By Greg O'Brien: Codfish Press
There was a popular bumper sticker circulating San Francisco in the late 1960s, heralding the end times that proclaimed: “Jesus is coming and man, is He pissed!” Like pop culture, the bumper sticker quickly spread East. I got in trouble in high school for pasting it on the rear of my Buick. The Jesuits didn’t think it was funny.
Funny or not, the bumper sticker has many people thinking again, given the wild happenings in the world today: the constant threat of terrorism; the Asian tsunami that killed more than 120,000; Katrina floods of Noah proportions; mudslides in Central America that have created mass gravesites; a crushing Pakistan quake whose death toll is pushing 40,000; the melting of polar ice caps that indicate, several climatologists say, a global warming trend that could in time cause devastating flooding and fuel more intense hurricanes; a feared avian flu pandemic that experts warn could inflict a 50 percent fatality rate worldwide.
“We and the entire world remain unprepared for what could arguably be the most horrific disaster in modern history,” Gregory Poland, an immunization specialist at the Mayo Clinic, said of the avian flu threat in a Hearst Newspaper report. “What we are talking about is not just another health issue—it is a nation-busting event,” added Tara O’Toole of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.Is anyone listening? Are these signs of the apocalypse detailed in the Book of Daniel, the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Revelation, or are we just having a global stretch of bad luck?
A quick read of Matthew 24: 6-8 is as sobering as the demise of Lot’s wife: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Many expect the labor to last for generations, but are covering all bets.
“I prefer the bumper sticker that says: Jesus is coming, look busy!” says the Rev. Paul Ring, parochial vicar of St. Marks parish in Dorchester where the late Rose Kennedy worshipped along with her father “Honey Fitz,” then the mayor of Boston.
So is God hurling thunderbolts?“No, but I think it’s a wake-up call,” Father Ring said in an interview. “Scripture tells us no one will know the time of the end, but what I think we’re experiencing today is the permissive will of God: not that the Almighty causes bad things to happen, but that God allows them to stir.” Father Ring advises those watching “to take a deep breath and use this as an opportunity to grow in grace.”
The Rev. David Otis, pastor of Protestant-oriented First Light Church of Cape Cod in Chatham, and a former reporter for the San Bernardino Sun and a former contributor to Time Magazine and the L.A. Times, agrees. “If you start putting pins on a world map, it gets your attention. I think God is taking hands off the world because of our collective choices…and the direction of our lives—the common grace that has protected this planet is being slowly removed. I think this a time for all of us to evaluate where we stand. And for most of us, that’s not on firm spiritual ground.
“No need to get sensational about it. What’s happening in the world is sensational enough.”It’s late in the fourth quarter, preaches Otis, and a time for some hard-knuckle defense. “We ought to punt, and give it over the Lord. The clock is ticking down.” Thanks for the word picture, reverend, and the sports clichés. See you in church soon. I’ll be the one in the back pew, near the confessional line, getting ready to snap the ball.