11 MILES / 11 PHOTOS — people and things that caught my eye while trekking through Chicago one sunny morning.
This colorful wall is part of a building that offers programs for at-risk children in an at-risk community. The bright, cheerful tones and textures are hard to resist. So are the seven words: RENEW, SHARE, HOPE, MENTOR, LOVE, EXPLORE, STRENGTH – ingredients in developing healthy children, vibrant neighborhoods, and peace-loving nations.
As I dwell on this image, something emerges that is more than the mere sum of its parts. On this city wall I see a rendering of God’s best intentions for this world; I catch a glimpse of where the world is heading and what will make it better.
Many people, especially religious people, are interested in (obsessed with?) the topic of where the world is heading. More specifically, they want to know how this world is going to end.
In the 1970’s, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth in which he detailed his interpretations of biblical predictions about how the world will end. His book has sold more than 35 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages. More recently, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins teamed up to write the hugely successful Left Behind series. Sales are closing in on 100 million copies. Like I said, a lot of people are interested in the topic.
Based on the authors’ literal reading of the Book of Revelation, here’s the bare-bones storyline. Jesus will come back to earth. Before he does, “true” Christians who are living will be “raptured” to heaven. Great tribulations, wars, and horrific suffering will take place among the nominal Christians “left behind” and the evil forces who oppose God. This warfare will culminate on a dirt patch in the Middle East in a final battle called Armageddon. Jesus will physically return to sort out the mess in a final judgment where the repentant will be saved and the rest – the vast majority – will be sentenced to eternal damnation and torment. Jesus and the saved will live forever in a heavenly home.
As I see it, here’s just one of a multitude of problems with this end-of-the-world scenario. When one buys into it, there’s no longer any compelling reason to make this world a better place here and now. Why be concerned when peoples’ rights are violated if the world is going to end anyway? Why seek peaceful solutions among nations if such efforts are going to delay the Armageddon battle and Jesus’ return? Why care about pollution, global warming, and the stockpiles of nuclear weapons if the planet has already been destined for destruction? Why change the oil in my car if I’m convinced I’m going to be raptured out of the driver’s seat a week from next Tuesday?
Here’s an even more frightening reality. There are elected members of the U.S. Congress, past presidents, and presidential aspirants, who are willing to forge a foreign policy based on this end-times scenario. I’m not making this up!
I come back to this mosaic wall and I find God’s best intentions, what God desires for us, for creation, for this world: RENEW, SHARE, HOPE, MENTOR, LOVE, EXPLORE, STRENGTH. Granted, it doesn’t say everything that could be said, but at least it provides an alternative vision. I imagine even the pigeon agrees!