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Decompression week

It's a minimal week for work. "I want you to go into the office as little as possible," John told me a couple weeks back, so I'm gladly obeying. This morning it's Irwin's for coffee and bagel, reading and writing. Beautiful sunshine in my city today. It's a good day to be free.

John preached a positively kick-ass sermon yesterday. Not so much for style or flash, but simply for content. It was on Luke 2:1-20, the Christmas story retelling immortalized by Linus' recitation in A Charlie Brown Christmas (can you imagine such a thing being tolerated in a Christmas special today?). John took us through the concepts we all think we know (Savior, manger, Bethlehem, shepherds) and discussed their actual, contextual meanings. It was all new and surprising to me, and helped me to see Christmas and Jesus in a completely new way. You can listen here if you like; I really recommend it. I was stunned by the meaning of it all.

A woman just ordered a latté with four shots. Nothing like the sensation of your heart exploding in your chest to wake you up in the morning.

The earthquake/tsunami tragedy is on my mind and heart. So much death. I hate how casual so many of us (the privileged and unaffected) are in the face of such devastation. We might feel it for a bit, but we have the luxury of going back to our entertainment, our celebrities, our distractions. It makes compassion all the more glorious, and I don't want to minimize the good things that happen in the least. Even that, though, often takes the form of some kind of production in our culture, and often stops short of real sacrifice. I guess I'm just tired of all the other things we continually worship, and maybe I'm tired of my stuff most of all.

Comments

I honestly don't think it is within the normal range of human nature to mourn distant tragedies, however large they may be, the way we mourn more personal losses. We are local beings by design. We can only handle knowing so many people, as real people instead of just as ciphers, at once. Intellectually I know 20,000 people died in Sri Lanka and that those people are suffering greatly but emotionally it simply doesn't make a scratch on me.
I agree, yet I wonder. We're definitely personal beings, and created to be such, but we seem quite selective in what we personalize. Celebrities (in sports, entertainment, politics, etc.) are people most of us will never know but many of us are still captivated by. Though overwhelming, most of us felt something on September 11, 2001—these were lives we could imagine and imagine ourselves in.

These people, for most of us, aren't "our" people. I think the numbers are a factor, but mostly, I wonder if our ability to choose indifference is a function of our massive idolatry of self—the more outside my world and comforts someone/thing is, the less it matters, regardless of the actual value. I'm struggling with it.
I don't think celebrities are quite the same situation. They are presented to us as idols and exemplars, not as personal friends.

For us to feel distant tragedies, they have to be brought home to us in some way. The typical way of doing this is by broadcasting heart-rending images on TV. With 9-11 it was a little easier, since (a) the World Trade Center was something of a national symbol, and (b) the attack symbolized a terrorist threat that we all took personally. But in all these cases, a sort of deception is employed. If you didn't live in New York or know anyone associated with the Towers, or if you have a more nuanced view of the problem of terrorism, you need not have taken 9-11 very personally at all. I know I didn't.

If our indifference toward people we can't see and will never meet is the result of radical, systemic self-worship -- and I'm not agreeing that it is -- then it is not something that will be solved in this life. I don't think our present bodies and minds could ever handle universal brotherhood so deep and wide as you suggest.
If our indifference toward people we can't see and will never meet is the result of radical, systemic self-worship -- and I'm not agreeing that it is -- then it is not something that will be solved in this life. I don't think our present bodies and minds could ever handle universal brotherhood so deep and wide as you suggest.

I respect that we may not agree; these are simply my thoughts.

Our ability to hate people we can't see and will never meet is clearly limitless. Yet even though we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, some Christians seem to be willing to accept our lack of compassion for same. For my part, I think that's garbage. I don't expect we would feel every heartache on the same level; I just think we can be self-important bastards in our quickness to pursue our own fancies instead.

Solved in this life? By no means. Neither will a marriage be perfect, yet we marry. Neither will our worship be perfect, yet we do. If I only let my heart be concerned with those things I/we can solve...well, that sounds like self-idolatry, too. I'm not suggesting we can change our heart or manufacture emotions; I'm simply aware that an indifferent heart is very different from His heart. This will, of course, be beyond my capacity. It's supposed to be.

Christians are people who recognize our need and recognize who will meet it. I doubt our part here is intended to live simply for ourselves. That's not how I read Scripture.
Yet even though we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, some Christians seem to be willing to accept our lack of compassion for same. For my part, I think that's garbage.

Is that an accusation? If it is, please don't beat around the bush.

I don't think our ability to hate people we can't see is limitless, unless by "hate" you take an extended meaning that includes indifference. It is in accordance with our ability to love people we can't see, i.e., limited. Like I said, we are local beings. We can only see and reach so far. That's not "living for ourselves," that is just reality. We aren't cosmic beings by nature; we can achieve such only in Christ. It was this way even in Eden. Had we never fallen, we'd still have growing-up to do, and I dare say we'd still be more conscious of the existence of our immediate family, friends and neighbors than of someone across the globe.
No accusation. This entry didn't start being about you (or anyone—just my thoughts), and that hasn't changed since your commenting on it. It's simply a belief that I think is garbage. I'm not accusing you of holding it; whether you do or not doesn't affect how I view it.

I agree with you that we are limited. But we reach beyond our locality constantly, in ways that please our sensibilities.
I love every single word of what you just said. And the choice of what we personalize is pretty convicting for me.

It's weird - I never cried over 911. But this has got me feeling sick and angry all day. I don't even want to read about anything else.
I'm having some of those feelings, too. And honestly, I haven't spent an inordinate amount of time with the tragedy itself—some news, some prayer, some journaling. The gap between my heart and God's heart is more and more apparent. Convicted is definitely the word.

And I might be getting sick, and I'm not sure if that's causing some of my disposition or being caused by it.