Global Warming. AIDS. Child abuse. War. The working poor. Homelessness.
With so many issues at hand that need our attention, why are so many Christians focusing on, worrying about, and predicting Jesus' "triumphant" return?
After the execution of Jesus in the first century, his followers claimed that he somehow didn't stay dead. The very concept was pure genius - The worst anyone can do to anybody is to kill them, and once you've done your worst, how seditious is it to suggest that your worst didn't ultimately matter?! And so stories of resurrection became the corner stone of Christian myth and faith (and in the beginning they were probably very effective in inspiring hope and courage among the marginalized of society).
I'm not saying that the stories were false. No, I believe that people continued to experience the power of Jesus' presence in their own lives long after he had been killed. And I believe they were honestly communicating their experienced reality when they created stories of "seeing" this ever-living Christ. As they told the stories, this Christ did live again and continued to live - in the hearts, stories, and rituals of a people. Let's be clear: I firmly believe in the resurrection of Christ. That doesn't necessarily mean that I believe in the physical resuscitation of Jesus' corpse, but I absolutely believe in the resurrection of Christ.
Now, the miracle of "he didn't stay dead" wasn't limited to "we have seen the Lord." Since in their experience and imagination he had not stayed dead, they also believed (or at least hoped) that he would return and a returned Messianic Jesus, victorious over Death itself would have little trouble toppling the Roman Empire and bringing peace and hope and justice to the marginalized people of the world. Yes, Jesus would be right back and then he would start taking names and kicking butt and making all things right in the world. Some bible writers even boldly said that he would return in THEIR lifetimes.
Clearly, that didn't happen (unless, like the resurrection, the parousia, aka return of Jesus, was somewhat symbolic, psychic, experienced, or otherwise other than physical/literal...some people suggest that Pentecost was the 2nd coming as it was the return of Jesus' spirit coming to empower the Church). The "orthodox" view is that it did not happen, and yet it was also clearly part of the Christian hope that it would happen. So, the dream of immediate return was massaged a bit to become the hope of an eventual return. As long as it would happen in the future, then people felt obliged to wait for it and to maybe even look for it. So, every generation of Christians winds up asking, "Are we the generation to see it?"
After two millennia, I've given up. I don't think it will literally happen or that it needs to happen. Jesus lives in our hearts so he is present enough as is. Now, because he dwells in our hearts, let's follow his example and get to healing the world around us! When we get around to doing that, perhaps that will be the return of Christ! - when the spirit of Christ is so strong among us that we create peace and justice in our world and refuse to settle for less.
Of course, owning our own responsibility for improving the world is a bit daunting. It is MUCH easier to pretend that Jesus will finally come back and do our work for us. But that mind-game didn't prevent WW1, WW2, Vietnam, the current quagmire in Iraq, global warming, AIDS, homophobia, famine, slavery, Jim Crow laws or other ghastly human experiences.
Maybe its time to give up on the idea that Superman will finally fly in to save the day; perhaps its time that we realize that the hero is within us. We need to unleash the power of Christ within (we could as easily call it the Buddha nature or the mythic hero or our Higher Power or our best Self or the goddess...what's in a name?!). When we become Christ in the world we won't need a 2nd coming; we'll have the kind of world Jesus lived and died to bring into manifestation.