If I were to consider an alternate title for this post, it might be “Why is everyone NOT depressed?” That might sound like a very grim outlook, but in many ways, I believe it is entirely justified by an objective view of the current human condition.
A few of my evangelical Christian friends have recently expressed similar sentiments about the state of our nation and the world, which they attribute fully to a human moral decline originated by the sin of Adam. For them this is a motivator to share the gospel as widely as possible and as quickly as possible, since any who do not believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord in this life are doomed to eternal torment.
I shared the same desire for a long time, although carrying through with this intention was very lacking on my part, since deeply seated doubts about certain doctrinal points were always a stumbling block for me. I was not quite sure how to sell something I was not completely sold on myself. Probably there was also a great degree of disappointment with American versions of Christianity, which seemed to be just another arena for competition and one-upmanship. The notion of competing over who was closest to God, or was God’s favorite, seemed completely antithetical to the teaching of Christ himself. It appeared to me that condemning such superficiality was the intended meaning behind the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the sinner who were praying to God at the temple.
Even today, I keep getting the impression that one reason some Christians are so intent on continually proving they are in God’s good favor is to convince themselves as much as anyone else. Perhaps this notion of currying God’s favor is a holdover from the ancient idea of the god-king as a human ruler, since staying in good graces with the person in power was a legitimate survival strategy. (This view of authority might also explain, to some degree, the apparent shift in God’s “personality” between the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament spoke of God as a anthropomorphized divine King whose throne was in the heavens, while in the New Testament, Jesus revealed God as a caring father whose Kingdom is represented by a divine transformation within His people.)
This leads to the first reason I often get depressed – that people can claim such certainty about God’s message to mankind, and that they, and those who agree with them, are the only ones who have this mysterious insight. That alone is not the biggest issue though – certainty of belief can be a powerful motivation for positive action, when channeled in the right direction. The really disturbing issue seems to be “why would God be so selective about those to whom He chooses to give this secret knowledge?”. And why is it that those with this keen insight into matters of the spirit so often do not provide a testimony by their lives, values, attitudes, and even in daily interaction with others? Access to such powerful hidden wisdom and insight must surely have some dramatic effect on true believers that can be seen in actions that have a positive impact within society!
These questions have been mirrored in some of the agnostic and atheist weblogs, some of which, ironically enough, were found through their responses in forum discussions on Christian apologetic websites that I had been browsing. It appears that many skeptics, agnostics and atheists are former Christians who were disappointed by church members, church leaders, theological inconsistency, and lack of practical answers to life’s problems being offered by modern Christianity.
(As a side note, I would tend to encourage practicing Christians to read some of these skeptical websites to understand the perspective of “opponents” of the message of Christ. Some argue that this might cause weak believers to falter in their faith. But if being challenged to rebut common arguments and to openly consider objective facts presented by opposing views causes someone to “lose faith”, perhaps they merely held cherished beliefs rather than genuine faith. In the former case, the sooner they realize this, the better!)
To summarize, the first reason for my discouragement is that questions of hypocrisy and lack of visible spiritual transformation among Christians are still not explained by the “Church” in a way that seems intuitively believable.
The next source of continuing distress is the generally self-destructive impulse that seems to be driving human actions throughout history. Although I obviously have no first hand knowledge of events before my time, within my lifetime it seems that a sense of mass depression is more prevalent than in many earlier periods in history. Even though the world now has unprecedented wealth and material goods, the pursuit of these has been at the cost of our environment, our energy future, our sense of social justice, and eventually, probably our global monetary systems. In others words, we are poisoning our own well along with everyone else’s.
As if it should not already be obvious, these are some of the most visible signs of the global risks to resources and climate necessary for life.
- Global climate change, leading to: increasing coastal impact from superstorms, drought, uncontrollable temperature rise, etc.
- Global water shortages, collapse of centralized agriculture, and mass starvation
- Potential for regional conflicts to escalate into global warfare involving the use of nuclear weapons
- Possibility of pandemics increased by global travel, terrorist acts, and drug resistant disease organisms
- Potential for collision with undetected objects in space which could destroy all life on earth
- Possibility of natural cataclysmic events such as: super-volcano eruptions, massive earthquakes, tsunamis, and others
- Excessive accumulation of wealth, followed by civil unrest, collapse of world monetary systems, economic collapse, destruction or collapse of infrastructure needed for modern civil society
Based on what we know about our current and coming reality, humanity could progress from being merely glum to having a very bad day (or century…or eternity) for the entire earth in a very short time.
Next, it seems unfathomable to me that as a species we can see what we are doing to ourselves, our planet, and future generations, yet a majority of our fellow humans seem to have no interest in correcting our course.
Fortunately, there are many groups and individuals that are actively trying to change the course of human “progress” toward embracing a more just and sustainable system of living. While I have to admit to being one of those on the outskirts of the movement, this post is my first step toward actively embracing and engaging in what needs to be done.
The next step is simply to figure out how to save all mankind…one way or another…whether they like it or not!
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?
Wait, feels like I’m getting depressed again.
Gotta stop thinking so much…