Reflections by Jerry Webber

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Judgment Day 2011

There is never a period of history in which someone, somewhere is not fired up about a pending Judgment Day. I'm old enough to remember that in the late 1970's, some folks somewhere predicted the date of the Second Coming of Christ and went to live on their rooftops for a few days. Apparently, they wanted to be that much closer to heaven so they could meet Jesus a few feet before everyone else.

I've lived through enough of these predicted dates to see a pattern in them. For those who pronounce them and those who propagate them, there is most always a "turn or burn" element to the prophecy. The forecast becomes an opportunity for division, separation and exclusion. Some perish, some live. Some make it, some don't.

I'm interested today in a couple of things . . . and neither of them really concerns whether today really is the day or not.

I'm interested, for one, in the people who have quit their jobs and have spent days, weeks and months getting the word out about this Judgment Day. Some have left homes, family, work, and other responsibilities to go on the road and spread the word. They seem to be sincere people. And to hear them talk, there is a hint of obligation in their voices. There is also an undercurrent of fear . . . the fear that if they don't get out there and tell what they "know", then they will have to pay the consequences, too.

In short, there seems to be a need within persons to work themselves to the "good side of the ledger," so to speak. So they announce, proclaim, and bull-horn their way across the land in hopes that they are doing enough good to be rewarded in the afterlife.

If you pin your hopes on a system of good works and merit, then you don't want to have a ledger that lacks effort, works, and lots of courageous, in-your-face deeds when the final score is tallied.

I'm not belittling them, because in a sense these are courageous people who have completely given themselves to this pronouncement. There is something to admire in their willingness to walk out to the end of the limb for what they believe.

But that brings me to the second thing that stands out to me today. There is a notion of God underlying all this frantic activity that is unmistakable. The God of this Judgment Day is a God who separates and divides, a God of punitive judgment and ferocious vengeance who is going to get even with persons who are on the wrong side of the moral ledger. This thinking traffics on an image of God who is a cosmic Scorekeeper, primarily invested in keeping scores and settling accounts.

Such a God has little interest in healing wounds or mending lives, but in a strict moral justice that declares some in and some out. This God has to be appeased by our good works and tireless efforts. This God is more willing to "cast out" or "cast away" than to "draw in" and "bring together."

Yet, in most every expression of Christian spirituality through the centuries, God is imaged as one who brings together rather than dividing. After all, Christian spirituality has affirmed -- since Jesus -- that the ultimate goal of life is "union" or "Divine union." This union is not accomplished through moral good works or by our human efforts. It is received as we open ourselves . . . received as a gift that can be bestowed only by God. We don't earn it, achieve it, deserve it. Union with God is an act of generosity, entirely consistent with the character of God.

So all these pronouncements about May 21 and Judgment Day have merely invited me to consider afresh, "Who is God to me?"

"What do I believe fundamentally about God?"

"How have I experienced God, not theoretically, but practically in the real life that I live?"

Given those questions, May 21, 2011 looks much different for me than for many other folks. If life as we know it ends today, I'm okay. I'm not worried about my ledger. I can't accumulate enough to even the score.

1 comment:

Kathryn Kelley said...

first time through college I put English off as long as possible with hopes of being raptued prior to having to take another English. ..failed 500 word theme in high school. took it again only managing a C. then got stuck in a remedial English class my first college semester and low and behold same textbook. still, I only managed a C. ha