The World is Getting Better

The World is Getting Better January 23, 2015

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By David Moore

Running The Burner as I have for the past five years, I’ve been keeping up with trends in politics, society, and the church world from my ivory tower. I’ve encountered a lot of hand-wringing, bemoaning, and Chicken Little-isms in the process.

However, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion. I’ve come to the realization that the world is getting better—albeit slowly, and not for everyone. Yet.

The past 12 months are a tough proof against my point. One can point to the violence perpetrated in 2014: terrorism both intentionally insidious and thoughtlessly insidious; abuse scandals; political machinations; economic injustices et al. Our conversations are full of fear of police brutality, gang brutality, governmental brutality, environmental brutality. Our lives are spent making our nations safer, our houses safer, our families safer, and our religion safer.

When you’re running on the hamster wheel, it’s hard to judge how far you’ve run. So let’s take a look at where we are.

Let’s take war:

http://youtu.be/NbuUW9i-mHs

I’ve long had a personal theory that someday we’ll elect our leaders based on their jabs, hooks and uppercuts so that wars would be settled in the boxing ring. It could even be televised! We’re a long way from that, but as the Kurzgesagt video above demonstrates, wartime deaths have plummeted the longer we’ve been on this planet. While atrocities are by no means—by no means!—eliminated, a reduction in this kind of violence is better than an increase.

Plus one for a better world.

Let’s take disease:

Measles has been in the news thanks to an outbreak among those who visited Disneyland in December (http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/21/health/disneyland-measles/). It seems 51 of the 59 people in this outbreak visited Disneyland. Between 1956-1960, measles resulted in one death of every 1000 reported cases, and 90% of the population was infected with the virus by age 15. We’ve beaten measles.

Or we could take the terrible—truly, truly horrifying—Ebola outbreak that has killed almost a third (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28755033) of the reported 22,000 cases in West Africa. The suffering by African neighbors is almost unimaginable and captured our media attention (for awhile). By contrast, consider the estimated 75-200 million deaths caused by the Black plague in the 1300s.

Before, people were dying of something other than old age. Now, less people are dying of something other than old age.

Plus two for a better world.

Let’s examine the oppressed—in America, specifically.

Women, as a whole, experience more oppression and violence (http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures) than men do. For centuries in our Western society, this has been a tragic fact of life that women have had to suffer in silence. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse is no longer tolerated in our society. Outrage stemming from athletic and entertainment heroes’ alleged treatment of women has caused a societal decision that this kind of treatment will no longer be allowed in our Western society. Likewise, all across America last summer were protests by people of all races with signs proclaiming #BlackLivesMatter( https://twitter.com/hashtag/blacklivesmatter). The reason they protest is because not everyone agrees—but far more people do than fifty years ago.

Plus three for a better world.

Jim Forest, Flickr Commons
Jim Forest, Flickr Commons

This is progress. This is what hope being realized looks like. I believe this is what the yeast of Matthew 13:33 looks like as it “permeates every part of the dough.” The Church should be celebrating and championing these kinds of successes.

To be sure, we still have problems, but they are “better” problems. The family of those tragically lost to disease or oppression or violence may not look upon the loss of their loved ones as progress, and I don’t expect them to. However, we in our ivory towers, beautiful sanctuaries and gated communities most certainly can—as long as we are then inspired to join the resistance against violence, oppression and disease.

In RELEVANT magazine, Cole Nesmith puts it like this:

The Church has a choice. We can either be the voice believing things will get worse; or we can be the voice believing things are getting better and we can summon our communities to lead them that way. Because even if physical poverty and hunger is eradicated, the spirit of humanity is still looking for spiritual satisfaction. If we see the end of war, we still need inner peace. If human slavery comes to an end, there is still a great need for freedom from the bondage of spiritual oppression.

(http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/yes-world-getting-better#jQt6BrW08ZU6HHDO.99)

It’s not that there’s no work left to be done—there is a tremendous amount to be done! Just because it’s may not be happening to us doesn’t mean we don’t need to do something about it.

The resistance is not over; people will still be killed by terrorists, and innocent children will still die of preventable diseases. Yet we will be on the winning side. We can help to reduce violence and oppression. The reduction is already happening; there’s just still more to go.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus says. But he also says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Some of us as a human population have accomplished a lot with little participation.

Think of how much we can accomplish, with God’s help, if everyone participates.

Here’s a bunch of other ways the world is getting better: http://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7272929/charts-thankful


David Moore is Continuing Education Manager for the Lowell W. Berry Institute for Continuing Education in Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He received his MA in Theology and the Arts from Fuller in 2009. Prior to coming to Fuller, David worked in development and alumni relations for the Texas Tech Wesley Foundation after graduating with a BA in Advertising from Texas Tech University. David lives in Pasadena with his wife, Leah Beth, and two sons, Joel and Silas.

 


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