Antediluvian: adj. of or belonging to the time before the Flood.
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus had these words of warning: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate and drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
Since early 2020, I have felt like we were living in the time before the Flood, in an antediluvian age. Most of us at first were not cognizant of conditions. A pandemic was about to hit. We ate and drank unawares of the storm looming. Some of it was denial: Who could imagine the catastrophe? Then there were the people in power who, wanting to stay in power, played down the catastrophe. It was a “hoax.” It would soon be over. It’s not worse than the common flu. We must not rattle the stock market. False cures were hawked.
Then the pandemic came, wave after wave. Safeguards like masks and vaccines were politicized, so they became an indicator of one’s political alliances in a time of dangerous political division. More than 600,000 people were on their way to dying.
In the Gospels, Jesus saw the crowds, “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd” and had “compassion” on them. He still does. Pastors of many flocks led their people astray: “God would protect.” They continued to worship together through the shutdown, ignoring safety guidelines. Some in defiance of local safety restrictions sued local governments to stay open. Pastors said to their flocks that the vaccines were not effective. Some said they must stand firm against the government that was taking away their freedom, ignoring Paul who said, “For freedom Christ has set us free,” but who then added the warning, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Where has neighbor-love gone? The social compact by which we and all nations live in order to survive and thrive is breaking down.
In her latest mystery novel, The Madness of Crowds, Louise Penny has a character that says of the delusion and madness of crowds, “It’s when gullibility and fear meet greed and power.”
Good people live in information bubbles that keep them from the facts and the truth of these days. Richard Hofstadter wrote a famous essay in 1964, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It has come roaring back these last few years. Conspiracy theories have spread as fast as the COVID virus, and many have been taken in. We are living in the times before the Flood.
“And what about the coming deluge of climate change and global warning? Another flood on the way.”
And what about the coming deluge of climate change and global warming? Another flood on the way. There are Noahs out there, climate scientists and some political leaders who are trying to warn us of what is coming, and courageous young Noahs like Greta Thunberg who with her autistic laser focus is staring down governments.
How are we to live as Christians in such an age, as we see so many “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd”?
First, have compassion for them with Jesus’ own compassion. Pray for the unvaccinated. Pray for your political opponents. Begin crossing the political divides where you live. Small steps.
And this: Make your church an ark of compassion and of truth seeking and telling.
And then this: Sail toward the rainbow. When the Flood subsided and the rains stopped, God sent a rainbow as a sign. It was a sign of the promise of God’s forever goodness. And it was a sign of how we now should live. God took down the warrior’s bow in the heavens and re-strung it with the all the colors of the rainbow.
God was unilaterally disarming. Now so must we. We are to go into the world as nonviolent agents of God’s good, “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” So, we, disembarking from the ark, disarm our minds and hearts, our words and tactics. Only love will do.
Stephen Shoemaker serves as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C. He served previously as pastor of Myers Park Baptist in Charlotte, N.C.; Broadway Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas, and Crescent Hill Baptist in Louisville, Ky.
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