“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
—Matthew 24:12

For my money this is hands-down the scariest verse in the Bible. Scarier than those dire prophecies of persecution or passages about the shaking of the earth or the horsemen of the apocalypse. Scarier than the ominous predictions of lawlessness or famines or wars. Scarier than verses about the Beast with ten heads or the Antichrist or the cataclysmic collapse of civilization. Scarier than any verse about the fires of hell or everlasting doom. It’s even scarier than verses condemning  lust, greed, and anger—or those freaky threats about loving my stupid neighbor.

These things I can deal with. Well, maybe not deal with exactly, but I can at least face them with the appropriate terror or rebellion.

icemanA cold heart, on the other hand, is insidious. Like a lethal injection of potassium chloride, it trickles through the veins, slowly, imperceptibly, chilling the soul. Unnoticed, the fire dims little by little by little. Spiritual zeal leaches out of the heart’s once rich soil; the soul’s fruit shrivels; the ground dries, then crusts, then cracks. A deep silent frost sinks over the garden. The landscape goes numb.

The appetite for spiritual things fades. The Bible becomes opaque and unintelligible. Worship shrinks to a construct of empty gestures no longer worth even a minor effort. Prayer fades to afterthought. God is now only a mute, vague heaviness in the background. You discover that you don’t care anymore.

What’s more, you don’t care that you don’t care.

But the world around you blazes with passions. Rabid ideologies flare. Irrational agendas spread like wildfire, devouring dissent, incinerating all but concurrence in the fierce heat of mindless convictions. Even the granite buttresses of your self-righteous politics fail, and you watch in a kind of beatific stupor as the foundations you had believed unassailable fracture and fall. You are a dumb stone relic buried beneath the rubble of a monstrous, discredited dogma. And from somewhere in the dim caverns of memory you hear the faint prophesy of Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

With eyes downcast, you scavenge the landscape for a meager satisfaction. You appease the bright new lords with calculated ambivalence. You have nothing to offer. And so you pull in the awnings of faith, lower the flag, bolt the door, and await the prophesied doom.

A doom that is your last chance of salvation. A doom you do not welcome. A doom you’re no longer sure will ever come.



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