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Richard Hart

is president of Loma Linda University and Adventist Health International.

In a World of Increasing Conflict, Shall We Continue as Usual?

"Current global issues could easily coalesce into a world catastrophe," the president of Loma Linda University writes.

From my position at Loma Linda, I have the privilege of meeting people from many cultures, traveling globally, and connecting with the young people of our church at home and abroad. I also follow cultural conflicts and security issues closely as we make decisions about programs and people in many countries. These observations have led to a growing recognition that current global issues could easily coalesce into a world catastrophe. Politicians tend to polarize issues to gain voter support. Cultural differences among us, even in this country, seem to be getting more profound. While stridency seems to come from many quarters, I worry most about the “conservative” or “right-wing” movement in many countries, not just our own, that seems to think there is a way, through laws and regulations, to control human behavior and restore the “glory days” of the past.

How soon could these events become the final ones and precipitate the rescue plan from our Lord? I am not brave enough to guess at that, but it clearly weighs on my mind more than it used to. I am sure there have been other times in history when clear thinking individuals must have said “we are at the end, it can’t get any worse,” yet we are still here. But one can easily foresee today how various forces could coalesce to create global calamities. It could be a financial meltdown, emerging infections, growing antibiotic resistance, environmental disasters, renewed terrorist threats, or simply another escalating war precipitated by a perceived slight or threat. And the real danger is how our societies react to these threats.

So what do we do? Should we keep planning to build a new hospital at Loma Linda, which we are required by state regulators to have done by 2020? Should we continue training young people for careers they may never have a chance to pursue?

So what do we do? Should we keep planning to build a new hospital at Loma Linda, which we are required by state regulators to have done by 2020? Should we continue training young people for careers they may never have a chance to pursue? Should we invest in mission hospitals and training programs that may never be realized? These are not easy questions in my mind. Good development projects need to be based on 5, 10, and even 20 year plans. Can I safely predict the future that far? The answer seems clear to me that while I cannot know the future, seeking to accomplish good things, the right things, is appropriate even in the face of ultimate destruction. “Occupy till I come”, He said. Particularly in the health care business, we are touching lives daily, sharing the teaching and healing ministry of Christ Himself, even as we wait and predict His return.

While our church is not the only one focused on world events and Christ’s return, we seem to be a minority in the world, though with some unusual allies. Is there something more we should be doing to warn others? It seems even the technology we are using for sharing the good news is the same technology that is being used to share hate and terror. And because of that, the population at large is increasingly willing to accept limits on our freedom of expression. Societies are always susceptible to the dangers of “group think”, of stampeding toward a consensus, a mandate to action over some concern or behavior. We can easily be the target of this tendency because of our unusual beliefs and peculiar activities. We are warned that even our most stalwart friends will turn against us in those days, while others we don’t know will come to our aid.

We have been given some pretty clear signposts from both the Bible and Ellen White about these days. But they are always couched in unpredictability phrases. It seems the plan is to warn and prepare while avoiding predictions. But we are also given great reassurances that we have nothing to fear, except we forget. . . So I am wary but encouraged, anxious but confident, that our God is following events closely while watching and waiting. I can’t really know how my church, my community, even my family, is preparing for these events in their minds and hearts. But it seems incredibly important to me that I remain vigilant, watching and trying to interpret signs and events that tell us about the future of our world. My spirit of adventure has always made me want to be part of these last day events, but on a much deeper level, I so look forward to meeting my Savior, and my sense is that my hope may be realized.

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