There’s a thoughtful article in America magazine about the attraction of end-times predictions. Writer John W Martens is the author of “The End of the World: The Apocalyptic Imagination in Film and Television.”
it is a deep human impulse to want to know and to understand and to be ready and prepared. And the students are still aware of the movies which imagine the end and are, if not predictions of the end, paeans to the existence of an eternal battle between good and evil that we wish well and done. Except for a few on the fringes, we wish evil to be done, its claws retracted, its fangs blunted. We wish suffering, whether caused by humans or nature, to come to an end.
The answer to the “why” then is simple and complex for me. The simple answer is that we know it is true, that we will all come to an end, whether the world continues on or not, and most of us believe that we will be accountable for our lives. Yet, our personal ends are unknowable and we want to know. In the same way, we do not know how or when the world will end, but we know it will. The sun will only run for another 5 billion or so years. Again, though, the Christian image of the end is not of senseless, meaningless destruction, ending with a whimper not with a bang, but of the world being brought to its true destiny. John Polkinghorne, in his book “The God of Hope and the End of the World” argues that the Christian hope does not run counter to scientific understanding of the goals and purpose of human and natural life properly understood and I believe that we are ultimately attracted to the end of the world because we are attracted to the end of sin, suffering and death.
Martens ends his article with a simple suggestion:
I always ask my students, and myself, though, a simple question: would it change the way you lived if you knew the end was May 21, 2011 or 2012 or 2013? If yes, then change the way you live your life now; this is what we have in our control. If we are able to minimize even somewhat the effects of sin and suffering in the lives of those around us, if we are all able to do this through small matters, then we are doing all that we can to prepare for the end, personal or cosmic, whenever it comes. For me, the ultimate message of the apocalypse is that life is intended to be good so it is best to get on with it and live it not calculate the time it begins. The end is now.