THERE IS NO GREAT mystery about what "the time is fulfilled" means, I think. "The time is fulfilled" means the time is up. That is the dark side of it anyway, saving the bright side of it till later. It means that it is possible we are living in the last days. There was a time when you could laugh that kind of message off if you saw some bearded crazy parading through the city streets with it painted on a sandwich board, but you have to be crazy yourself to laugh at it in our nuclear age. What with glasnost and perestroika and what seems to be the gradual break-up of world communism, things look more hopeful than they have for a long time, but the world is still a powder keg. The missiles are still in their silos, the vast armies are still under arms. And there are other dangers potentially more dangerous now than even nuclear war. There is AIDS. There is terrorism. There are drugs and more to the point the darkness of our time that makes people seek escape in drugs. There is the slow poisoning of what we call "the environment" of all things as if with that absurdly antiseptic phrase we can conceal from ourselves that what we are really poisoning is home, is here, is us.
It is no wonder that the books and newspapers we read, the movies and TV we watch, are obsessed with the dark and demonic, are full of death and violence. It is as if the reason we wallow in them is that they help us keep our minds off the real death, the real violence. And God knows the church of Christ has its darkness and demons too. On television and in cults it is so discredited by religious crooks and phonies and vaudevillians, and in thousands of respectable pulpits it is so bland and banal and without passion, that you wonder sometimes not only if it will survive but if it even deserves to survive. As a character in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters puts it, "If Jesus came back and saw what was going on in his name, he'd never stop throwing up."
- Originally published in The Clown in the Belfry