The prophets were not fortune tellers. They were people who understood human nature and tried to tell arrogant and powerful nations that they were destroying themselves when they mistreated the weak. Apocalyptic literature is a form of poetry that emerged when a nation or culture was past saving. After prophets had failed in their attempts to get a nation to change its course, they revert to a different kind of speech. When it was too late to avoid calamity, apocalyptic poetry encouraged people to give up their false hopes in the dying forms, and to develop a new hope that would guide them through the transition.
If a prophet like Jeremiah were to speak to us today, I think he would say there apocalyptic signs all around us. The word “apocalypse” means to take the lid off something. So I think Jeremiah would say that the shooting in New Orleans on Mother’s Day was not just a self contained tragedy, it was also a revelation of our larger plight as a people.
A nation is dying when its leaders are more concerned that every citizen has a gun than that they have a decent job.
A nation is dying when it can find water on Mars before it can provide drinkable water for people in Africa.
A nation is dying when there are army recruiting stations in high schools within visual range of veterans holding cardboard signs begging for money at traffic intersections.
A nation is dying when the rich are making unprecedented profit and the poor cannot make a livable wage.
A nation is dying when people have to turn to reality shows because they have no real lives of their own.
A nation is dying when typed conversations on Face book replace face to face living in real communities.
A nation is dying when the masses flock to movies about violent action heroes but are afraid to take any real risk of their own.
A nation is dying when it spends more time spying on its own citizens than its supposed enemies.
When it is easier for a mentally ill person to obtain a gun than treatment, a nation is dying.
Apocalyptic literature was not a call to despair but to a different kind of hope. Jeremiah told the people that something old was dying and something new was being born.
It is very difficult, but we must now let go of any hope we can save ourselves within this preditorial economic system, or within this military empire. We must find our worth in humanity and our safety in communion with people all over the world. If Jeremiah were here, I think he would warn us that our money and our power will not save us from the changes to come. He would remind us that the dinosaurs died with all their weapons intact. I think he would say to us, “Let go of that which is dying and choose life.”