Dystopia

Imagine an academic environment where climate change has made the concept of school “Snow Days” irrelevant. Instead, schools maintain functional equivalence through “Threats of Mass Violence Days.” When they hear reports or predictions of a storm (of violence) blowing in (or walking in through the front doors), they preemptively shut down operations to maximize student safety. And as long as it doesn’t happen more than five times a year, no academic schedules are significantly derailed…

Imagine a political landscape where octogenarians are the young-bloods, the undercards, on the national stage. Instead, centenarians vie for the U.S. Presidency: established “name brand” politicians propped up by medical machinery and Artificial Intelligence, trained on decades and decades of data, slinging electronic mud at each other’s campaigns. And no matter how much mud sticks, the old men keep trudging forward. Or at least it is so rumored. Nobody knows for sure. “Blue Fake News” battles “Red Fake News” for the hearts and minds of American voters…

Imagine a religious context where faith identity flows downstream from political identity. Church leaders determine affiliation through virtue-signaling on lightning-rod issues and then find scriptural support from which to argue their positions. Christian Advent observances add a Week of Indignation

Honestly, I’m really not as discouraged as the above paragraphs might seem to indicate.

It’s all just a thought experiment that led to a lunch conversation processing current events with one of my children. Apparently, there was recently a “concerning social media post” mentioning our local high school, which was timed in such a way that local law enforcement officers and school administration officials decided to cancel classes for the day, “erring on the side of safety and caution of our students, faculty and staff.” And with other headlines from various news sources and personal experiences, it’s relatively easy to amplify and exaggerate the issues to describe a world properly titled as “Dystopia.” It’s not crazy for Generation Z to imagine that they are the last generation to inhabit the Earth. We’ve kind of set them up for this, in fact.

November may lend itself to Doomsday thinking. And Gen Z going through adolescence and young adulthood doesn’t help, either. We’ve got serious issues that we need to consider, as a society. Still, I’m also persuaded by some recent reflections on the biblical book of Ecclesiastes to believe that we’ve always had serious issues.

Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.

Ecclesiastes 1:4-9

It’s good for us all to stay mindful of our dysfunction and our need of salvation from outside of ourselves. It should spur us on to love and good deeds and sharing this Good News of salvation, remembering that today’s younger generations feel far closer to “Dystopia” than “Utopia.” But at the same time, we can hold onto hope, even in the midst of the dysfunction. So: help us, God…

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