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The Mark

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There is a whole area of Christian study about the end times.  People spend life times reading cryptic dream passages in Revelations and Daniel and attempt to tell us how the end of everything will play out.  It gets a bit ridiculous, frankly.

For example, there are scriptures:

and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.

That has been coming true for pretty much all of history.  When paper money first appeared, it was the “mark of the beast.”  And then credit cards – and now, “Apple Pay.”  So many times in history have people thought this was happening only to find out not so much that I have given up trying.  That is the thing about predicting the end times, God has a way of telling us what is going to happen and then when He does it, it looks entirely different than what we thought it would.  If there is a consistentcy to God’s actions throughout history, that’s it – that people generally don’t recognize them without the benefit of historical perspective.

But I will admit to a spooky air about this story:

The first signs of a problem started to emerge around 2014: More young people said the felt overwhelmed and depressed. College counseling centers reported sharp increases in the number of students seeking treatment for mental health issues.

Even as studies were showing increases in symptoms of depression and in suicide among adolescents since 2010, some researchers called the concerns overblown and claimed there simply isn’t enough good data to reach that conclusion.

The idea that there’s an epidemic in anxiety or depression among youth “is simply a myth,” psychiatrist Richard Friedman wrote in The New York Times last year. Others suggested young people were simply more willing to get help when they needed it. Or perhaps counseling centers’ outreach efforts were becoming more effective.

But a new analysis of a large representative survey reinforces what I – and others – have been saying: The epidemic is all too real. In fact, the increase in mental health issues among teens and young adults is nothing short of staggering.

In a time of great prosperity, that is a truly stunning finding.  One must ask how could we find ourselves in such a mess.

The author of this piece argues that social media has created increased personal isolation and that is a likely source.  I think that is fair, but would add to it that simple information overload may have a lot to do with it as well.  News has been negative pretty much forever, and it is now inescapable.  It comes at you in a flow that is also telling you your friends are hanging at the mall (Do kids to that anymore?)

And that is why I am spooked.  I am not a fan of electronic banking in any form because it reduces my control over my money, but I am also not worried about Apple (or Samsung) Pay being the mark of the beast.  But I am worried about them gluing smartphones to our hands and thus increasing even more the flood of information, largely negative, that we are confronted with.  It makes me wonder if what God is warning us against is not hyper control of commerce (awful as that is) and more about personal interaction and information,  Like I say we tend to thnk God is saying one thing, when in reality He is saying something quite different.

But regardless of the “root causes” the mental health epidemic is real. What young people, need, frankly what all of us need, is some good news.  Well guess what – it’s the second Sunday of Lent and we are preparing ourselves to receive the best news the world has ever, or will ever receive.  And it’s Sunday, the sabbath – a day of rest.  So, today, let’s take a sabbitcal from the information flow.  Let’s go to church and focus on the Lord.  Let’s hear the good news.  Let’s prepare for the best news.

Just a few weeks until “He is risen….”


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