Rubbernecking Armageddon

Stan Moody: Diana Butler Bass has truly blessed me in this time of “Finding Our

Way Home”. We have taken the liberty of offering an abbreviated version of one of

her latest blogs, as we will do with others from time to time.

Rubbernecking Armageddon

Diana Butler Bass

Nov 13, 2022

We are coming to an end of the Christian year and nearing Advent. Things get a bit apocalyptic

in the New Testament readings in late November and early December. There will be lots of

readings about the coming Kingdom of God, about endings and beginnings.

Be prepared for a river of hope in the coming weeks.

Luke 21:7-9:

They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is

about to take place?" And he said, :Beware that you are not led astray; for many

will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after


When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified . . .”

Are we human beings given to apocalypse? We’re like Armageddon rubberneckers — curious

onlookers who can’t stop staring at every crash on the End-of-the-World highway.

Maybe Jesus knew this. The ancient world was as full of rumors, conspiracy theories, and rulers

who manipulated by fear as is the case in our own. Certainly, Jerusalem would have been rife

with political gossip — and worries among the Jews about violent clampdowns by their Roman

overlords. Indeed, longing and looking for a savior, for the arrival of the promised Kingdom of

God, must have filled the air with a sense of pregnant hope — and an equal measure of gullible


Jesus is actually a pretty calm character when it comes to apocalypse. I don’t think the line —

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon

another; all will be thrown down” — should be read with the fear-filled intonation of a negative

political ad. I suspect he was matter-of-fact: “Even this beautiful temple won’t ultimately

survive. Human things, castles and fortresses and cathedrals of every sort may seem eternal. But

no. Like us humans, like the seasons, they, too will have an end.”

Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” This is the course of history, the way of this world. Things will be

bad, and things will be very bad. But not everything is a portent of The End. Because, in effect,

we’re surrounded by a world that is ending. All things end; and endings just are.

What Jesus preached in the midst of endings was that endings pointed toward new beginnings.

His followers will make a new community — one that embodies peace, justice, and

righteousness; that gives itself to hope, faith, and love. It is a people gathered in sharing and

sabbath, in generosity and gratitude. That community will insist that new life comes of every

death, that resurrection is a practice and not a miracle. In the midst of the world’s decay, the

Kingdom is coming — not with a bang but with a whisper.

People who live in such a way — especially in a world whirling with wars and rumors of war,

awash in conspiracies and insurrections — aren’t always loved by those whose power thrives on

fear. Indeed, the powerful would keep us on an emotional razor’s edge of Armageddon all the

time. Jesus insists, however, that his friends not get distracted. Pay attention to what is true.

Know what signs are really important. This age is, indeed, ending, and God’s reign is near. But

don’t be surprised. Stay the course. Tell your story. Honor God’s name.

Jesus reminds his hearers: “By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

The call for patient perseverance in the face of apocalypse is echoed by the reading in 2

Thessalonians: “For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing

any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work

quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”

In other words, the most basic instruction of Kingdom-living is don’t panic. Keep going. Do the

work. Live well here and now. Do not be weary in doing what is right.

And for goodness sakes, don’t rubberneck apocalypse. That only slows the journey down.

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