Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creation? Apocalypse? They're All About Me.

A recent Gallup poll reiterated what is a reasonably well known phenomenon in American public thought: A significant plurality of Americans - 46% - believe that God created human beings in their current form.   It's a stat that's been hovering at around that mark for almost thirty years, or as long as the venerable polling company has been maintaining that data.  

It does represent something of a bump from the 2011 data, in which forty percent were creationist, thirty eight percent embraced theistic evolution, and sixteen percent saw no divine engagement in the process.  Both threads in the evolution-support camp have waned in the last year, which is probably interpreted as a good sign for the GOP in the upcoming election.

I don't say that to be snarky or partisan, either.  The sub-data indicates that self-identified Republicans are more likely to be creationist...some 58 percent of them.

Gallup interprets these results as being fundamentally static culturally.  But it remains a to-me-amazing reality that a near-majority of Americans view humankind in a way that is, as Gallup dryly puts it " odds with the preponderance of the scientific literature."  Which is a nice way of saying: they are completely oblivious to the reality of creation.

And yet, as I reflected on that this morning, I found it reminded me of another common phenomenon amongst human beings:  the assumption that we live in the "end-times."   A surprisingly large number of Jesus-folk work under the assumption that the end of all things is just about to come to pass.  The Rapture is just minutes away, coming real soon.   We're in that time just before the end, and we need to prepare, 'cause the signs are clear that Jesus is returning.  In recent polling, for instance, nearly 44% of Americans attribute natural disasters to the coming of the end times.  This number seems remarkably close to the 46% who are creationist.

Why this belief?

Folks assume this for the same reason they've always assumed this.  We generally exist in the small, tangible world of our day-to-day existence.  We see little beyond it.  We're too busy.  So if it's in the Bible, it must pertain to me.  And as my life is at the center of my universe, and all of existence came into being for this time in which I live, clearly, the end must be about to happen.

And therein may lie a commonality between how we view the end and the beginning.  We cannot imagine a beginning that is so radically different from our now.  We cannot imagine an end that goes so far past the end of our little flicker of days.

And we particularly do not want to imagine that this great, glorious span of created time and space does not have us at the apex.  How could it possibly continue"leave us behind?"

So to speak.