In Superman’s backstory, his father Jor-El tries to warn the leaders of the doomed planet of Krypton that disaster is imminent. They refuse to believe him and will not allow him to warn the populace. The only thing he can do before the planet explodes is save his son Kal-El by launching him on a rocket ship, which ultimately lands on Earth. Kal-El, of course, grows up to be Superman. Those who refuse to listen on Krypton perish.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic refuses to believe that Voldemort has actually returned, despite the impassioned pleas of Harry and Dumbledore. They are so horrified by the possibility that Harry and Dumbledore might be right that they choose to ignore their warnings. In fact, they hatch an elaborate smear campaign to discredit Harry’s story and eventually plot to take over Hogwarts. In the end, of course, they realize the error of their ways. But by that point, it’s too late and people suffer.
Both of these narratives capture an unfortunate reality that plays out far too often: we would rather deny dire warnings and pretend that everything is going to be okay. We see it in relationships, our health, institutions of all kinds, governments, and the environment.
In my context, I can’t help but think about the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the crossroads we find ourselves at. Our denomination is fading quicker than most are willing to admit. Many would rather hold on to fleeting signs of hope, legitimate examples of vitality, or delusions of relevance rather than face the facts and do something radically different to make changes.
Soon, there may not be much we can do to avoid the inevitable.