The (Alleged) Coming Global Storm
Recently a Christian author named Jeff Kinley released his book, As it Was in the Days of Noah. This release was timed to coincide with the release of the film Noah, apparently in an attempt to take advantage of free popular attention and discussion, and to maximize exposure and profit.
In this book Kinley claims that the world today matches the description that is given of the End Times in the Bible. The “End Times” that Kinley is referring to is the supposed period of time at the end of human history where various judgments and events are predicted to unfold.
To support his claim that we are heading towards a “Coming Global Storm” he has two main arguments. First, Kinley suggests that we are living in a time of “unrestrained immorality” that mirrors the “pandemic godlessness” seen in the Bible during the time of Noah. In particular Kinley noted a removal of God from society, a hostility towards biblical morality, the legalization of gay marriage, and the general culture shift in the United States.
Second, Kinley notes the formation of the modern nation-state of Israel. Kinley recently stated that, “Ezekiel 37:12 says that Israel’s going to be re-gathered to the holy land. There are more Jews moving in every day than there have been in 20 centuries,” he said. “All the prophecies that we talk about … none of those things can happen unless Israel is a nation again.”
Kinley is shrewd in his writing; he guides his readers to the conclusion that we are in the End Times but stops short of making direct claims. No doubt he has learned from past Christian authors who did make concrete (date/time) predictions about the End Times and were proven wrong.
Where do Christians Find Sin Worthy of Judgment?
While there are numerous issues with Kinley’s writing that deserve attention, there is one that I want to focus on in more detail; that issue is the problematic tendency for Christians to locate the sins that God is going to judge outside of the Christian community.
Kinley’s work locates the rampant sinfulness that allegedly matches up with his understanding of the End Times safely outside of the Christian community. His book is one of many examples of Christians predicting or declaring God’s judgment and implicating the sin of others.
I suspect this tendency is in no small part due to the popularity of the culture war narrative in Christian culture. The culture war narrative suggests that Christian values/Christianity/Good Christians are under attack by outside secularizing forces that seek to destroy Christianity, revel in sin and lead people away from the teachings of scripture. This narrative divides people into two opposed camps: “Good Christians” and “Evil Secularizing Forces/Compromised Christians.” This narrative naturally inclines Christians who believe in it to look for sin worthy of God’s judgment “Out There” instead of within their own community.
My Main Concern With This Tendency
I think this preference for finding sin worthy of God’s judgment outside of the Christian community is self-serving, arrogant and immature. That being said, my main issue with this tendency is that it does not track with Christian scriptures.
Many times (most of the time?) when God pronounces judgment it was the sin of God’s own people, not outsiders, that was offensive to God. In many of these instances the sin that was in question was Israel’s failure to provide justice for the poor and the marginalized or even worse, the exploitation of the marginalized and the poor by God’s followers.
The Book of Amos is an example of one of several scriptural narratives that support my concerns on this issue, so I want to loot at it in a bit more detail.
A Lesson From Amos
Amos was a prophet who suggested that God was going to judge Israel for their sins. In Amos 5:1-11, Amos makes it known that Israel should prepare itself for the a military exile coming at the hands of the Assyrians because God is judging them as a result of their perversion of justice and exploitation of the poor. Not only had they failed to provide justice for the poor and the marginalized, their justice system was corrupt and they were exploiting the poor. The only hope to avoid this judgment according to Amos was to “seek the LORD,” and to once again embody justice and righteousness as a nation.
Amos was writing to Israel during the 8th century BCE, during the concurrent reigns of Uzziah and Jereoboam II. During this time Israel was experiencing a “Golden Age,” a time of prosperous peace marked by affluence, high religious practice (with low religious understanding), confidence in its military strength (fresh from military victories no less), increasing urbanization, and an increasing divide between the poor and rich. Archeological evidence from this time period fits the literary depiction of Israel we find during this time.
Again, it should be noted that God’s judgment on Israel for its treatment of the poor was not unique to Amos. The scriptures have many other examples of the God of Israel judging Israel for failing to provide justice for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed as this was consistently a concern for the God of Israel. (See for example Ezekiel 16)
Now how easily could we transfer that description of Israel, an Israel worthy of judgment, to the contemporary United States, perhaps after the invasion of Iraq before the housing bubble burst? How many Christians, in this time of affluence and prosperity, bought larger more expensive versions of items they already had and didn’t need instead of using those resources to feed the poor? How many Christians exploited undocumented labor as they built or remodeled their debt financed houses instead of fighting for the rights of undocumented workers? How many Christians pursued the American Dream with renewed vigor while ignoring widespread injustice in our “justice system?”
Looking at the Wrong Sin in the Wrong Place
Kinley’s book points an accusatory finger to those outside of Christianity, suggesting their sin is both a sign that a “Coming Global Storm” of judgement is on the horizon and the reason that judgment is coming in the first place. However, the scriptures for the most part point us in a different direction. It appears we are looking for the wrong sins in the wrong place. If there is a coming judgment, the words of Amos and many others should encourage Christians to seek out sin in their own community, specifically as it relates to ignoring the plight of the poor and marginalized and the exploitation of these groups.
This really isn’t that radical of a statement. After all, the Bible and Jesus are largely or completely silent on the controversial issues brought up so often by Kinley and others. Sadly, this has not stopped Christians from ignoring the words of our own prophets like Amos, preferring to fixate on these contested issues, and using the controversy and fear to sell books, solidify their power in a local pulpit, or develop a political base as they run for office.