Sunday, January 03, 2021

Saying Goodbye to 2020 (and my Career as a Prophet)

Last year around this time I decided to test whether I have the gift of prophecy, so instead of making the usual New Year’s resolutions, I reeled off a number of what I thought were really obvious predictions for the then-upcoming year, the vast majority of which have been (or will shortly be) proven correct.

As I write these words, my prophetic pitch with respect to the U.S. election is still hanging in the air over the plate, and January looks to be a very interesting month. As to my other four predictions, in all honesty I can hardly claim much prophetic acumen: it turns out I was shooting fish in a barrel.

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

There was indeed no successful presidential impeachment, and sure enough, the Democrat base became far more radicalized than even I could have imagined on the most wildly-imaginative day of my life. The loons started trashing and burning everything in sight. The Dem primary was a clown show, their candidate a prop, and the radicalization of the electorate, including Christians, continued apace, resulting in 30+ deaths to date in those “mostly peaceful” riots. Donald Trump may still be the next U.S. president despite the media’s desperation to call the election before the fat lady sings, and even if he isn’t, at least 49% of the U.S. electorate believes Biden’s win was a cheat, including many Democrats. So, despite the year being officially over, I maintain we can’t really refer to that particular predictive screwball as a whiff until the batter is finally out of the box and stomping off to the dugout in shame. Score #1 for me, and you can have it back later in the month if Stephen Colbert finally gets his fondest wish.

As to my prediction of an increase in identity politics, in 2020 #BlackLivesMatter raked in something like $10.6 billion in guilt money from a groveling corporate America in the wake of George Floyd’s death — roughly the same number earned by Amazon in this, its record year — after which the local BLM chapters promptly started fighting publicly with its founders about where all their ill-gotten loot has suddenly disappeared to. That one goes in my win column as well, and no argument to be had.

As for my prediction that 2020 would see more high profile virtue-signaling from evangellyfish, John Piper joined the queue to slam his “toxic” president, Beth Moore trended on Twitter after tweeting that “Trumpism” is “seductive and dangerous”, evangelical author and professor Karen Swallow Prior said she was ashamed to have voted for GOP candidates who backed lawsuits challenging the election results, and David French called Christian Trump voters idolaters. That one is also no contest.

My fourth prediction was that we would see more online censorship in 2020. Then CEO Jack Dorsey told a series of boldfaced lies to the Senate Commerce Committee about Twitter’s massively ramped-up campaign to silence conservative opinions, while Facebook’s brazen suppression of a Washington Post story (of all things) is alleged to have stemmed the spread of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal by millions of readers. Moreover, notwithstanding President Trump’s executive order in May, YouTube deleted thousands of videos claiming the U.S. election was fraudulent “in the interests of truth”, while leaving up videos that claim Donald Trump is a Russian agent. Again, I’ll take that as a predictive win, and confirm that online censorship is going to get much worse before it gets better.

Finally, I don’t know how much money Kanye West made in 2020 as opposed to other years, though Forbes documented his net worth last year at over a billion, but even I didn’t expect him to announce a presidential run. What all that says about his reputation I can’t tell you, but his website still prominently displays the messages that “Jesus loves everyone” and “God is love”, so at least he has not pulled a Bob Dylan and publicly renounced his newfound faith yet. This was admittedly my most nebulous predication of the five, but it also (arguably) belongs in the win column.

That makes my predictive record a somewhat-conditional 5-0, but as I say, none of these trends are particularly shocking to anyone paying attention.

Calling It a Day

That said, my prophetic career is officially over. I am calling it a day, I am vacating my prophetic corner office, and I hereby officially hang my head in shame ... not because any of my predictions for 2020 were the least bit dubious, but because all of them pale into relative insignificance next to what I completely missed. The year’s biggest story blew right by me. No true prophet in the Old Testament tradition could possibly have failed to register the seismic cultural impact of COVID-19, amIrite?

But way more far-reaching and devastating than the pandemic itself are its long-term economic effects. Who could’ve imagined that? Because we have no idea how much longer lockdowns, masking and work-from-home can drag on, there is no possible way to estimate the damage from our collective response, which I expect will be gargantuan beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. That’s not a prophecy ... it’s just common sense.

Sad Sentiments Masquerading as Bravado

One of the saddest sentiments I am currently seeing in the media is the notion that as we “turn the page on 2020” (and where 2020 is concerned, we are probably better to turn the earth than turn the page), there is any reason at all to hope for sudden improvements in 2021. Edward Jones has the temerity to predict a bull market. The Heising-Simons Foundation is excited that the year ahead may mean the world will start to deal seriously with climate change. American Century hopes the efficacy of vaccines will enable the markets and economy to continue to recover in 2021, while 3BL Media is encouraged by Joe Biden’s “diverse” cabinet picks. Such bravado is without any basis in reality. The world mocks Christian faith, then promptly puts its own faith in the least dependable objects that can possibly be conceived.

Really? That’s what you’ve got?

No, the lesson of 2020 is not that mankind can do anything it wants if we all pull together. Far from it. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s that scripture was right all along. If 2020 taught us anything at all, it is that we are foolish to even hazard a guess about what might be coming next. As the psalmist put it, “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.”

I am reminded of the Lord’s story about the man who built his house on sand. When we plan and hope for the future without ever asking ourselves whether God has an opinion about what we are doing, that is exactly what we are building on. There is nothing more granular and less cohesive than a bunch of diverse human beings coming together as one to make the world a better place. Good luck with that in 2021.

Sand Castles

What am I saying? Human-based hopes for 2021 are a sand castle, and the tide is coming in hard. My question to serious Christians going into the New Year is this: If I could tell you with certainty that lockdowns of church buildings will continue through 2021 and government micromanagement of church life is the new normal, would your church do anything differently tomorrow?

We have clearly established I’m no prophet, so I can’t tell you that, but common sense and the witness of our eyeballs should at least suggest it’s a very solid possibility. Maybe we should be thinking about it. Our current absolute passivity on this issue is not what I consider a good look. I wonder what the Lord thinks?

In any case, Christians are not waiting for a revived economy, triumph over the climate, a new president with a gloriously diverse cabinet, a magical vaccine, or a Great Reset of any sort. We have, I trust, turned from such idols to serve the living and true God, and are waiting for his Son from heaven, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

That’s not such a bad way to spend 2021, no matter what else is going on.

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