Thursday, January 03, 2008

Something Terrible That Is Not Our Fault

We are fascinated by the idea of something terrible. Broadcast news (and most journalism, it seems) focus on the most terrible things that have already happened. They also speculate about future terrible happenings. As I age, the list of terrible possibilities that have made the headlines seems to grow and grow. Nuclear holocaust. Resurgent Nazism. Japan as an economic superpower bully (and Korea, and China, and India). The rise of the European Economic Union as precursor to the end of days. Killer bees. Flesh eating bacteria. Bird flu. Genocide. Climate change (much colder, or much hotter, or just plain nasty). Communism. Socialism. Capitalism. Fundamentalism. Secularism. (Practically any ism is seen as terrible by many). Worldwide starvation due to overpopulation. Moral collapse. Ecological collapse. Asteroid strikes. Sentient computers with attitude.

Meanwhile, each of us inexorably approaches our death at the rate of 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We do what we can to maintain our bodies, but we know for certain that if we live long enough, we will deteriorate physically. Eat right. Exercise. Die anyway.

Each of us also contributes daily to the death and pain all around us. Too often we try to cover ourselves with the thought that no one is perfect and perhaps many other folks are worse than ourselves. I remember very clearly the Pogo cartoon where Pogo declares: "We have met the enemy and he is us". We can choose to battle flesh and blood, but we have been assured by God that the real battle is a spiritual one. The great weapons we wield in that battle are our love for God and our love for others. We already love ourselves.

Each new headline sends a chill down our backs and rivets our attention. However, deep inside we are aware that we are making choice after choice that contributes to the pain and suffering we fear so much. It may be almost comforting to think instead that some terrible force, which is not our fault, is about to kill us all. Almost comforting, perhaps, but not quite. True comfort comes when we confess our failings to a loving God who promises to make all things new, including us.
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