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Sorry, Dooms Day Prophets, but the World IS Getting Better

Mar 26 2021

Every time there's a hiccup in the Middle East, a serial killing or a revolution somewhere in the world, it brings out the doomsday prophets who are sure this is proof that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and life on planet earth is so much worse than in the good old days. If said prophets are of the conservative Christian bent, they see it as proof positive that the world is on the brink of surrendering to the Anti-Christ (although arguably there may be no such thing, but that's a different rant.) The problem is, these are false assumptions, and the world, in fact, is becoming a better and better place as history progresses, and much of the credit goes to the advancement of the same Christian Church that is often guilty of mocking this very idea. 

One source of this confusion is that history has a short memory.  "North Korea has nuclear weapons now; it didn't in the past. Ergo, the world is getting worse."  But what if we broaden our understanding of history and consider centuries and millenia rather than years and decades.  Suddenly the world's improvement - including human morality - becomes apparent.  What, for example, could be more evil than human sacrifice?  Yet in just a few brief minutes of research I learned that this heinous act (often associated with spirit worship) was practiced by the Aztecs, Mayans, Native Hawaiians, Tibetans, Mesopotamians, the Shang Dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty, Celts, Phonecians, Egyptians and more.  At one time, human sacrifice was not a thing of remote tribes with tiny populations, but a deeply important part of some of the largest and most advanced civilizations in world history. Now it is considered an abhorrent act, and- obviously- banned in every country on earth.  While it wasn't exclusively Judeo-Christian religions that brought an end to sacrificing people (Buddhists, for example, also deserves credit) they were the primary players.

On the web site Culture Trip, for exaqmple, it reads, "The ancient Hindu tradition called sati, wherein a widow would throw herself on her husband's pyre and burn to death, was initially a voluntary act considered courageous and heroic, but it later became a forced practice. Although sati is now banned all over India, it has a dark history." While I am no fan of colonialism, it is well documented that sati ended when the Anglican church began missionary work in India during British rule.

Legal slavery is another abomination that has ended world wide as things on planet earth are slowly improving.  Yes, the illegal slave trade is alive and well, but the fact that it is an ILLEGAL trade shows how far this has come in 170 years. No government on earth is advocating for legal slavery because the human race realizes the horrors of it.  It now can only exist in the shadows; shadows that will, no doubt always be a part of sinful humans' history. But it is no longer believed to be a moral right to own slaves.  As is often the case, many Christians were on the wrong side of this issue in the 1800's, but more importantly, it was primarily the church who was also responsible for emmancipation. Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, John Newton, William Wilberforce, Harriet Beecher Stowe and her husband Pastor Calvin Stowe were all devout followers of Jesus, some even were clergy.  And as God through the church made people aware of all humanity's intrinsic value legal savery ended, and those dealing in slavery, by the very fact that it must be done in darkness, testify to it's immorality.

Another way that the human race has become better is in its care of the neediest of its citizens. On the web site Children of Ancient Greece, I read about another abomination: "Babies born in ancient Greece often had a difficult time surviving. If a baby was born deformed, it might have been abandoned on a mountain (female babies were abandoned more often than males)"  This practice, also common in Rome, was not done under the cover of darkness, but was sometimes encouraged as a means of improving those respective empires by weeding out the weak and undesireable. Compare that with more recent history in Communist China when women were only allowed to have one child due to overpopulation.  Women who had a second pregnancy and were not willing to abort would also abandon their newborns, but often dressed up beutifully left in in places where they would be quickly discovered.  Even under the Communist regime, when these babies were found, they were not discarded but cared for, allowed to live, and often adopted by families in other countries.  I had a student a few years ago, and this is exactly her story. I met many children with similar stories in Uganda, although they were deserted due to extreme poverty rather than population control..  The point is, the human race has improved from the place where leaving 'undesireable' children to die was accepted and even considered the parents' duty now  to a place where parents in any country who feel pressured to leave their child can be confident they will be found, cared for, and perhaps even get a loving family.

I'm not by any means denying the sinful nature of humankind. We are a lost race in need of a redeemer. And it is becaue of this very Redemer that the world is improving.  One evidence of man's sin nature is our neverending history of warfare.  Yet again,in the big picture of history  this is getting better, not worse.  Early Christians were paciifists. which is obvious when you look at the teachings of Jesus.  Yet the brutality of wars continued. Then, when Constantine Christianized Rome, Augustine, one of the most influential church fathers ever, was asked to draft a 'Just War' document.  While this was (and continues to be) controversial among pacifist Christians, it nonetheless defined the 'morality' of war.  As Christianity has spread, so has this monumental doctrine.  Groups as diverse as the World Counsel of Churches and the UN refer to it, and it has changed how wars are fought, how POWs are treated, and how nations who don't follow it are to be held accountable.  Yes, wars are still fought, but more and more people around the world realize the immorality of aggression fofr the sake of building an empire, torture, 'collateral damage', scorched earth strategies and more.  

Another reason for the frequent pessimism about humanity's future is that we tend to have a myopic view of current events, especially those of us in the first world. There are many who say the United States has entered a Post-Christian era.  They point to decreased church membership, extreme politics, legalized abortion and more to support their hypothesis.  But there are at least two tihngs wrong with this reasoning.  The first is, although church attendance is down  in middle America, there are places where revival is happening.  We saw this first hand on the Crow reservation, and this phenomenon has been happening on many tribal lands for decades now. Additionally, as Samuel Rodriguez points out in his book "The Lamb's Agenda", our current wave of immigration is coming mostly from regions that have large Christian populations, and they're bringing their faith with them. The demographics of the American church may be changing, but it is not dying.

Furthermore, even if, God forbid, America were to become a godless wastland, the fact is, we make up only seven percent of the world's population. Nations and empires have risen and fallen, but the world as a whole has been, and continues to be  slowly moving in the right direction. This is apparent by the tremendous Christian revival virtually world wide. Africa is now the center of Christianity for the world. Brazil and South Korea are sending more new missionaries than any other countries. Per capita, Palestine is the greatest sender of missionaries The Christian Missionary Alliance Church of Tehran, Iran has over 1000 members. Fear not, the Holy Spirit is alive and well on planet earth.

Secondly,we can  rest assured that America isn't turning into a suburb of hell. Consider where we have come from. In colonial America, the age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years old. It was legal to beat your wife until 1920. New York City, at the turn of the century, averaged one prostitute for every 64 men. In 1838, Andrew Jackson forced the tribal peoples to take to the Trail of Tears. When we think in terms of centuries, it is clear America is also improving, not regressing.

Please understand that I do not believe in some pie in the sky evolution into an earthly Utopia.  As long as there is a human race, there will be sin on earth.  However, as long as the Holy Spirit is alive and moving on earth through the church, God will keep advancing His agenda. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).  Yes, Jesus made it clear, and Paul echoed the fact,  that history would have an end, and Jesus would reign forever. But until that happens, we should expect the advancement of the Church of Jesus to move forward as salt and light changing the world forever for the good.

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