What if it were possible for us to travel back in time some hundred or so years? What if we could do that, and upon meeting our not so distant ancestors, we said to them, “We are here to reveal the future!
“In the coming century you will enjoy incredible technological advancement: Personal computers, mobile phones, and air conditioning. Everyone will have gasoline powered automobiles. Commercial airlines will carry people all over the world. There will be automated machines that will wash and dry your clothes.
“Antibiotics will be given in mass doses and cures will be developed for many of the diseases you now fear. Life expectancy will grow to almost eight decades. Video communication devises will allow you to have conversations with people thousands of miles away with only the invisible air ways – no wires required.
“We will split atoms and hold the power of the sun in the palm of our hand. A rocket ship will take people to the moon. Food will be readily available. Travel will be easy. Machines will sit on sidewalks that seamlessly allow you to access money from the bank.” On and on we could go and they might believe that Utopia was well on its way.
Of course we would have to give them the bad news: “These same technologies will bring the ability to produce mustard gas, anthrax, and nuclear weapons. We will destroy whole cities with the drop of a single bomb. Modern automation will enable the genocide of millions.
“People will live with the constant threat of biological, technological, and nuclear holocaust, at the hands of the world’s governments, as well as from the ideology of radicalized individuals. Hundreds of millions will starve to death because of economic oppression and the permanent mal-distribution of the available food in the world.
“One hundred million will die in the great famines of the century. Twenty-five million will be killed by motor vehicles. War will kill another 150 million, and government repression about 100 million more.
And the damage to God’s good earth? It will be cataclysmic and incalculable: Atomic fallout, contaminated drinking water, the eradication of wilderness, the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico.” Our forbearers might decide that we can keep our future technologies and the dangers that accompany them.
Philosopher Ray Kurzweil believes we humans have “about even chances” of surviving ourselves and the technologies we create and depend upon. But Kurzweil quickly adds the caveat that he has “always been accused of being an optimist.”
In the practice of my faith, I am an optimist. The biblical word is “hope.” I believe that God is re-creating the world. I believe that God longs to replace human arrogance, once again with human stewardship. I believe that the path of the current world, even with all its failures, still leads to the lost city of Zion, as what was once perfect, but is now fallen, will be made perfect again.
And I believe that hope compels us to put on our work gloves. God has called people of faith to participate in his re-creation of the world. We throw ourselves into the fray of this fractured world, because we must, because we care, and because we believe God isn’t finished with this world yet – not by a long shot. He is making it new, making everything right, but he has chosen to do this through people.
This then, is our hope: That the end of humanity is not extinction, but redemption; that we can learn from the past and are not doomed to repeat it; that we can live up to a divine-ordered stewardship, and not human-generated egotism and greed; that we will come to understand that technological ability, does not always equal moral and ethical sanction.
My grandmother lived to see much of the technological advancement and destruction of the last century. She had a saying that would counsel well we who live in the twenty-first century. She would often say to me, “Just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should.” Amen.