One Degree Of Separation?
I keep saying the end game has started, by which I mean that the end times spoken of in the Bible have started. But am I over-stating it? After all, the Bible paints a very stark picture – there will be a period of epic distress and conflict and suffering (the beginning of sorrows) that is preliminary to a time of trouble such as the world has never seen. But few readers of this blog currently feel threatened or at risk. Is it like someone yelling “fire” when nobody else even smells smoke?
Let me explain what I am seeing. First, whether you do or don’t have an informed sense of impending doom partially depends on who you are and where you live. Most of the people in the Middle East, for instance, have an acute sense of foreboding. Of course, for those in war zones and particularly for the Kurds and Yeminis, it is closer to a sense of terror than foreboding. A sense of foreboding is also particularly strong in many parts of Africa that are riven with conflict and crime, and at least three major countries in South America are melting down right now. So when it comes to political and societal upheaval and violence, if you don’t live in one of the “hot zones” then you aren’t currently suffering nor do you likely have a sense of foreboding. In fact, there are probably three or four (or five) degrees of separation between you and those whose lives are being swept up in horrible events.
But there is plenty going on that fulfills prophecy aside from political and societal upheaval. The earth’s climate is in accelerating decay, bringing about a host of simultaneous catastrophic impacts around the world. Australia, for instance, is having the latest in a series of epic environmentally-linked (a climate-linked, if you like) problems. Australia is battling epic bush fires (you really should read the linked article!) that are unprecedented. There is that word again – unprecedented. It can also be applied to the heat wave and massive fires that gripped Alaska this year. The fires were really just a consequence of a decades-long warming and drying that is changing the fundamental nature of the state and making life difficult (and more dangerous) for those who live there.
And then there is California, which is something of a combination of Australia’s and Alaska’s problems – long-term warming and drying trends putting extraordinary pressure on forests and areas of heavy brush growth, and putting extraordinary pressure on societal infrastructure. Californians are increasingly emigrating, and few communities welcome them with open arms. This trend of resenting recent arrivals is a fate climate refugees are experiencing the world over. And, of course, there are more and more climate refugees. In China, Africa, South America, and even the United States there are an ever increasing number of climate refugees. Right now it is just a trickle, but with some 300 million expected to be forced from ocean-fronts around the world, the number will dramatically increase. Slowly rising seas make for millions of small dramas playing out across the world, but they are playing out, like those in North Carolina’s Barrier Islands.
How many degrees of separation are there between you and someone whose life is in crisis because of the above events and mega-trends? If you are a relatively comfortable and unthreatened North American or European (and especially if you are a member of a Nordic country), then there are probably several degrees of separation. If, on the other hand, you live in, say, Chile and have had to deal with epic, long term, unprecedented drought which is now compounded by social, political and economic upheaval and the beginnings of violence and conflict, then there are zero degrees of separation and, with this comfortable distance, you have no keen sense of foreboding.
Eventually, we will all be able to say there are zero degrees of separation between us and people who are experiencing first-hand trauma or loss or affliction, and the ramping-up of this impact will occur (is occuring) rapidly. To those blessed people who are comfortable and unthreatened at the moment, I would say this: improve the time. Witness while you can, while a few may listen, while your work does not compete with disaster and threat. The seeds you plant today may sprout when those you speak to come under affliction, so now is exactly the right time to be proclaiming Christ.
In heaven, there will be zero degrees of separation. It may take a while, but eventually we’ll get to know everybody. And only then will we know what ultimate effect our words and deeds (and literature) had on people that are now one, two, or three degrees of separation away.