A chilling five-minute Pentagon video warns of the breakdown – the collapse, the anarchy – by 2030 in mega-cities.
It’s a dystopian future, one that is the opposite end from a utopian future.
The film is being shown at the cutting-edge educational institution for the military. It calls for a new military doctrine to face urban chaos.
The video was obtained through the use of the Freedom of Information Act by The Intercept, a new online news organization.
The Intercept defines itself as “producing fearless, adversarial journalism” that brings about “transparency and accountability to powerful governmental and corporate institutions.”
“Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity” presents a picture of chaos, crime and conflict with the U.S. military unprepared to stand between civilization and urban disintegration.
“The urban environment will be the locus where the drivers of instability will converge,” asserts the training video. “This is the world of our future. It is one we are not prepared to affectively operate within – and it’s unavoidable.”
In 14 years, urban centers will grow by 1.4 billion people, mostly in the developing world. Sixty percent of them will be under 18 years of age.
Between now and then, the gap between the rich and poor will widen. High-rises and slums will develop alongside one another. Criminal networks will expand. Religious and ethnic conflict will be a “defining element in the social landscape.”
These mega-cities will be the “future breeding grounds, incubators and launching pads for adversaries and high-bred threats.”
If this frightening future forecast is to be believed – and is not an attempt only to increase military funding – one wonders what kind of new military doctrine will emerge.
One wonders what kind of new church doctrine will emerge. That is, how will the church engage such a society? Can applied Christianity make mega-cities more livable and less chaotic?
If Christianity is going to think constructively about such a dystopia, we need to explore more fully some current issues – issues church members rarely consider and clergy rarely discuss.
First, what will be the role of security guards at houses of faith?
After what happened in Charleston, South Carolina, is such a consideration farfetched? Do churches need trained security teams? Will members and visitors undergo airport-like screening? How theologically do church leaders balance the right to bear arms and the need to reduce gun violence?
Are churches going to be safe houses or locations high on law enforcement’s risk assessment list?
Second, will Christians increasingly retreat to separate neighborhoods? Faith-based neighborhoods have long been a social reality.
In northern Nigeria, non-Hausas lived in “sabon gari” districts – separate communities based on tribal affiliation. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have their own quarters in Cairo. In Beirut, Christians and Muslims often cluster in their own faith conclaves.
Europe has a noted history of Jews living apart in their own neighborhoods. In the U.S., refugees and immigrants reside in localities of ethnic and racial commonality.
We saw this dynamic recently in the Kansas community of Garden City, where Somalis lived in a housing complex. They were targeted by three anti-Muslim men.
Drive through the rural Midwest. See the Mennonite farmers and communities.
Third, how will future Christians process the time-honored rules of just war, a Christian approach to war that was developed with the Christianizing of the Roman Empire?
At an April 2016 conference at the Vatican, attendees called on the Catholic Church to abandon just war theory and to promote nonviolent resistance. Is that a utopian approach in a sinful world? Can the use of drones be reconciled with the gospel of peacemaking?
Fourth, how do Christian relief and development agencies pursue their mission when food is a weapon and society is in conflict?
Balancing humanitarian commitments and security isn’t new, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Senate hearings on resettlement of refugees.
EthicsDaily.com’s own research on the Biafran War (1967-1970) found that missionaries inspected relief flights to ensure that the Biafran government was not smuggling in arms with food.
South Sudan church leaders, including Baptist leader Edward Dima, seek today to address government abuse and the treatment of those in refugee camps.
Perhaps the Pentagon video is too alarmist. Even if mega-cities don’t completely collapse, Christians may well be served by considering where we are on security issues and where we might be in the future.
One would hope that the Pentagon video is wrong, that religious conflict will not be part of a “defining element in the social landscape.”
Christianity and other religions have an alternative narrative to conflict. It’s advancing the common good through collaboration.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook. Order his new book, “The Disturbances.” It is available as either a paperback or an e-book.