Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine.

Written by: on October 9, 2023

In 1989 the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously announced the soon-coming conclusion of history in his essay titled “The End of History?”, and this idea picked-up steam with his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man.”

By the ‘end of history’, Fukuyama meant that due to the increasing ubiquity of liberal democracy and the rapid failure of other types of regimes (like Soviet communism) humankind was apparently evolving into its final form of government. Fukuyama believed that this ‘end of history’ would be a sad time for many because groups would start to lose their ideological identity that provided a driving purpose as political diversity in the world became more homogenized. However, there was a popular idea that the book suggested, if not promised, a wonderful utopian society that must not be far behind, if the end of ideological struggle was near.[1]

Case in point: In 1999 I read Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, that proposed the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Preservation” in which it was noted that “no two countries that both have a McDonalds have ever fought a war with one another.” [2] Friedman built on Fukuyama’s idea of the end of history and hypothesized how a market economy and liberal democracy were working together to bring about peace in our time.

Go, capitalism!!! (I guess)

Fast forward 30+ years and history apparently didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be over (nor evidently were countries with McDonald’s, like Russia and Ukraine, told that there was a rule against them fighting one another). Fukuyama later clarified that his statement about what he meant by the end of history was widely misunderstood. As NYT book reviewer Anand Giridharadas humorously put it, “when history continued, Fukuyama said it depends on what the meaning of the word “end” is.”[3]

Recently another of Fukuyama’s books has addressed an important cultural moment, but this time the implications are clearly more dystopian than utopian. In Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, he identifies a major flaw within the feature of liberal democracy, and it’s a flaw that—depending on the response—could speed us to the actual end of the world, as we know it.

The issue is identity politics—political movements or activity generated by or connected to certain social identities like race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and more. And this is why the world didn’t end with homogenization. To be fair, Fukuyama points out that he pointed this out in his essay (and furthermore points out that the title of his essay ended with a question mark). That question mark was there because of an obscure word: Thymos.

Thymos is the part of the human soul that craves recognition of dignity, and where The End of History? raised the issue that “contemporary liberal democracies had not fully solved the problems of thymos”[4] Identity deals with Thymos, and its iterations, much more comprehensively. Where Thymos can be a force for positive social change, and Isothymia, which is the demand for people to be respected on an equal basis with other people, can be commendable, megalothymia which is the desire to be recognized as superior, gets us into trouble.

Fukuyama writes: “Contemporary identity politics is driven by the quest for equal recognition by groups that have been marginalized by their societies. But that desire for equal recognition can easily slide over into a demand for recognition of the group’s superiority. This is a large part of the story of nationalism and national identity, as well as certain forms of extremist religious politics today.”[5]

Identity politics, in other words, has produced conditions that are ripe to usher in the end of the world (at least as we’ve known it).

All of this has me questioning the church’s role in this unique—perhaps last—season of history. What would it look like for Christians to embrace a countercultural ethos to the identity politics we see common today?

As the demand for dignity, and respect, and even superiority increases in groups all over the planet, and as the level of offense increases when those groups are not respected or deferred to, what would it say to the world if the Church leaned into laying down our lives, not taking up offense, and not demanding our rights?

What if not just leaders but all Christians learned to live in line with Walker’s undefended approach, knowing that only God offers unconditional love and acceptance; and what if we found our identity and worth fully in Jesus, not in how the rest of the world viewed or even treated us?

What if our identity was, in fact, so integrated into the suffering servant Christ that the world took notice of a people not demanding recognition, but a group who was differentiated from the power-politics of the world?

If it is the end of the world as we know it, maybe if Christians were radically secure in who we were and in knowing Who we belonged to, we could be the one group not afraid of losing it all because we’ve already surrendered it all to the soon-coming King.

[1] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992).

[2] Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (New York: Picador, 1999).

[3] NYT Book Review: What Is Identity? Anand Giridharadas, Aug. 27, 2018.

[4] Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), xiii.

[5] Ibid., 22.

About the Author


Tim Clark

I'm on a lifelong journey of discovering the person God has created me to be and aligning that with the purpose God has created me for. I've been pressing hard after Jesus for 40 years, and I currently serve Him as the lead pastor of vision and voice at The Church On The Way in Los Angeles. I live with my wife and 3 kids in Burbank California.

14 responses to “It’s the end of the world as we know it…and I feel fine.”

  1. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Tim,
    I am noticing how many of us are asking more questions as a result of our book this week. I love how you are posing “What if?” questions. I wonder what the impact of posing those questions to a small group of friends, pastoral staff, or colleagues at the office would be. What might change? Greg Satell’s idea of cascades are coming to mind. What is stirring in you as you reflect on your questions? What if something really great happened as a result?

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Jenny, I love the connection to Cascading with this. If “small groups of people loosely connected” were to embrace the idea of being undefended in regards to our identity, could it change the world? Maybe!

  2. Travis Vaughn says:

    This question that you ask is powerful: “What if our identity was, in fact, so integrated into the suffering servant Christ that the world took notice of a people not demanding recognition, but a group who was differentiated from the power-politics of the world?”
    I wonder what a more robust theology of suffering would do for Christians in the West. I think Dr. Clark’s PhD focus and the questions he raised are a great complement to your excellent question. He asked how we, as Christians, have arrived at the measure of our faith being an emotional experience and material blessings. I thought about the topic of suffering and the western church as he shared with our cohort last Monday. Your comment at the end is huge, and it makes me wonder — Who do you know who has raised a signpost along these lines? — Being so secure in their identity in Christ that they don’t seem afraid of losing it all? Have you observed this?

    Excellent post, Tim!

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Travis, I 100% agree with you that a robust theology of suffering is vital for Christians to have if we are going to eschew the identity politics of our world. (which by the way is a hard thing to teach in a Pentecostal church who is always interested in the victory part of the gospel).

      John Fehlen is doing his NPO on Pastoral Joy, and part of keeping joy, he is discovering, is having a theology of suffering.

      Who do I know who is so secure in Christ that they are not afraid of losing it? Besides monks, and famous Mother Theresa types? It’s generally people who are “walking with a limp”, who have entered a place of suffering so deep that they have found their identity not in their strength but through their weakness in God. And though I know some pastors who fit this bill, it’s usually unseen, uncelebrated individuals who have a faithful, steady life that reflects this.

  3. Esther Edwards says:

    So much to think about here, Tim.
    What if?
    Your post had me think back to the book “Waters From a Deep Well” by Gerald L. Sittser. Sittser states “The early martyrs paid an extreme price, their very lives. But the value of their example is not in the martyrdom itself, however noble and courageous, but in their commitment to Christ’s lordship. That we might not have to die for Christ is irrelevant. How we ‘live’ for Christ is the real issue.”
    What does that unabandoned devotion that integrates us into Christ’s suffering look like in today’s society, especially as ministers who try to tread the cultural lines wisely and with care? I ask this of myself as well as of others.

    Thank you for your inspiring questions.

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Esther, for me unabandoned devotion into Christ’s suffering looks like laying down my rights, privileges and desires, like Jesus did (Phil 2).

      To be clear, I don’t do that very well at all. The “deserve” monster rears its ugly head regularly with me, and I have to remind myself that I deserve nothing but judgement and wrath, and that Jesus suffered and died to give me a life I could never deserve or earn on my own, and He calls me to a life that will eternally be victorious but for now involves pain.

  4. mm Kim Sanford says:

    Such a great post. You put words to something that I was having trouble articulating and it was really bugging me as I read Fukuyama. In general, dignity for every human is a good and important thing. It’s something that I want the church to stand up for. But when dignity slides into a sense of superiority or demanding our own rights, we have sadly departed from the way of Christ. That reminds me of Marvin Oxenham’s work on virtue education. He talks about every virtue (except love) turning into a vice if it is taken to the extreme.In other words, too much of a good thing perhaps?

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Kim, that’s a really great point. You said it much more concisely than I did and it summarizes my whole post…

      Maybe I can summarize it even more: We should WANT to fight for the dignity of others, but be willing to lay down our own rights for the sake of others.

      If you knew someone like that (who always fought for other’s dignity no matter who they were but who didn’t seem particularly interested in fighting for themselves) I think their life and message would be so attractive. Maybe that’s how we help people see the attractiveness of the gospel.

  5. mm Russell Chun says:

    In Genesis 1:26-27 (New International Version), it is written:
    “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

    Kim Sanford discussed raised in the the image of God. Does anybody believe that? Is there another religion that believes that?

    I gather not. I wonder if most Christians believe that. Even we who have Genesis 1:26-27 identify racially, ethnically, gender, sexually, and so on.

    Matrydom and laying down self created change in the likes of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and Ghandi.

    You ended with…”we could be the one group not afraid of losing it all because we’ve already surrendered it all to the soon-coming King.”

    I guess today we are asked to martyr ourselves to point to the world the person of Christ.


    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Russ. Deep thoughts.

      If I am made in God’s image (and I do believe that) and want to be conformed to the image of Christ (I do) then I can’t escape the fact that Christ emptied himself of his power and right and suffered for the sake of the world.

      I may not be required to die or even suffer physically, but I may need to lay down my preferences, rights, and even identity for the sake of those God loves.

  6. mm John Fehlen says:

    You said: “Identity politics, in other words, has produced conditions that are ripe to usher in the end of the world (at least as we’ve known it).”

    You and I were just talking the other day about the conditions that are present in our world right now for the end times (ie: the war burgeoning in the Middle East).

    If there ever was a case study in Identity Politics it would be Middle East (ie: Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, etc).

    It’s both interesting AND infuriating to see all this unfold in front of our very eyes.

    It’s another obvious call to prayer for followers of Jesus.

    • mm Tim Clark says:


      Man, you hit the nail on the head. I think so much of what is happening in the middle east is based on Identity Politics, ancient (and modern) offenses, and a drive to superiority.

      But it doesn’t stop in the Middle East. I see it in our nation as well. It seems we are at the edge of another Strauss and Howe 4th turning event we need to be ready for.

      That’s what I’m contending for in my post: that believers respond to this coming world crisis with an alternative spirit and approach.

      I think that could change everything.

  7. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Christ teaches us to pray for his “kingdom come.” Your post now has me thinking about that one of the key observable differences between God’s Kingdom and that of man is how we regard ourselves and each other.

    I know. That may be a “well duh, Jen,” but it has captured my imagination.

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      NOT a “well duh, Jen” at all!! It’s the point…and a really good way of synthesizing it.

      Like I told Kim, we should WANT to fight for the dignity of others, but be willing to lay down our own rights for the sake of others.

      I think that could identify the people of the Kingdom. And it would be a wonderful and effective reputation to have.

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