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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Dealing with Grief

In Lament for a Son the philosopher and theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff notes that grief and suffering cannot help but isolate the sufferer. His book is an attempt to overcome that isolation by helping us to share his suffering to explain why a twenty-five year old son might die in a climbin accident. Wolterstorff offers no easy answers and he rejects any attempt to give the death a meaning by fitting it into some philosphical or religious pattern. He says:

I cannot fit it all together. I can only, with Job, endure. I do not know why God did not prevent Eric's death. To live without the answer is precarious. It's hard to keep one's footing. (p.67)

...the Christian gospel tells us more of the meaning of sin than of suffering ... To the 'why' of suffering we get no firm answer. (p.74)

Like God we suffer because we love. (Stanley Hauerwas Naming the Silences p.150)

Wolterstorff goes on to argue:

Suffering is down at the centre of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For Love is the meaning. And Love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.

But the mystery remains. Why isn't Love-without-suffering the meaning of things? Why is suffering-Love the meaning? Why does God endure his suffering? Why does he not relieve his agony by relieving ours? (p.90)

All these questions come home to me over the past couple of days with the unexpected, sudden dying of a young friend - a thoughtful intelligent woman, exploring faith with a joy for life, a great sense of humour and a passion for justice.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

No explanations no false prophecy

The story in attached link of a "prophecy" from a pastor claiming that the bushfires in Victoria were a judgement from God on Victoria's abortion law regime got on my goat.

There are such things in the biblical narrative as false prophets and in my assessment this has got to rank the author as falling into that category.

David Bentley Hart in The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami? comments that is impossible for the infinite God of love directly, or positively, to will evil (physical or moral) p.70.

Stanley Hauerwas argues that we cannot afford to try and give ourselves explanations for evil - it can become a noisy way of trying to hide the silences that such events as the firestorm in Marysville and Kinglake creates. What we need he says are not explanations for evil, or even someone to blame for the evil, a scapegoat, rather what is required a community capable of sustaining our grief. (p.xi) Naming the Silences: God Medicine and the Problem of Suffering)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Darwin and Religion

The Ekklesia Website has posted a couple of major articles to mark the 200th and 150th anniversaries (of Charles Darwin's birth and the publication of On the Origin of Species, respectively). There's Dr Denis Alexander's Why Christians should celebrate Darwin and Professor John Hedley Brooke's Darwin and Religion

Consumeris as addiction

A thought provoking column in the Age last weekend by Simon Moyle on consumerism and addiction in the context of the Federal Government's proposed stimulus package- with a reference to one of the authors who I am founding challenging but also entertaining - Wendell Berry.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Why Gaza should not have been a surprise

With the extensive heat wave recently I have been sitting up late reading while waiting for the house to cool down. Robert Fisk's Pity the Nation is probably not ideal reading late at night. Its appalling first hand accounts of the carnage in Lebanon through the mid 1970s and 1980s makes for disturbing reading. Few of the political leaders, whether inside or outside Lebanon, emerge with any credibility from the maelstrom.

Fisk is concerned to put faces and names, to personalise the victims and to seek the truth as to what happened in a variety of massacres.

The relevance of the dynamics of Israeli engagement in Lebanon for the situation in Gaza became clear as I read the account of war between the Palestinians and Israel in Beirut in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Acquaintenance with what happened in Lebanon during the 1970's and 1980's should have prepared us for what happened in Gaza.

The dynamics of guerilla provocation by the Palestinians of the Israelis, followed by responses that had nothing to do with either proportion or had any clearly thought through political aim, followed by massacres for which Israeli military forces were directly responsible, or at least accountable for, that were then denied or ignored by the Israeli Government.

Civilians and the truth about what had happened both suffereed immense collateral damage in Lebanon.

The media's reporting of Lebanon contained language that dehumanised and distances for Western readers the Palestinians and Lebanese while interpreting Israeli military activity in terms that enabled Western readers to remain comfortable with their perspective.

Fisk reflects on the use of language,the way cliches can remove our ability to make critical judgements about what is happening. His discussion of the use of the temr terrorism when the book was originally published in 1990 was prescient given the events of 2001 and subsequent public debate. (See pages 435 -442 where he unravels the complexity of the issue.

Fisks' reporting is confronting we are not allowed to escape its stench and devastation, nor of the moral corruption that seems to have influenced almost every military force that became engaged in Lebanon over the period covered by the book.