Opinion—We’ve Been Through an Apocalypse

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Great Lakes, Op-ed

By David Aukerman

Editor’s note—Views expressed in the following op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Church of God Ministries, Inc., or its affiliates. We publish op-ed features to provoke thought, stimulate healthy discussion, and inspire us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. We’ve asked to hear from a diverse range of voices across the Church of God movement. This op-ed features one of these voices.

When you hear the word apocalypse you might think of the phrase “the end of the world.” Armageddon. The return of Jesus. Judgment Day. But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

“Apocalypse” means an “unveiling.” It means revealing something that has been hidden. Think of the Wizard of Oz—not the big, scary projection on the wall that Dorothy and her friends saw, but the man behind the curtain, who stayed hidden until Toto pulled back that curtain. Once the Wizard of Oz was revealed, the truth was known. Everything changed, including the self-understanding of Dorothy and her friends, as well as their path forward. On a deeper level, everything changed for the Wizard, too: he dropped his façade and soon left Oz to return home to Kansas. Pulling back the curtain was literally an apocalyptic moment for everyone involved.

That’s what I mean when I say we have been through an apocalypse. In the past year and a half, the curtain has been pulled back, in so many ways. Now we can see what is really going on, what is really important to us, and what we really believe. Now we can seek to discern a better path forward. To do so, we must choose to look at ourselves carefully and honestly.

Let’s explore three topics from the past year or so. Our responses to these topics are particularly revealing.

1. Pandemic

Is COVID-19 a serious disease, or is it just a bad flu? Do you believe the numbers of deaths and infections, or not? Have politicians been trying to take away our rights, or have they been working in the best interest of everyone? What should be done about the economic hardships facing so many people because of the pandemic? Is wearing a mask a sign of weakness or a sign of solidarity? Have you been vaccinated? Why or why not? How have you been affected personally by the pandemic?

Each of these questions is revealing in its own way. Each of us responds to these questions differently. And each of us thinks we’re right. What has become clear in the past year is that we have motivations, beliefs, perspectives, and desires which may differ greatly from those of our neighbors.

Do we have eyes to see who we truly are? Do we have ears to hear how Jesus is calling us forward?

2. Politics

Was this past November’s presidential election fair? Was there massive voter fraud in several key states? Do you trust our nation’s electoral process? Who do you believe really won the election? Who, if anyone, do you believe tried to steal the election? What do you think took place at the US Capitol on January 6? Who was responsible for the chaos and bloodshed that day? How have your political beliefs affected your family relationships and close friendships?

These are revealing questions, too. Our responses to these questions say a lot about our motivations, beliefs, perspectives, and desires. This entire election season has been apocalyptic—revealing—about what motivates us, our neighbors, and our elected officials.

Do we have eyes to see who we truly are? Do we have ears to hear how Jesus is calling us forward?

3. Racial Unrest

Why did George Floyd die? Why did Breonna Taylor die? Why did Ahmaud Arbery die? Is there corruption among police officers? Do Black Lives Matter? What do you think about protests under the BLM banner? Should sports players be allowed to kneel during the national anthem? Should they be applauded when they do? What books have you read about racism in America? Does our country have an ongoing problem with racial injustice?

Like the previous questions, these are revealing as well. How we respond to them (and even which questions we think to ask) says a lot about what is important to us. Once again, what has become clear in recent years is not so much that there is racial unrest in our country, but that our perceptions of reality significantly influence how we engage with this issue.

David Aukerman

Do we have eyes to see who we truly are? Do we have ears to hear how Jesus is calling us forward?

We have been through an apocalypse. So much has been revealed about what we believe, what we value, what we hold most dear. The curtain has been pulled back.

Remember that climactic scene in the Wizard of Oz, where Toto pulls back the curtain, and Dorothy and her friends discover who the Wizard of Oz really is? Let me suggest that, in this scene, you and I are not Dorothy and her friends. You and I are the Wizard of Oz. We might portray a bold, confident, perhaps frightening image for other people to see. We might be absolutely convinced that our self-narrative is correct and true. But the global pandemic, our nation’s politics, and recent racial unrest have played the role of Toto by pulling back the curtain to reveal who we really are.

Now we must decide how to move forward. Are we willing to acknowledge the reality of the situation, admit what we really believe, and let go of whatever false images of power and confidence we have portrayed to others? Are we willing to acknowledge our shortcomings and listen humbly to the needs of others? Are we willing to use our abilities, resources, and voices to help others whom we encounter?

That’s what the Wizard of Oz did. And that’s what made him wise.

Questions or comments? David Aukerman can be reached by email at david.aukerman@gmail.com. Rev. Dr. David Aukerman is the pastor of Mt. Haley Church of God in Midland, Michigan. He loves choral singing, baseball, wordplay puzzles, motorcycling, preaching, contemplative spirituality, his wife Tara, and Jesus, although not necessarily in that order.

Feature (top) photo of mural by Umanoide on Unsplash.

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