Today is Labor Day, the unofficial last day of summer.
And not just any summer. It’s being called the worst summer in modern history.
And for good reason.
It began in June with a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando – the worst mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.
Before that horror could even be processed, terrorists with bombs and guns slaughtered 41 people and injured 100 more in an all-out assault at Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey.
Only a week later, we were confronted by a video of a white police officer firing into the chest of a 37-year-old black man – Alton Sterling – outside of a convenience store in Louisiana.
A single day later another video was broadcast on Facebook Live by the girlfriend of Philando Castile, a beloved cafeteria worker, chronicling her eerily calm explanation of her boyfriend being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota.
Who can forget the image of Castile lying slumped next to her in a bloodied shirt with a gun outside the window of the car?
There was more. The next night, during a peaceful protest against police brutality, a sniper in Dallas gunned down five cops and injured 11 more. It was the deadliest day for law enforcement since 9/11.
And then came Nice.
At a celebration of Bastille Day along the banks of the French Riviera, a man in a truck drove through the crowd along a promenade.
84 were killed. Hundreds were injured.
The summer wasn’t done.
At the end of July came the murder of an 85-year-old Normandy priest, Father Jacques Hamel, by ISIL knifemen who slit his throat during mass.
Do we even need to bring up the Zika virus?
Of course, any assessment of “worst” demands perspective.
Through the advent of social media, not to mention the internet itself (more of a modern phenomenon than most people remember), there is a greater awareness of the kinds of calamities that have always plagued humanity since the fall.
But to be sure, it was not a good summer.
And I am not optimistic for summers to get much better.
The Bible’s view of time is distinct. It is not cyclical - a never-ending repetition of events – such as you might find in much of Eastern philosophy. Instead, it is linear, with a clear beginning and an equally clear ending.
And no matter your view of eschatology (the end times), the words of Jesus make it patently clear that as we approach that end, things will not get better (Matthew 24). There is no utopian existence awaiting the ever-growing intelligence and technology of mankind. No, there is an ever-inching march toward hell’s dominance, culminating in the rule of the anti-Christ.
Sorry to give you such heavy-laden, almost archaic language.
But it’s deeply biblical.
And it’s true.
Yes, even if a thousand more years await us, we are living in the end times. At any point in this era, the unfolding of the final events could occur.
So what to think?
What to do?
C.S. Lewis was right:
Simply live as if this was the world’s last night.
Because it could be.
James Emery White
Susan Miller, “From Orlando to Nice: One month of madness,” USA Today, July 15, 2016, read online.
Harry Mount, “Is 2016 really one of the worst years in history?” The Telegraph, July 31, 2016, read online.
C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night (and other Essays).
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.