Chaplain Norris Burkes: The end is NOT near
First, comes Halloween.
Then we have the election season.
Coincidence? I think not.
Seriously, some of the candidates characterized the state of our nation in absolutely ghoulish terms. It’s as if they wanted us to believe that electing their opponent would bring the Zombie Apocalypse.
Wow. If that’s true, all I can say is, “Yippee-ki-yay! Grab your family and friends. Come to the show early and don’t forget your Halloween candy bags!”
This year, politicians managed to bring first-rate entertainment, especially by evoking religious imagery to make their opponent sound like the Antichrist himself.
If your Bible still sits under your yellowed TV guide, you’ll need to recall that “… the Antichrist refers to people prophesied by the Bible to oppose Jesus Christ and substitute themselves in Christ’s place …” (Wikipedia).
So why is it that politicians employ this catastrophic, earth-ending language?
I think it’s because they know that most of us, in ways we don’t like to admit, love disaster entertainment, first popularized through movies like “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972) and “Twister” (1996).
That sort of thinking is called “catastrophizing.”
Catastrophizing is when someone assumes the worst will happen. Often, it involves exaggerating your difficulties or imagining new ones.
And particularly when it comes to elections, we love to catastrophize – even when it’s not true.
Consider the most explosive issue of this election year, the overturn of Roe v. Wade (1973). I think you’d have to admit that the reversal didn’t inaugurate the second coming of Christ any more than the 1973 decision brought the Antichrist.
But talking about the end of the world remains an undeniable way of getting someone’s attention.
Jesus demonstrated that in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Luke when he told his disciples that future days would bring earthquakes, famines and plagues.
Their faces turning a shade paler, the breathless followers asked, “When will all that bad stuff happen?”
It shook them up to hear about the locusts and plagues but lean in closer and you’ll hear Jesus slip in an unexpected detail. In verse 16 he says that the day was coming when they’d “be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends.”
Who was he talking about?
Well, most immediately, I suspect Jesus was considering Judas, who, at this point, was staring at his sandals kicking up dust.
But it’s in verse 15 where Jesus’ words might have a message for us voters who catastrophize nearly every issue. Notice that Jesus promises, “I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.”
He knew that there’d always be fortunes to be made by capitalizing on demise, death and destruction, but he promised our faith would contain answers.
At the risk of making today’s column into a Bible study, I refer you back to a little talk Jesus conducted on a hillside, usually referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount.”
In Matthew 6:34, he gives great advice to those who tend to catastrophize too much.
1. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.”
2. “Don’t get worked up (or catastrophize) about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (The Message translation).
So my chaplain word for today is, “We’re gonna be OK.” Somewhere between minimizing our problems and catastrophizing our situation, we will figure this out.
And while we’re figuring it out, you can find me eating the leftover Halloween candy and blowing up to the size of an inflatable Santa Claus.
Alas, I suppose I’m just catastrophizing. See you next week.
Handcrafted gifts and tasty treats will be featured during Victorian Christmas at the historic Nevada City United Methodist Church, also known as the church “at the top of Broad Street.”
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