Is the end near?

FI-Joe-PisaniBack in the 60s when the world seemed like it was coming unhinged every other day, I walked through Greenwich Village, home of beatniks, nitwits and radicals of every size, shape and ideology, and came upon a man dressed suspiciously like Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments.

He was bearded, scruffy and somewhat wild-eyed like a modern-day biblical prophet and carried a sign that proclaimed in no uncertain terms, “The End Is Near!”

But, one naturally had to wonder, the end of what? Social Security? The semi-annual suit sale at Brooks Brothers? Free shipping at Amazon? OK, maybe not that because the birth of Amazon was still a few decades in the future since Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet.

I was a mere lad back then, born into a world when “the end” was always supposed to be just around the corner thanks to the nuclear arms race and the Cuban missile crisis that brought the planet to the brink of annihilation.

During those days, folksingers were strumming guitars and wailing about The Eve of Destruction and the street prophet was a popular figure, often parodied in New Yorker cartoons.

And even though I haven’t seen any Old Testament characters lately, at least in Midtown Manhattan, there seems to be a growing uneasiness that something is up … and that “the end” might really be near this time.

A poll conducted by Barna Group of California found that 41% of Americans, 54% of Protestants and 77% of Evangelicals think we’re living in the end times that were prophesied in the Bible. Of practicing Catholics, 45% believe the end times are upon us, along with 54% of blacks and 48% of Hispanics.

So with so many people convinced we’re on the brink of the brink, you’d think we’d all strive to make the world a better place, or at the very least, get Metro-North to run on time.

And while I don’t know much about biblical prophecy, there is one thing I’m sure of. If the end is near, I’m not ready. I’m actually nowhere near ready.

There are thousands of end times websites and blogs, advancing theories based on the weather, the “Bible code,” Mideast turmoil, and world events. Armchair prognosticators and visionaries are predicting the rise of a New World Order, the Antichrist, those fabled “days of darkness,” and the collapse of the technological society. And while visions vary, this much is certain: It will rival anything Hollywood has ever produced, including Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Parts 1 and 2.

They see omens in the increasing number of record storms, floods, blizzards, tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy.

More troubling than the catastrophes is the pervasive spread of evil. Our moral compasses are so confused that what was once bad is now considered good and people no longer seem to care about moral character. The word “morality” isn’t even in their vocabulary.

Every day you see headlines about mass shootings, child abuse, terrorist attacks, robberies, rapes, and corporate corruption. Last week, a newspaper I regularly read had some telling stories about the evil our society condones in its entertainment.

In the pursuit of wholesome family fun, a new video game lets kids blow the head off a character who resembles Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. The game is so wildly popular that it set historic records with sales in the billions.

The movie reviews also offered an insight into our evolving values. The films were all about sex addicts, drug addicts, killers, sadists, torturers, and crooks, which leads you to wonder whether this is the “new normal.”

Do they make films about good people anymore?

Perhaps it’s another sign the end is near. So please excuse me, I have to go get ready.

 

Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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