Will we make it to 22nd century? The West can no longer afford to think in terms of a winners/losers logic when considering the future of the humanity, according to columnist Jay Gary.
D.L. Moody, the great 19th century evangelist once said, “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, “Moody, save all you can.” Is our planet a Wrecked Vessel or a Sacred Ark?
After the deluge of End-time novels and failed year 2000 evangelism campaigns, faith has grown silent about the future of humanity.
The church is more adept at predicting the rain than building the ark. As a consequence we must cut through the prevailing despair and honestly consider 21st century alternatives.
Our planet is far from becoming one globe, despite fears about a “New World Order.” Cultural fragmentation is just as powerful now as economic globalization. In short, our planet is actually three worlds or three macro-civilizations built around three oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indic.
The Atlantic world bridges its ocean with two powers, Old World European heritage and New World America innovation. Known as the “first world” due to its developed state, the societies in this world are affluent, post-industrial and dominant with regards to technology and commerce.
The Pacific world encompasses the poles of China and Japan and circles down through Southeast Asia. People are talking about the coming “Pacific” century with its “economic tigers” and growing Asian middle class.
The Indic world stretches from Africa to India, and encompasses what historians call the “cradle of civilization.” Known as the third world, these societies are largely destitute. People on average earn less than $1,000 a year, from pre-industrial agricultural economies.
Today people are born to thrive, survive or die. It just depends on where you are born: Atlantic, Pacific or Indic. How did this tragic state of affairs develop?
In short, the past 400 years of the Modern Age gave an edge to the Atlantic world. Through the use of reason, the West was able to control nature and produce a lifestyle for the common that even kings in the past could not dream of.
Today, the Indic and Pacific world cannot use colonization and two World Wars to find themselves like the “Christian West” did. And the Atlantic world cannot insulate themselves from economic and ecological ruin.
We may live in three worlds today, but by the 22nd century we will share one destiny, either redemption or annihilation.
Another way to consider this question is to ask, what stories might our great grandchildren share about the 21st century come the year 2101?
On the whole, they will face two ways of telling the history of the 21st century — either Breakdown or Breakthrough.
The Breakthrough story, as I see it, would follow a “challenge-response” plot. It might say that in response to the challenges that surfaced in the 20th century, the citizens of the 21st century took action. After denials could not prevail over early warnings in global warming and global terrorism, the Atlantic world experienced a change of heart and realized “no man is an island.” A transition of some fifty years led to more sustainable worldview to replace the previous industrial-age “slash-and-burn” ethic. As a result of this personal and corporate responsibility, a growing middle class emerged from the Pacific world, allowing the Indic world to bottom out of its downward spiral of misery and poverty. By the 2090s, the world was united in seeing that economic growth must not be had at the expense of environmental resources or cultural heritage.
A Breakdown scenario would be the other way to tell the 21st century story — in this case, a tragic story. Rather than “challenge and response” logic, it would follow a “winners and losers” plot. In this scenario, hope is dashed that growing markets and a consumption ethic will allow the Pacific world to enter the middle class. The world’s religions fail to mitigate the “clash of civilizations.” Shortages in energy and water become acute. Environmental disasters and economic chaos destabilize many Indic world countries. In response, the Atlantic world tries to insulate itself from immigration and terrorism. By the 2090s, Europe and America have become fortress societies controlled by government and corporate interests, while billions live in second and third world misery.
The story is the 21st century is not yet written. God has put the future in your hands. Will you write the future with a Breakdown or Breakthrough plot?
In the long run, none of our descendents can emerge unscathed from a Fortress governed by “Winners and Losers” logic. Our great grandchildren will either be honored by what we do or will be shamed by what we don’t.
What will you choose? One Planet or Three Worlds? Sacred Ark or Wrecked Vessel? Your decision will shape the church’s future.
Dr. Jay Gary is president of PeakFutures.com, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.