The growing crescendo of writings in the most influential American magazines on the religious dimensions of the new millennium is producing at least two major themes.
Such leading journals as Newsweek (Nov. 1), U.S.News & World Report (Oct. 25) and Christianity Today (Oct. 25), focus on how believers can find hope and renewal for the coming years through seeing the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament not as exact predictions about coming catastrophe but as sources for reaffirmations of faith in the coming kingdom of God. Rather than succumb to the popular school of scriptural interpretation which sees the imminent return of Christ bodily to Earth to destroy evil, writers in the cited journals call on readers to overcome the fatalism in believing that the ancient prophets understood precisely what will happen as the new century dawns.
For instance, the Humanist magazine (November/December) says that such apocalyptic thinking leads to passivism about major social and economic problems. Most of these publications say that the new century should be a time of renewed optimism in the power of God through human agencies to turn back the gloom peddlers. In the Reader’s Digest (December), historian Paul Johnson writes that empowerment is found in reaffirming the message of Jesus who taught gentleness, meekness, and love. “Whatever fresh evils arise in our midst, Christ’s message contains the means to overcome them.”
The same theme of renewed idealism shows up among those writers who call on Americans and world citizens to recognize, among other things, that unless they use the power of science, technology, and political resolve, the environment and all living things dwelling there may face major damage, even destruction. Audubon Magazine (Nov./December) reports that entire species are disappearing, global warming continues unabated, and wilderness areas may soon disappear forever from the American scene.
The society that produced the splitting of the atom, the cracking of the genetic code, and the creation of cyberspace reality can continue to restore the use of the environment to a balanced equilibrium among its many users. Such idealistic commitment can be achieved, according to several articles. William Schweiker in the Christian Century (Nov. 3) calls for a “humane and yet religious sensibility, a vibrant and realistic Christian faith . . .” directed at restoring trust in God’s power and care for “this fragile earth.”
Orlando Patterson writing in the New Republic (Nov. 8) finds reason to believe humankind can boldly affirm noble ends “befitting a great world polity”, and rekindle faith in “a vibrant democracy” to overcome political inertia and cynicism.
— By RW contributing editor Erling Jorstad