If you’re picking up this newspaper, you’ve likely noticed the headlines: Everything is worse than you thought.

The mortgage crisis, still worse. The AIDS epidemic, growing worse. Global warming, far worse. Gas prices, unimaginably worse. Even the air at the Olympics, horribly worse.

The last guy who tried this hard to scare me was Hal Lindsey. He co-authored a 1970 runaway best seller with Carole C. Carlson titled “Late, Great Planet Earth.”

Many people saw Lindsey as the Nostradamus of our times. Like today’s doomsayers, he capitalized on the headlines of his day: the rebirth of Israel, the threat of war in the Middle East, an increase in natural catastrophes and the rise of Satanism and witchcraft.

He claimed these things were predicted by everyone from Moses to Jesus, and they pointed toward our impending destruction.

Some of us laughed at Lindsey. Some of us memorized him. But when gas prices soared during the Yom Kippur War of 1973–74, many of us were terrified that the Lindsey scenario had crept into the nonfiction section. Indeed, the NewYork Times called him the “No. 1 nonfiction best seller of the decade.”

The whole book was a variation of the good cop-bad cop strategy, and many folks are using today’s headlines to play out the same game.

The strategy is well stated in the old bumper sticker: “The good news is, Jesus is coming back. The bad news is he’s ticked.” (OK, the sticker doesn’t say “ticked,” but this is a family newspaper.)

The approach is used by a lot of religious people who want to present faith as war between good and evil.

You’ve no doubt encountered a few of these folks. They make faith seem like a choice between spending eternity in a bottomless pit of eternal fire or going to church three times a week. It’s as if we’re being asked to either obey Satan or give money to a poufy-haired evangelist.

The problem with their thinking is that real faith isn’t an either/or proposition. It’s an invitation. It’s an invitation into a relationship.

It’s like this. When I met my wife, I didn’t say, “Marry me or you’ll burn.”

God doesn’t say that either.

God doesn’t need to scare us. He’s not like the plaid-suited salesmen selling “Falling Sky” insurance, telling us to “please read the fine print.”

God is not trying to save us from this world. For heaven’s sake — pun intended — God created the world.

Healthy faith always will give me a perspective on the world. It helps me to understand that although I live in the world, I’ve come from different material, a spiritual material.

Faith doesn’t save me from the effects of the world. Even Jesus said this in the verse immediately following the one commonly thrust before TV cameras at televised events. The message translates John 3:17 saying, “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help.”

God is about helping during times of hurt and pain, but he’s not about making the pain so that he can then play the hero, the good cop.

The Lindsey star eventually faded when, in the end, the cold war defrosted and the Berlin Wall crumbled. The counterculture of the ’60s never became the main culture, and Lindsey’s prediction about it all crumbled with the wall.

These days, the man can be heard predicting the final jihad. Same station, different program. I guess there always will be fortunes found in the capitalizing on demise, death and destruction.

As for me, I choose to find my fortune — and my future — in the hope of faith.