their ugly sisters—the seven deadly sins—have been around since time immemorial (or since ‘time immoral’ as one wag put it). They are the rich soil in which the most extreme manifestations of evil that are traumatizing us all on the nightly news take root and flourish. But ironically, lately, the deadly sins are no longer taboo in our culture. We see them—in lesser forms, but the same sins—paraded in public, dressed up as entertainment ... even, God help us, protected as free speech. As a whole, our spiritually blind culture does not see the connection between a small sin and very big one. That is one reason we still have so little control over outbreaks of human catastrophes.
And we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to spreading the bad news. There is plenty of evil in the world today, but it makes a bigger impression than it would have in the days before microphones and wide-angle camera lenses. The powers of darkness use the same sort of pyrotechnics that made a mixed-up professor from Kansas appear as The Great and Powerful Oz, who terrified children and other innocents before he was revealed as a sham.
Yes, terrorists have traded rocks for rockets and the media project the effects of sin louder and farther on the world stage than has ever before been possible, whether on the news or in movies, TV, and video games. But that in itself is just another weapon in the arsenal of the “ruler of this world,” who lives to engage in spiritual and psychological warfare against God’s people. By causing us to focus selectively on the really bad stuff that’s going on in the world, and turning up the volume on discord and dissention, the media ought to consider whose plans they are helping.
So although the noise levels have increased, my own sense is one of tempered optimism. Evil is no worse than it ever was, and we must remember that its effects have been greatly mitigated by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit active in the world since the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the foundation for true optimism.
The Bible tells us that God is found in the secret places, and speaks in a whisper. As Christians, we need to work extra hard to tune in to God and tune out the mad shout of evil that echoes all around us. For when we listen to God’s voice, we find the peace and power that enable us to change our hearts. And that is the only way to change the world for the better.
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
(I Kings 19:11-12)