COMMENTARY: Bad news, good news, and better news
I have bad news. Researchers have confirmed that planet Earth is headed toward an apocalypse. Yes, I know that the Mayan calendar is in our rearview mirrors, and we have all returned to paying our credit card bills, mortgages, and car payments once again. But we have not escaped celestial disaster.
Scientists say that our sun, the star that anchors our little spot in the Milky Way, is moving in its natural life cycle toward becoming a Red Giant. The core of the star will intensify and expand on a gargantuan scale. The sun will become so large that it will suck our planet in and everything will be vaporized into oblivion.
Our only hope is to colonize other planets, or maybe to send a group of hardy human pioneers to jump on a stray asteroid as it swings by terra firma (that is of course if one of those asteroids does not cause our extinction first).
Not so fast, however! This catastrophe isn't going to happen for another seven million years. Our sun is still young, and as long as it is young, life on this planet can go on without the fear of being swallowed up in a solar doomsday. So, we should all keep paying our credit card bills, car payments, and saving for college and retirement.
But alas, maybe not, for I have bad news still. Life on this planet will likely end long before our sun reaches critical mass. Outside of the prospects that an asteroid will obliterate us, there is much more to fear. There is a chance that a super volcanic eruption could so alter our atmosphere that we will all go extinct. There is always the prospect of pandemic, massive food shortages, and the exhaustion of the earth's fresh water supply. And then there is the biggest danger for future humanity: Future humanity.
Forget about all the outside possibilities for our demise. The biggest risks are the ones we pose to ourselves. We could easily destroy one another with our own nuclear machinery. Our technology we now so love, could run amok. Some unforeseen disaster involving genetic mutation or yet to be invented scientific advancement could be our undoing.
Ray Kurzweil, of futuristic and Google fame, believes that humanity has "about even chances of making it through the next century." But then he adds the cunning caveat that he has "always been accused of being optimistic." So maybe we should quit paying our bills after all.
But there remains some good news -- the best news of all. While the survival of life on Earth appears grim from a scientific perspective (and definitely from some religious perspectives), it doesn't appear to be so from God's perspective.
The resurrection of Jesus -- that Christians celebrate this Easter weekend -- says, if it says anything at all, that God believes in life. Easter signals to the universe that humanity has a still unfolding destiny, not a predetermined dead end.
Easter is the great news that God is not planning a cosmic funeral. Easter shows that God's strategy is "for good and not for disaster, to give us a future and hope." Easter is a sign and symbol that human life will end neither with a bang nor a whimper. Easter tells us that life will go on, even when everything else seems to indicate otherwise. Easter proves that God (along with Kurzweil) is an optimist.
Admittedly, the bad news of this world is stifling. With so much violence, fear, evil, and uncertainly, one is tempted to admit that the dooms-dayers and pessimists are right. Why not don the morning garments and gloomily bid adieu to the life that was?
Yet, that was the same temptation that faced the followers of Jesus when the sun rose on that first Resurrection Sunday. Little did they know that life had not ended; not even close. Life was just getting started. No, I don't believe that God is finished with this world yet -- not by a long shot. We have a future, a bright future indeed.