A CLOUDY CRYSTAL BALL
A BLOG by Pastor Ken Rickett
One of the images that I recall from a movie (whose title I have long forgotten) is a person who went to a seer who would look into her big crystal ball and “see” the future for this client. Unfortunately, the crystal ball became cloudy. . .and murky. . . and impossible to read the future. And if you are wondering what 2023 and beyond will bring to our lives, I can tell you that the crystal ball seems so cloudy. . .and murky!
Well, we all know that seeing into the future has always been sort of cloudy and murky, but nowadays, perhaps the future seems more cloudier and murkier. This is not to imply pessimism and despair, but that the future a’rushin’ at us has not yet developed a focus. I beg to differ. The emerging future IS taking a very clear focus.
First, the social media world and its constant flood of new gadgets with new features, growing access (legally or not) to the privacy of both people and corporations, and the vast freedoms to express thoughts without regard for facts, and likelihood of even greater inventions ahead is a very definite focus for 2023 and beyond. The question is whether the wise and sensible use of social media can hold up to its still-glowing promise of bringing a “better life” to all of us. As one who knows firsthand the effort it takes to deal with personal data in the hands of the wrong people, the good of the electronic world is in the best interests of all of us and that has indeed become a needed focus.
Second, the decades-long warnings of climate change has exposed us to those who, on the one hand, do not see these dangers emerging, and those who not only see the climate shifts, but have become fearful of what could happen if the climate continues to shift toward global warming, While I am tempted to say that each person is free to evaluate for themselves, I feel COMPELLED to say that this issue is one in which we cannot afford to be wrong. The emerging future HAS a very clear focus on a warming globe, and it matters not whether “our side” in this issue is correct, but whether our God-created world is an inhabitable place for “all creatures great and small” for generations to come. Surely this, despite varying viewpoints, will demand a clearer and sharper focus for 2023 and beyond.
Make no mistake about it, present trends have other definite implications for 2023 and beyond, and I will mention a few of them. One is population shifts that are already occurring. In 2022 the birth rate in the United States fell to a low of 1.64 children per family, lower than China. Granted, it will probably vary quite a bit but if one looks at generations in our nation, just 12 years from now, those aged 65 and older will outnumber those aged 18 and under. Since the baby boom generation of 1945-1965, no generation since then has reached anywhere near the magnitude of the size of this one generation….and the present-day generation with very young children looks to become the smallest generation of all. Frankly, the implications are immense for future health care, economic well-being, supporting a viable infrastructure (including education as well as highways, etc.), providing services (particularly mental and emotional), and a myriad of other issues as population falls gradually and as the government continues to be paralyzed in its attention to these trends.
Another event that has been decades in the making is the decline of religious attendance and institutions. How did the Church Universal, let alone other religions, get into this obvious decline? As a retired minister I have a few insights. One, the Church in America adopted the corporate model for organization in the pre-1950 years and enshrined that model in congregational governing documents, leading to the natural and predictable demand that things be done “through proper channels,” allowing the Church to become labeled as “organized church.” That image has been costly as the Church has been and is ineffective in its development of a more positive public image. Two, I recall the days when the Church had a viable public voice when condemning environmental pollution or racial injustice or a tragic and senseless act of violence and tragedy, but no more. In the 1960s the first significant loss of membership and attendance came from the activists who became weary of the negativism from some elements of the Church and the general public. Thus, the Church became silent in such matters and other voices in the Church are heard today that further harms the image of the Church.
Yes, there are very clear indications of what lies ahead in 2023 and beyond. I don’t know of an era that was more “on the cusp of change” than the years of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus spent a lifetime laying the foundation for a deeper and more profound understanding of the Nature and Being of God whom He called, “Father”. Prior to the time of Jesus, the general idea of the children of Israel was that the goal of life was to strive to become holy, but Jesus taught that the Father in Heaven wanted his people to love one another. Jesus taught that we would never be alone, that the Holy Spirit would be our Counselor and Guide, a companion throughout all our days. Jesus taught that He would be with us always…
…and 2023 and beyond will be met with faith, prayer, and acts of love! And the crystal ball is not cloudy or murky, for the future still belongs to God.