Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cuban Sanity in Mad, Bad World

What a tough week for humanity this week. 

The bad: Refugees on the move through Africa, Middle East, Asia. Shootings in a church in Charleston, SC. Greece on the verge of ... bankruptcy, or maybe not, the alternative could be a further enslavement to the dictates of the EU ... or Russia. Killings continue at the hands of ISIS. Syria is a bloody mess. Etc.

The mad: NRA line in the States that the killings in the church would have been limited if churchgoers had had concealed weapons. What the?!?!!? Note to the USA: the rest of us really do not understand you at times. Greece's economics and politics which got them to the current bad situation. Various politicians in Australasia (I'm thinking of you Tony/Bill/John/Murray/Nick) demonstrating less than competent handling of various matters.

Sanity: I haven't read Pope Francis' Laudato Si encyclical but it looks a corker. Can we learn the language of love in our relationship with the earth or will we continue harassing her? (May or may not comment further, but there is a LOT of comment on the internet, so I hardly think my twopence will add much to the reception).

Then there is this. I am reading Thomas C. Oden's A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014). Oden is the Forrest Gump of twentieth and early twenty-first century theology. His academic life leads him to meet Bultmann, Barth and Benedict XVI. He becomes a liberal, attends WCC events, begins to change his mind and becomes a conservative, initially wowed by Augustine and Aquinas, then passionate about the patristics. He has been in thick with Packer, Neuhaus and Pannenburg.

Enough of the names. I want to share with you two items of sanity. Both from a visit Oden made to Cuba in 1993.

First, Oden describes a sermon he heard in a charismatic church. I think it is a sermon we need to hear again.

'The preaching was as impassioned as the praise. Its power was palpable as I heard the words telling all of us that it was about a war with Satan in the hearts of each one of us.  
We were told that although the final outcome at the end of history is already known to the faithful, the struggle continues this side of the end. We face an adversary who presents himself as a friend, and we cannot afford to be naive about this combat.  
As you are mocked by others who do not understand and will scold you, do not complain. Be ready to view sacrifice as a privilege of participation in the way of the cross. Rejection is to be expected, even within your own family.  
You are called now to make a decision that could be the most important decision of your life: receive Jesus in your heart and trust him for the forgiveness of your sins.' (pp. 236-37)

Then Oden records a visit made to an aged Presbyterian theologian, Rene Castellano.

"The aging professor had been imprisoned early in the Cuban revolution and was now considered a saint among seminary students.  
He told me in clear, moving English:  
"God only illumines the next step, not long distances ahead. We would prefer God to illumine the way for a long distance ahead, but the flickering light of the Word shows only the next step.  
God called Abram, 'Leave Ur. I will then tell you where you are going.'  
To Paul the Spirit said, 'Go to Macedonia. I will tell you there what next.'  
The risen Lord said to his disciples, 'Go to Galilee. You will find me there.'  
It is humbling for the pilgrim to not know what is over the hill, to have no more foreknowledge than the next person. But this is a part of our spiritual growth: to take small steps without knowing what is ahead but trusting God to bring good out of evil. (pp. 237-38)

Both excerpts are fortifying in this tough week for our mad, bad world.


Andrew W said...

"The mad: NRA line in the States that the killings in the church would have been limited if churchgoers had had concealed weapons. What the?!?!!?" - as a stand-alone claim, and if we add the caveat "and were trained and willing to use them", then the claim is obviously factually correct. If you pull a gun and start using it aggressively in an environment where bystanders also have guns and are willing to us it, you will die. Soon.

The real discussion is whether the unexamined consequences of living in that sort of culture outweigh the simple point-application. It also ignores whether the people in the congregation would be willing to buy into that: "You could carry weapons but publicly choose not to" is functionally equivalent to "you can't carry weapons". As it stands, claims of "this would not have happened if guns were banned" and "this would not have happened if guns were more freely available" are both naive point-fixes that short-circuit a much more complex discussion. (Side comment: WAY too much modern lobbying and law is point-fixes to presenting issues without proper consideration of the unexamined costs of those fixes).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
Not sure where you are geographically coming from but here in NZ where it is extremely rare for people to be licensed to use weapons which can be concealed we have few gun rampages of the kind which appear to occur all too frequently in the States. (Hunting is popular here and every so often someone goes on a rampage with a rifle).

I am sure I am not alone among those living outside the States in wondering why the States finds it so difficult to tighten gun control regulations to keep concealable weapons out of people's hands.

Jean said...

Andrew's point is interesting, in some cases 'point-fixes' or 'quick-fixes' to social problems through legal means do not acheive effective results. However, in the case of carrying handguns or small-arms, the positive co-relation between the registration and control of arms ownership within a country and the reduction of murders is reasonably well-known.

It also relates in a wider sense to the bigger issues which you point out Peter such as Syria in respect to the ArmsTrade. While of course there is a illegal trading in arms most trading is done legally, hence countries where guns are produced (the majority in Western Countries), can influence the degree of availability and mis-use of arms worldwide. Efforts recently to form an Arms Trade Treaty have been ongoing, which the US orginal opposed (being the biggest producer of Arms in the world) but signed once Obama came to power. However, internal protests from the US are significant as groups fear it will impinge on their rights if they say want to buy a gun from Italy. Here I may borrow your phrase Peter - Say What???!!!?//// So the US has yet to Ratify the treaty.

It is notable that 5 other countries amongst the largest gun producing countries worldwide UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain have all recently Ratified the treaty meaning it will go into their legal system. Go the UK, EU and Spain!