Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shot Across the Newspapers' Bows (Web Site Bashes a Popular Fallacy)

(Yes, this was originally written in the first week of January. The scarcity of public-access computers that can read floppy disks creates a long turnaround time for what I write with the intention of posting.)

Although this web site does have an official Disaster Relief Theme and has often mentioned places where prayers, and extra cash, will be welcome, we’ve not discussed every natural disaster...In 2013, in Russia, over a thousand deaths were attributed to a collision between Earth and a meteorite.

Most of the “falling stars” in the sky burn to nothing recognizable or, if they do touch Earth, are reduced to small fragments of molten mineral matter. Every few hundred years we see a meteorite big enough to demolish a farm. Oregon’s Crater Lake is credited to one of these phenomena. No history of human fatalities is associated with Crater Lake; apparently, at the time the meteor struck, Oregon enjoyed a very low, very sparse human population. But yes, it could happen here.

A newspaper article, apparently inspired by the phrase “Act of God” that describes this kind of rare, bizarre natural disaster, described the meteor as “a shot across the bows of a nation that had outlawed belief in God.” I probably wouldn't have noticed this throwaway line if some reader hadn't sent the newspaper a verbal "bouquet" for printing it. Right. It needs a verbal brickbat.

Harrumph. The nation that outlawed Christianity was the bad old Soviet Union, in the bad old Cold War days when they were trying to prop up the toppling dogma of Marxism by taking over small countries. Russia’s experiment with atheism was especially poignant because Russia is the home of so many quaintly beautiful old churches, churches designed to make people want to pray, and now people are reportedly praying in those churches again. The current administration has been criticized for being too supportive of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Did this meteorite manage to crash on top of an atheist activists’ convention, or did it, like most natural disasters, affect Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and atheists impartially? Would anybody actually know that?

Even if a natural disaster affected only an atheists’ convention, how would we know whether some people at the convention were sensitive Christian souls going through periods of doubt...C.S. Lewis called himself an atheist for a few years. Madeleine L’Engle admitted to atheist and agnostic phases. Scott Peck did. The long line of Christian writers and teachers who’ve gone through atheist phases stretches back past St. Augustine, arguably all the way to St. Paul, who didn’t consciously call himself an atheist but denied his faith in God by his works before he became a Christian. And if the best Christian writers, the “Doctors of the Church,” have had atheist phases, then how are we to judge twelve hundred souls, none of whom we’ve ever met? How do we know whether some other saint, perhaps not a writer but a great doctor or a noble foster parent or an honorable storekeeper, was among those twelve hundred?

When it affects an entire town...most cities and towns these days contain a mixture of Christians, atheists, and others, but Russian Christians’ faith is special because it’s survived almost a hundred years of active persecution. By all reports even the Soviets didn’t outlaw belief in God; they merely outlawed evangelism and implemented policies of active socioeconomic discrimination against Christians—good jobs went to Communist Party members, who had of course identified themselves as atheists. Still, the faith of Russian Christians, and likewise Jews and Muslims, deserves admiration from believers who have never faced even overt discrimination for their faith.

If God arranges for meteors to hit apostate Christian nations, it’s strange that God waited so long after Russia reconciled itself with its Church Militant, stopped desecrating the old church buildings, and resumed praying in them. It’s even stranger that the meteor didn’t hit China, which was never a Christian nation and actively tried to suppress Christian displays by visiting athletes and spectators during the Olympics. And it’s downright bizarre that the meteor didn’t hit these United States, where Christianity has picked up political accretions, and left-wing Christians creep and whimper and apologize for whatever faith they actually have, while right-wing Christians attach God’s name to hatespews about people deserving, because of their ancestors' mistakes, to be homeless, hungry, maimed, or dead; God must feel mocked and blasphemed by both factions.