From the way things look, maybe this time the end is near

Back in the ‘60s when the world seemed like it was coming unhinged every other day, I was walking through Greenwich Village, home of the beatniks and the nitwits, and radicals of every size, shape and ideology, when I came upon a man dressed suspiciously like Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments.”

He was bearded, scruffy and somewhat wild-eyed like a modern-day biblical prophet, and he carried a sign that proclaimed in no uncertain terms, “The End Is Near!”

The end of what? Social Security? The semi-annual suit sale at Brooks Brothers? Free shipping at Amazon? (OK, maybe not free shipping because the birth of Amazon was still a few decades in the future, and Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet.)

I was a mere lad back then, born into a world when “The End” was always around the corner, with the nuclear arms race and the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the planet to the brink of annihilation.

During those days, folk singers were strumming guitars and wailing about “The Eve of Destruction,” and the street prophet was a popular figure, often parodied in New Yorker cartoons.

And even though I haven’t seen any Old Testament characters lately, at least in Midtown Manhattan, there seems to be a growing uneasiness that something is up ... that The End might really be near this time.

A poll conducted by Barna Group of California found that 41% of Americans, 54% of Protestants and 77% of Evangelicals think we’re living in the “End Times” prophesized in the Bible. Of practicing Catholics, 45% believe the End Times are upon us, along with 54& of blacks and 48% of Hispanics.

With so many people convinced we’re on the brink of the brink you’d think we’d all strive to make the world a better place, or at least get Metro-North to run on time.

While I don’t know much about biblical prophecy, I’m sure of one thing: If the end is near, I’m not ready. Nowhere near ready.

There are thousands of End Times websites and blogs, advancing theories based on the weather, the Bible Code, Mideast turmoil and world events. Armchair prognosticators and visionaries are predicting the rise of a New World Order, the Antichrist, Days of Darkness and the collapse of the technological society. This much is certain: It will rival anything Hollywood has ever produced, including “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” parts 1 and 2.

They see omens in the increasing number of record storms, floods, blizzards, tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy.

More troubling than the catastrophes is the pervasive spread of evil. Our moral compasses are so confused that what was once bad is now considered good, and people no longer seem to care about moral character. The word “morality” isn’t even in their vocabulary.

Every day you see headlines about mass shootings, child abuse, terrorist attacks, robberies, rapes and corporate corruption. Last week, a newspaper I regularly read had some telling stories about the evil our society condones in its entertainment.

In the pursuit of wholesome family fun, a new video game lets kids blow the head off a character who resembles Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. The game is so wildly popular it set historic records with sales in the billions.

The movie reviews also offered an insight into our evolving values. The films were all about sex addicts, drug addicts, killers, sadists, torturers and crooks, which leads you to wonder whether this is the “new normal.” Do they make films about good people anymore?

Perhaps it’s another sign the end is near. So please excuse me, I have to go get ready.