The world is closer to its end… or so suggested the press release set to Beliefnet by the Left Behind Prophecy Club (associated with, and intended to increase sales of, the highly successful “Left Behind” series). It pointed to such events as the devastating natural disasters over the last 12 months, successful Iraqi elections that “pave the way for rebuilding Babylon,” and President Putin’s arms deal with Iraq as signs that the apocalypse is upon us.
I suspect this publicist will struggle to generate interest in these spiritual road signs toward heaven, especially since the “Left Behind” novels have plateaued on the charts. Frankly, I think more people will be intrigued by Newsweek’s end-of-year cover story on Tom Hanks and the upcoming “Da Vinci Code” movie and Time’s Persons of the Year award honoring Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates for their fight to end world poverty. Now these sound exciting, fresh, and dynamic… or, at least, interesting.
As a seeker of spiritual truth—and as one knowing I have much still to discover—I am stunned at how often one of the greatest mysteries of all time is reduced to religious rhetoric that fails to capture our cultural and societal fascination.
And it shouldn’t be that way.
The biblical story of the baby Jesus—the Christ of Christmas—coming back as He promised (John 14:3, Luke 18:8) and as the Bible predicts (Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel 12:7, 2 Peter 3:10, most of Revelation, etc.) should excite us, fascinate us, captivate us. But it doesn’t. Perhaps it’s because too many Christian preachers and speakers—especially evangelicals—spend too much time threatening those outside their belief system, or preaching at or down to those less knowledgeable, or leveraging what feels like scare tactics to gain an audience–all of which seems like a departure from the way the Apostle Paul spoke of Christ’s revelation as being a great mystery (Col 1:27-29) and encouraged us to be informed (1 Thessalonians 5:13-18). The Bible makes it sound like a wonderful secret to be investigated and a beautiful opportunity to be explored. Somehow, it seems to have lost some of that spirit in today’s culture.
Perhaps if more churches—and those who go by the name of Christ—were recognized more for the Bono-Gates spirit of generosity, or even the adventurous and investigative spirit of DaVinci’s Robert Langdon, our minds and hearts would be captured and our curiosity would be piqued.
Until then, I suspect that the Left Behind Prophecy Club will be challenged to find members outside of the flock, while Mr. and Mrs. Gates and Bono will inspire millions more by living out the message of The Good Samaritan… even if they don’t talk too publicly about its Author.