Gently prodded by a gentle reader, I took a look at David Brooks original article, ‘A Time to Mourn’, in full. I tell you I love this sort of article… it is such a perfect illustration of all the things to remind postmodernists about the endpoints of their views.
But it wasn’t a criticism of environmentalists, sorry, Dan S. That t’was not.
It does illustrate the tension that those who are naturalists [which officially is the
“Belief that all objects, events, and and values can be wholly explained in terms of factual and/or causal claims about the world, without reference to supernatural powers or authority.”- Philosophical Dictionary] have when they attempt to apply a moral value. They have trouble with giving weight to moral values, which is why Brooks contradicts himself while trying to make the point that it seems nonsensically selfish to make the tsunami tragedy more about the West’s giving than about the victims misery. He has sort of a point, but because he has no base along which to measure the gauge, he does not have a real grasp of it and ends up with only a vague reaching for why he feels some moral outrage and why he is left with the void of his own naturalistic view.
For he says early on,”If you listen to the discussion of the tsunami this past week, you receive the clear impression that the meaning of this event is that there is no meaning. Humans are not the universe’s main concern. We’re just gnats on the crust of the earth. The earth shrugs and 140,000 gnats die, victims of forces far larger and more permanent than themselves.” It appears this is his own favored interpretation.
It is the only rational one for someone who believes all is time and chance. Is there an abyss for such a one? Or is everything one long meaningless continuum? Either way, they have little to give any real value to their humanity.
What Brooks calls “naturalism” is more of the romanticism of Rousseau, and makes a valid point that such terrifying events as we have witnessed in the 9.0 earthquake and its tsunami are anything but the benignly mellow view encouraged by modern nature worship and new-agey sorts of philosophy.
When he says “In short, this week images of something dark and unmerciful were thrust onto a culture that is by temperament upbeat and romantic.” I think maybe he has something.
He just doesn’t know what to do with it.
And I really think that there is a proper place for all the components of what we are seeing. But then I believe in the God of the Bible, in the meanings and purposes behind events and the ultimate desire that God has to save mankind, to encourage and reward our mercy towards those who suffer. These things all fit together and make perfect sense to me.
That doesn’t mean I don’t grieve over the awfulness.
I do think it is very superficial reading of the Bible to say that natural disasters are expressions of an angry God. The New Testament gives a view of the chaotic imbalance of our present world, while warning to expect more of the same until a final culmination of restoration of a perfect final creation.
It also extends the responsiblity we have for one another and the importance of ministering to those in need. We have the power to help one another. We have a meaning in doing so. That is a wonderful thing…. but it doesn’t make us wonderful. We are just to do this because…we ought. We are in this together… a worldwide together. It isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last that we will be called upon to rally with our great blessings to the needs of the suffering.
And just to cap this…it all includes thinking green for the earth at the same time, stewards to the God who made all the earth and everything in it.
-but if you think everything just meaningless molecules… well, it is going to shake you and leave you a little empty in the face of the unimaginable intrusion of events.
None of us can afford smug sureness. Something within us gives witness to what is good and what we should do in response to the challenge of so much loss. We should be glad when we go with that, and when others go with that, in the right direction.
I soapboxed. Admittedly…..happy?