As featured in the Bluffton Packet.
If you watch the nightly news you might think that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Indeed evil might be growing in the world but, believe it or not, the world is getting better.
In the Bible, in Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43, Jesus teaches using an allegory that is typically referred to as The Parable of the Weeds. Jesus uses many parables in his teachings but, in this particular case, his confounded disciples actually ask him to explain the parable to them. In short, Jesus says there is good seed growing in the world, e.g. wheat that represents people who are intently trying to do and be good. Likewise, there is bad seed growing in the world, e.g. weeds or people pursuing evil. But one day, according to Jesus, the weeds will be pulled and then “the righteous will shine in the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Whatever your religious convictions, it is pretty easy to see how Jesus’s teaching regarding the weeds applies to us today. In an exponentially increasing technological world, people in pursuit of good or evil have at their fingertips the technical ability to enhance their actions. In other words, if you want to be bad you can be really bad. But, on the flip side if you choose to be good – your efforts can be exponentially good.
This would imply that, indeed, the powers of evil are growing in the world. In some ways things are getting worse – much worse. But it is not the case those doing good in the world are getting weaker and weaker. No! The Good News is that the amount of good in the world is growing – and growing emphatically.
Take the following facts for instance:
• Since the mid 1980’s the average life expectancy worldwide has increased on the average four years.
• Poverty, defined by the percentage of people living on less than $1.25, fell from 43 percent of the worlds population in the mid-1980’s to 23 percent today.
• The percentage of the world population with access to clean water rose from 75 percent to more than 86 percent.
• Secondary school enrollment rose from 45 percent in the mid-1980’s to nearly 70 percent today.
• The number of major armed conflicts declined from 37 percent in the mid-1980’s to 26 today.
So why are things getting better? I’d like to propose that it is because society has intrinsically adopted some of the hallmarks of religious thought, particularly those of Christianity. Think about it, the Judeo-Christian ethic has been the impetus behind the end of slavery, racism and sexism. It’s been that same ethic that has cried out against war and genocide; demanded schools where there are none; sought better care for the infant and the widow; relief for the impoverished and water for the thirsty. When an Earthquake demolishes a third world country it is the Church, or a Church inspired entity, that mobilizes to its aid – simply in the interest of loving their neighbor.
Don’t get me wrong; there are also a lot of people who wrongly mistreat others in the name of the Church. That is a fact. But I think that we can take hope because our world isn’t all doom and gloom. The efforts of those who are choosing to do good are bearing visible fruit that is perpetually making our world a better place to live. For that, I think that we can all be grateful.