Hollywood is churning out more and more films that destroy the world. The classic nuclear holocaust and radioactive winter has lost popularity recently, but climate change might cause floods of biblical proportions or a new ice age. Gigantic meteors could pulverize the earth. When the possibility of natural disasters ends, the real terror begins. An unstoppable pandemic viruses, engineered in a lab, might turn most of the human race into flesh-eating zombies. Our brilliant technology might get out of hand, turn evil, and kill or enslave the entire human race. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps, but last year was remarkable in that it featured Wall-E, the first children’s film that was set on a lifeless future earth.
The film 2012 is another version of these fears using an old Mayan calendar. It is fairly obvious that the Mayans were not predicting anything, they just didn’t bother to add more digits to their date (the end of the world happened a long time ago for them). However, the idea of entering a new year 1, even in a calendar no one uses, seems exciting. Why is it that, instead of rejoicing in the possibility that we could be beginning a new era, we are terrified that it might bring about our destruction?
America today is not a land of hope, but a nation of fears, because we have arrived at a crossroads. We had been convinced that each new discovery, each new medical breakthrough, each new invention, each new housing development, each new corporation, each new gadget, was bringing us greater happiness, prosperity, security, and peace. We got everything we asked for, but in the end we have not received what we wanted. Our stomachs are full, our pockets are full, are houses are full, our calendars are full, but our lives have never felt so empty. We have hundreds of friends electronically at our fingertips, but we have never felt so lonely. We have more choices, fewer limitations, more possibilities, more shopping, more entertainment, more power and wealth than any society before us. Why does our life seem bland, fragile, hopeless, and pointless?
We as a nation have lost our way. On a mostly subconscious level, we know the path we are walking will not lead us to happiness, and we are increasingly convinced that it is gradually bringing about our own destruction. While we are afraid to voice these fears, Hollywood has no qualms about exploiting them in larger-than-life ways. We might not be living on a lifeless planet or hunted by zombies, inside we are lifeless and hunted by a darkness we cannot name. Some of you might find this description too dark and morbid, but I am exaggerating the fears that lurk on the edges of our minds.
I noticed in the movie trailer for 2012, one of the scenes shows the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel splitting in two, separating the finger of Adam from the finger of God. This is precisely the key. As long as we live in harmony with God, we live in harmony with the world and with ourselves, and there is peace. We as a nation have refused to listen to God, telling ourselves that it is hard to hear his voice. Arrogantly we believed that science could fix the scars of our sins, that economics would allow us to live selfishly without hurting anyone, and that entertainment and spirituality would fill the void in our souls, a void cries out for God. So we thundered ahead, building a brave new world, heedless of the dangers until it has become obvious that we are not moving in a positive direction. Old financial bulwarks have fallen, families are collapsing, and depression like a cancer spreads through the land. Do we continue, and risk destruction? Do we choose a new path? If so, which one?
Our poor choices were based on false values. We as a nation need to re-examine our values, listen to the voice of God. Pope John Paul II diagnosed the whole disease, from politics to economics, from science to art to medicine, with a single idea. We need to obey the truth of the natural world and respect the dignity of every human person. Medicine, science, politics, economics, must be built to protect and promote the dignity of the human person as revealed by Jesus Christ. In a very simple way, Wall-E gave the same message. The willingness to welcome new life and respect that life is the key to a new path. If we refuse to welcome life, the light of God will be choked off by the dust of our sin, and it will be a cold, dark cultural winter.
No, I am not suggesting that if we do not listen to God, all our cities will fall into the sea. I am suggesting that we will fall into cultural apocalypse; tyranny, violence, terror, political and financial instability, and all kinds moral evil. I hope this does not happen, because we have time now to reconsider our path. If it does happen, however, I am not afraid. We know from the Book of the Apocalypse that many beasts must come, and plagues and terrors and darkness, before the world is ready to receive Jesus Christ in the second coming. So, if this cultural winter does happen, you will find me huddled around the fire of the faith, keeping it burning until a new generation is strong enough to emerge and rebuild civilization with the grace and power of the Gospel.