Shuck and Jive

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Is the World Getting Better or Worse?

At my two previous congregations I asked for a show of hands.

Raise your hand if you think the world is getting better.
Raise your hand if you think the world is getting worse.

It was somewhat of a trick question. Many if not most folks thought the world was getting worse. So I pushed them on it. Let's get specific.

Will the world be better than it is now in 2020? Show of hands.
Will the world get better in 2040?
Will the world get better in 2060?
Will the world get better in 2080?
Will the world get better in 2107?
Will the world get better in 2207?
How about 2525?

What do you think? Where are we headed? What is the content of your faith in regards to this? Is there hope for Earth and life on Earth including human life?

Let's throw out another idea. Do you think God wants the world to get better or worse?

How you answer these questions says a great deal about where your hope (and perhaps your motivation) is grounded.

More later...


  1. i believe the world is getting better, but that it won't be perfected. this is based entirely on observation, and from extrapolating from the seeming fact that while i can incrementally improve myself (become a little more honest, brave, informed, etc.) i can't perfect myself, or even improve myself that drastically.

    i think of my hope as sort of being in two parts. in one sense, my hope is in ethics and social justice and in the ability of human beings to improve their lot in light of their values and ideals. i think that one function of religion is to provide a framework for doing this, and i think God is interested in our constant effort on this front.

    in another sense, i put my eschatological hope of perfection entirely in God, because i see this process of improvement as approaching, but never actually reaching, the perfect ideal.

    so maybe i buy into utter depravity in an absolute sense but not necessarily in a day-to-day sense.

  2. I believe the world is getting worse but God wants it to be better. I haven't given up hope, but I believe it is up to us, humanity, not God, to make the world a better place. I believe God gave us the freedom and ability to make the world a better place, but it is up to us whether we can actually achieve it or fail utterly.

  3. This is a great question to ask a congregation. I think it is worth digging to see what past generations have said about the future, and see what happened. Otherwise, we'd have to wait until 2040 to see if the consensus was right. I believe a lot of what we fear will be mitigated by future circumstances and many things we don't see will become a problem. We used to have that doomsday feeling about the Cold War ending in a Hot Nuclear War. Then it went away and terrorism took its place. I think Islamist extremism will die down but it looks like a new Cold War will replace it. One head of the serpent shrivels up or is cut down and another pops up.

    Billy Graham said evil fluctuates but it generally stays the same over the ages. We might be technologicaly savvier than in the past but we can do more destruction [and we do just that] with the pressing of a button than ancient civilizations did over hundreds of years.

    Perhaps looking back over history will help Christians understand how true it is that we are in His hands. If you look objectively at the World Wars and the Cold War et al, they could all have been much worse.

  4. I wonder sometimes if we think of it as either/or, either humanity or God. Is there a sense that we see God at work through humanity?

  5. In terms of the world getting worse ... is it really getting worse, or are we just now aware of what's been going on for a very long time, due to globalization? In a completely non-compassionate, analytical way, the 'worse' is almost a good thing, because it makes more and more people aware of what's going on, and fighting to change things for the better.

    One of the key elements in the Gospels is that Jesus confronted sin, rather than just sliding it under the carpet. Because if sin is ignored or excused away, then it's never going to be eliminated. We need to see what the evil is head-on, so that we can overcome it with good.

  6. Heather, that is an awesome statement!

    I would agree that God is working through humanity to put a limit on sin.

  7. John,

    If only you understood the long arc of cosmic history, you would see that the goal of universal evolution is increasing isolationism and separationism, coupled with a short memory and inadequate exposure to the concept of diversity.