Nov 242008
 

BBC News headlineMaybe the headline editor wasn’t quite awake when they wrote this BBC News headline and summary, but I can’t help but think how awful it reads. There’s an implicit sense of shock that anyone would continue with the pregnancy of a Down’s syndrome baby. To be fair the article is much more positive and I suspect that the headline may well change. Nevertheless, it still shows, I think, an underlying problem of attitudes towards anything or anyone who might be considered ‘less than perfect’ by some arbitrary personal or societal standard.

Unfortunately the church isn’t immune from this. I still hear, all too often, about how bad and horrible and corrupt this world is. That, in my opinion, sends out the entirely wrong message. It implies (or even overtly states) that this world is worthless and shouldn’t be bothered with. There is the implicit “but we’re alright; we’re going to heaven”. Gnosticism is alive and well in the church today it would seem and will only reinforce attitudes such as the one found in the headline writer of that article.

Creation may well be far from ‘perfect’ but it is not worthless. Regardless of how you would read the Genesis creation narratives, there is no escaping God’s pronouncement that creation was ‘very good’. So, rather than be in a rush to get away from it then maybe we need to look for the worth in it. To see the value that God saw in it. To love it through God’s perspective and not our own. Maybe then the life of a vulnerable baby will be respected and there will be joy that more babies are being born rather than an implied regret that they are.

  5 Responses to “Unfortunate headline”

  1. What is ‘normal’ and how do we deal with variations from that standard ? Perhaps the way to gauge a society’s progress is the way it deals with the ‘different’ ones. It’s mostly, though not always, a genuine ignorance that is the problem. Talking with and working with people of different abilities seems to break down these barriers. I’m not so sure that the church at large really does have an ‘I’m alright, Jack’ philosophy because that would seem to undermine the whole point of mission.

    How do we view a fallen world ? If we truly view Genesis seriously, then we are dealing not with the ‘very good’ creation but the fallen one. That’s not to say that there is no good to beseen in the natural world, far from it, but it also recognises that much is not as it should be. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to try and identify areas where we can be good and honest stewards of creation as God meant us to be. Too often we look for what we can get out of it, as usual. I, for one, am certainly not rushing to ‘get away from it, and will enjoy creation as long as God lets me do so. There are wonders for me yet unseen on this earth. (and hopefully holidays in which to enjoy a lot of them !)

  2. I’m generalising too much, of course, but primarily to highlight an issue that I have found in some preachers I have heard – that of dualism.
    The view of a fallen world is one worth exploring though. Is it the world which has fallen or does it merely suffer the consequences of fallen humanity? It’s a distinction that we need to be aware of, for it affects the language we use and hence the picture of creation we give. When we speak of the horror and evil of this world, what we really mean is the horror and evil wreaked by humankind. By transferring it to ‘this world’ we implicitly divest ourselves of some of the blame. We also create all sorts of theological tangles for ourselves when we start getting into the issues of natural disasters -are they ‘evil’? Of course not, but we make them so by speaking of the world as evil and corrupt.
    In writing that I realise that I have been guilty of that very thing in the original post. And I suppose that’s what I’m getting at – we need to be able to point to the beauty of creation, be it the magnificence of a mountain or the innocence of a new-born baby and not contradict ourselves in the next breath with word which condemn creation rather than condemn what humankind is doing to it.
    I suppose, in a sense, we need to modern-day prophets, telling it like it is and aiming at the heart of corruption; not dressing it up in all-encompassing language so that we don’t offend anyone in particular but allowing the beauty and ‘good-ness’ of creation to stand in contrast to what we have made it.
    I also think that, more than being ‘good and honest stewards’, we need to be menders and fixers. We need to be the ones ushering in God’s kingdom, not simply pottering around in the garden until it arrives.

  3. I would have assumed the fixing as part of being a good steward. I wasn’t thinking of ‘pottering’ which implies a certain amateur attitude. I’m thinking professional looker after (if that doesn’t more potter-ish!)

    Your distinction regarding creation is an interesting one and will inevitably hinge on how literal we take the Genesis narrative. The second story (the one with the Garden) tells of the serpent causing the fall to happen. If this is right, then there does seem to be evidence for a weak form of dualism. If there is no form of dualism, where does the ‘evil’ come from, the existence of which is clearly evident (while not blaming creation). Natural disasters are exactly that and are neither good nor evil although the consequences may be considered bad at the very least.  You can make a strong case for a force of evil around, given the events in places like Zimbabwe and others besides. If there is no dualism, then all these ‘bad’ things emanate from God who is good and is love and is just and so on.
    This is the kind of conundrum that I only venture into on rare occasions and always end up with a head ache !!

  4. I think a headache is the inevitable outcome when we dig into these things 😉
    I was thinking about Genesis 3 today and trying to think of the different outcomes when we treat it literally, metaphorically and so on. I think there are two key verses. The first is Genesis 3:1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.” You can read this, I would suggest, in two ways. The serpent wasn’t made by God and was, therefore, more crafty – dualist OR the serpent was made by God – God created evil. Headache time!
    The second is Genesis 3:17 “…cursed is the ground because of you…” It is from this (I think) that we get the idea of fallen creation as well as fallen humanity. It’s from here that Paul takes his thoughts in Romans 8:20 “for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Again, though, it leaves us with the dilemma – was it God cursing the earth that allowed it to be subject to earthquakes, tsunamis and so on or were they part of creation before that and the only effect of the curse was to make it a toil to grow crops? More headaches.
    Or is the whole of Genesis 3 (and beyond) simply etiology? An explanation of why things are the way they are rather than a strict scientific/historical explanation.
    Not sure that it furthers the discussion or simply leaves more questions.

  5. Headaches indeed… I’m not sure that I’ve evr fully accepted Genesis as historical narrative. It asks the why rather than the how. Although the ordering in Gen 1 is roughly the order things would have to have been in any scientific model, which, given the age of the book, is pretty impressive.
    As for tsunamis etc… The way society reacts to these is a good test of humanity. I’m not sure that I like the idea of earthquakes etc being divine humanitarian exams but that may be a way of looking at them. Not sure… feel a migraine coming on !

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