Are those focusing on the end of the world missing the point of religion? Or does apocalyptic thinking bring one closer to God? This week's clergy opine on the question: Can apocalyptic thinking strengthen spirituality?
Sheikh-Mohamed Hassan, imam, Islamic Center of Melville:
In Islam, we think of the hereafter and that we each will be questioned about our actions during our lifetime. We must be careful in our behavior now, in everything we do. We will be judged by the single word to the most heinous act. Each of us should think about this daily. All our actions should be in accordance to the goals of the creator.
If thinking of the final day makes you more likely to improve your behavior, then, yes, it is a good thing to do. But, none of us knows when that day will come. We cannot affect it, cannot change it. So, why worry about it other than to do what is right?
The Quran explains that it is God who created and sustains each one of us, and that each of us will die and be resurrected. Who is able to do such a thing besides him? We are told to be aware not to have partners with him. That means that the creator is much more powerful than we can expect to be, and we are not to know the things that God knows. We can have peace of mind that he has provided for us, that he cares for us.
Rather than the end of the world, which none of us can determine, we should be concerned with the day after the end of the world, when we all will be judged.
Deacon Chris Vigliotta, Catholic chaplain, Suffolk County Correctional Facility, Riverhead:
For me, to keep my life going in the right direction, I don't look at the end times for the world as we know it but more toward the end times to my life. I try to live my life according to the quote of Saint Francis: "Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words." That message clearly tells us to put our money where our mouth is, to lead our life continually as Christ teaches us in the Gospel where our life's actions reflect Gospel teachings. Then, I know I am on the right track, and can actually look forward to my end as a time when I will receive a just reward.
If I look at the end time as a warning and live my life in fear so I continually live the Gospel, I suppose I still might make it. But it seems to me that it requires a lot more exhausting effort than needed.
The message of the Gospel is to do good out of love, not out of fear. The end time is coming whether we are ready or not. I can't change it, so I'm not that concerned about it. I can change my life the way the Gospel calls me. That is where my concern should be. Anthony Tetro, instructor and licensed minister, Samantha's Li'l Bit of Heaven, East Northport:
Most people mistakenly associate phrasings like "apocalyptic" with the end of the world. I think that is partially because man, in his nature, is destructive. Look at what we do to the environment, and all the animals becoming extinct. I think some people romanticize it. Everyone always thinks they're going to be one of the survivors. Everyone can't be a survivor. There is this arrogance to think that everyone else will fall into the pit.
Scripture clearly teaches us that the world does not end in such an apocalyptic manner.
Our focus shouldn't be on the "end of the world." Instead, our attention should always be on the savior of the world -- Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. Yeshua forewarned us in Matthew 24: 6-8 "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come (6). Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places (7). All these are the beginning of birth pains (8)."
I don't believe that there is a great deal to be gained spiritually from focusing so strongly on "the end of the world." As a believer, this should only increase our sense of urgency that time is short and that we should be focused and committed to reaching the lost with the good news of salvation made available through Yeshua.
Everything else in this world pales in comparison to fulfilling the great commission that we have been entrusted with. Time spent contemplating "apocalyptic" scenarios are fear-centered and not beneficial to spiritual growth.