When you hear the word “apocalypse,” you might think of the phrase “the end of the world.” Armageddon. The return of Jesus. Judgment Day.
But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
“Apocalypse” means an “unveiling.” It means revealing something that has been hidden. Think of the Wizard of Oz – not the big, scary projection on the wall that Dorothy and her friends saw, but the man behind the curtain, who stayed hidden until Toto pulled back that curtain. Once the Wizard of Oz was revealed, the truth was known, and everything changed.
That’s what I mean when I say 2020 was an apocalyptic year. The curtain was pulled back, in so many ways. Now we can see what is really going on, what is really important to us, and what we really believe, if we choose to look at ourselves carefully and honestly.
Let me summarize three topics from the past year. Our responses to these topics are particularly revealing.
- The Pandemic
Is covid-19 a serious disease, or is it just a bad flu? Do you believe the numbers of deaths and infections, or not? Should we wear masks around others, or not? Should we be allowed to gather in large groups, or not? Are politicians trying to take away our rights, or are they working in the best interest of everyone? Should churches be treated differently than other organizations where people gather? Are you planning to get vaccinated or not? What should be done about the financial hardship facing so many people?
Each of these questions is revealing in its own way. Each of us responds to these questions differently. What has become clear in the past year is not so much that there is a pandemic in the world (certainly there is!), but that you and I have motivations, beliefs, perspectives, and desires which may be vastly different.
- The Election
Was November’s presidential election fair? Was there massive voter fraud in several key states? Do you trust our nation’s electoral process? Who do you believe won the election? Who, if anyone, do you believe is trying to steal the election? How do you feel about or make sense of President Trump’s continued efforts to stay in office? What do you hope will happen between now and January 20? What do you hope will happen after that?
These are revealing questions, too. Our responses to these questions say more about our motivations, beliefs, perspectives, and desires than they say about the election itself. This entire election season has been apocalyptic – revealing – about what motivates us, our neighbors, and our elected officials.
- The Racial Unrest
Why did George Floyd die? Why did Breonna Taylor die? Why did Ahmaud Arbery die? Is there corruption among police officers? Do Black Lives Matter? Should NFL players be allowed to kneel during the national anthem? How do you respond to this summer’s marches, protests, and riots? What books have you read about racism in America? Does our country have an ongoing problem with racial injustice?
Like the previous questions, these are revealing as well. How we respond to them (and even which questions we think to ask) says a lot about what is important to us. Once again, what has become clear in 2020 is not so much that there is racial unrest in our country, but that our perceptions of reality significantly influence how we engage with this issue.
2020 was an apocalyptic year. So much has been revealed about what we believe, what we value, what we hold most dear. The curtain has been pulled back.
Let me make an analogy to that climactic scene of the Wizard of Oz, where Toto pulls back the curtain, and Dorothy and her friends discover who the Wizard of Oz really is. In this analogy, you and I are NOT Dorothy and her friends. You and I are the Wizard of Oz. We might portray a bold, confident, perhaps frightening image for other people to see. But the pandemic, the election, the racial unrest – important parts of 2020 (Toto in this analogy) – have pulled back the curtain to reveal who we really are.
Our choice now involves how we decide to move forward. Are we willing to acknowledge the reality of the situation, admit what we really believe, and let go of whatever false images of power and confidence we have portrayed to others? Are we willing to acknowledge our shortcomings and listen humbly to the needs of others? Are we willing to use our abilities, resources, and voices to help others whom we encounter?
That’s what the Wizard of Oz did. And that’s what made him wise.