The other day I saw a friend post on Facebook that the Boston Marathon bombing was a “government conspiracy.” Confused by (a) how that could have been a conspiracy and (b) why anyone would post something like that, I checked out his Facebook profile. Not surprisingly, everything is a conspiracy to this guy. Burger King and KFC are conspiracies. Television is a conspiracy. Gum is a conspiracy.
So when my buddy Brandon said he was writing a book on the “End Times,” I was a little wary. After all, the “Left Behind” video game and the end-of-the-world blitz of 2012 was probably enough apocalyptic zaniness for a few decades.
As it turns out, this was just Brandon’s point in his new book “And Then The End Will Come.” Brandon talks about how we sometimes get so obsessed with the “ends” that we forget to live in the “means” as Christians. We get so pumped about End Times minutia that we forget to live as students of Jesus in the here-and-now.
I asked Brandon if I could share about his new book and ask him a few questions about it. After reading the interview below, I hope you’ll be as psyched as I was to check the book out. You can get the book on Amazon in a variety of formats (paper, hardback, Kindle, etc) and stay in touch at Brandon’s blog.
Here’s the full interview.
The book opens with talking about our culture’s obsession with the “end times.” Did you ever have a weird Christian phase where you got sucked into end-times conspiracy theories yourself?
I love conspiracy theories! And yes, I was neck deep in “End Times” conspiracies for about a decade of my life. I never missed a History Channel special that discussed Armageddon, Nostradamus, or the identity of the Anti-Christ! I’m not so sure that I was wrapped up in it for it’s religious appeal, as much as I was just curious about anything esoteric. And that is where my book begins- and where I thought a great diving in point would be- with our natural tendency toward curiosity about the unknown. We are all curious at some level. We have a desire and hunger to “want to know.” And that makes this book incredibly relatable to everyone.
Yeah, that hunger seems to have its pros and cons maybe? On one hand, it drives us toward the mysteries of God, and on the other, it drives us toward wanting to know Snookie’s baby’s middle name. How do you find the balance, or the right channels for that curiosity?
That is exactly the point I am driving at in the book. Engrained in each of us is a deep, innate sense of “wanting to know,” of longing for something more. And you are right, this can be directed in healthy, life-giving ways or in ways that are shallow and less-than-life-giving. But you really get a sense from Jesus and his parables that a life defined by curiosity is a really good thing. In regards to finding “life” Jesus uses terms like asking, seeking, and knocking. He also uses parables about searching for treasure in a field and looking for a prized piece of jewelry in a jewelry store. So Jesus is all about the path of curiosity in pursuit of something greater, in this case the Kingdom of God or that which gives eternal life. The interesting thing is that even when his disciples’ curiosity of the “End Times” was directed the wrong way, toward “when is this going to happen” and “how is this going to go down,” Jesus didn’t punish their curiosity. Instead, he lovingly and patiently re-framed and reoriented them toward who they (and we) should be right now in anticipation of what is to come. It is a beautiful thing. Hopefully I have done the same thing within my book.
Was there a specific moment that caused you to say, “I need to write this book…”? What was the importance for you- at this time- to write “And Then the End Will Come”?
Not to be too freaky, but I had a very bizarre dream about a year ago. It really affected me after I woke up because I never dream, and it was so real and vivid and spooky. Because of the political nature of the dream I didn’t tell anyone about it. I was afraid people would try to use it for their own political agenda. And being that I am so apolitical, I just couldn’t stand the thought of that happening. As a result, I just let it go. But about six months ago it came back to me again. And man, it just sat on me like an elephant. The burden of it would not leave me alone. So I reached out to an amazingly Spirit-led person who I really trust and respect, and who also interprets dreams, and gave her the low down and all the specifics. After a couple of weeks she wrote back to me. Her interpretation of my dream was completely opposite of what I expected… but it really pushed me in the direction I took with this book. Sorry to be so general and vague about the dream. I am not sure if it is the right time to share it.
Wow….I had no idea. So this isn’t the first time that you’ve sensed God speaking to you in a big way. You shared a little about your “Nehemiah” story in your first book “Unearthed.” Not to get too off topic, but…I’m a big believer in hearing directly from God. I think that’s the idea behind of the Holy Spirit. Care to share any wisdom you’ve learned about how to process those times when you feel God speaking to you directly?
I am very reluctant to ascribe every single thing that happens in my life to “God speaking to me.” That has been abused and mishandled in too many instances and has caused quite a bit of damage for Church and for Christianity, in general. I do believe, however, that God speaks in a variety of ways to a variety of people, if we are willing to listen. In my life, more times than not, I know God is speaking to me when it is completely opposite from what I want to do myself. And specific to the conversation we are having about my book and the “End Times,” the last thing I wanted to do was write a book about this topic. But in a split second I went from not having any idea for a book to write to having the entire content of this book “downloaded” into my head chapter by chapter. It is a very strange, but amazing thing.
So how has your perception of the “end times” changed in recent years? It seems like your focus on it isn’t less important, but just from a different angle?
Well that is the real irony of me writing this book- While there was a time long ago that I was really wrapped up in the stuff. I have suffered from “Armageddon fatigue” and “Rapture unreadiness” for much of the last decade or more. When I told people close to me that I was writing an “End Times” book, they were like “WHAT? YOU?” It has just not been my cup of tea. But my thinking on the subject, influenced by many of the words and parables of Jesus, is that we should all keep a watchful eye to the future, but not to the neglect of the present. This is where I believe a great synergy can take place: between those who have become increasingly cynical, negative, or skeptical about anything “End Times” and those who have become so zealous and fixated on the future that they have missed the beauty and opportunity to extend the Kingdom today.
It seems like there is sort of a shift with the younger, Millenial generation to not care about what happens in the future. Its seems that post-modern relativity and cynicism has sort of brought with it a relaxed attitude about Christ’s return. This sort of, “I don’t care what happens in the future, I know God is with me now” attitude. How can the iPod generation regain our sense of hope and mystery in the return of Christ?
There are million things to say, and a million directions we could go, specific to the topic of Millenials and the Church. But I want to focus specifically on the idea of narrative and how our lack of narrative within the Church has distanced a generation.
In my book I discuss how, in many ways, we in the Church have set our focus so much toward resolution, or the end of the story that we have neglected the middle part of the story. Or, that Jesus is good for us to “get to heaven,” but he is of really little use, or of very little consequence, for us in our daily lives.
But here we are, right now, in the middle part of the story, living and breathing and thinking and contemplating… dealing with immense conflict all around us… and we want to know about TODAY.
So a narrative narrowly telling us that we have to endure the hell around us and wait for heaven one day for things to be right, seems irrelevant and pointless to many because it neglects today.
However, if our hope for the future is tied directly to our present identity and purpose, then that becomes incredibly relevant and life-giving right now. If we have our eyes set toward how things will be one day when God restores all things, then we can actually, presently begin to participate in that kind of life right now. And it looks like loving everyone and serving our fellow man and being those who bring peace around the world and those who work for reconciliation presently in all things. And people, especially the Millennials, are hungry for something with meaning and substance and purpose and life.
That kind of narrative embraces the middle two-thirds of the book we have neglected by focusing too specifically on the end. Being able to articulate and embody this will re-engage those who have dismissed Christianity as being out of touch with present reality. Younger generations are cynical and skeptical for a good reason- there isn’t a lot of substance in our world. I believe that my book addresses this head on- Christians have to be a people of substance presently, even when the world seems to be coming apart at the hinges.
So I haven’t read the end of the book yet, but I’m guessing it ends with “The Walking Dead” right? Some sort of zombie apocalypse anyway?
I admit that I watch The Walking Dead. And while there are a great many theological discussions that could arise from The Walking Dead, I would say that my book ends quite a bit differently than that show. In fact, my last chapter is the antithesis of The Walking Dead. It’s more like The Walking Alive! It is a hope for the future that is not abandoned to death and decay, but one of resurrection, healing, and restoration. It is exquisite and beautiful. And I think people will be excited about, not just with how God is working to redeem things in the future, but how we can join and participate in that life and hope presently.