Friday, July 8, 2005. 10:16AM. Sitting at the RMIT Union with my “The Chaplain Is In” sign in front of me. The place is deserted, so I don’t feel real foolish, but some. And actually not too deserted. Probably 8 people in the place.
I am here because of the bombings in London. As a chaplain at this University, I am trying to be a place where conversation take place, so I am sitting in a place where dialog can happen. And I am in pain for the bombings, so there is that part of it. But I admit that I am showing my own bias here, because I had English grandparents, am an Anglophile, and was in London – a city I love - two months ago; so it does look like a real tragedy to me and I do feel the pain of it. But the point could be made that children will die of hunger, people will be murdered, atrocities will happen all over the world every day. As tragedies go, this is not a unique thing. No big deal, right?
And that conundrum is part of my ministry, part of my showing up when and where I do both as a chaplain and as some sort of Christian: trying to be a place where serious questions might be considered. For the bigger question is, why does it happen at all: the bombings, the pain of innocence, the outbreak of evil? There is a ten dollar term for it, THEODICY: meaning, if God is good, then why do people suffer? Why is there pain? Why do bad things happen to…? And you know the rest. They are questions which should be asked. You can’t get too far into the possibility of a good or benevolent creator and not wonder about the quality of workmanship in the creation, it would be dishonest, unthinkable for some of us, not to raise the question, just why did someone innocent suffer for someone else’s actions?
Here’s what I wrote in a sermon awhile back:
I remember walking though a park in San Francisco a few years ago and seeing a sign on a fence built to keep people from walking across a newly seeded hillside. It said "Short Cuts Cause Erosion!" I take that as a four-word definition of sin, the original accident. Sin: a history of people taking shortcuts across other peoples lives, across geography, history, politics, sexuality, ethics, economics and religion too.
Perhaps the bombings in London need to be seen in the light of a hundred years of foreign policy, economic strategy, wars and business plans. The principalities and powers of Western Europe and the US have not always been just or kind in dealing with the Middle East, the world of Islam, and recent events actions in the world are an outgrowth of those earlier actions. It ends up that our shortcut with others have come home to undercut our own homelands; the way we treat the stranger stays around, endures and comes to be the way our friends have been treated. The shortcuts have cut across our own world. Because there is only one world, and we fail to live with that truth.
There is only one world. It may be both bigger and smaller than we can know at present; but mystics over the centuries and ecologists lately have said the same thing: we are all linked up together. Rumi, John Donne, John Muir, Jesus, Buddhist Roshi’s, Whitman, Blake, Sufi’s, Hindu’s, Whoever. Shamans from every side and estatics in all the world keep pointing to the unity of creation, the relatedness of all phenomena; that we are one world, one family, one creation.
For my own part, most days I do believe and live my life in the light that there is one motion in all this, which, in the end, will be seen as love. But at the present the world is a work in process and the simple fact of karma, freedom and shortcuts –call it what you will - means that other peoples bullets will be bouncing off the walls and innocent folks are going to get hurt.
In the 1980s my spiritual director said that the big question is this: How uncomfortable are you willing to be for the new creation? I admit that I am more likely to hurt for injustice, violence and destruction when it impacts people who look like me and streets where I have recently walked. And maybe that makes me more a part of the problem than any part of a solution. And (without sounding too much like a masochist) maybe the only solution is to enlarge my capacity to suffer with those who suffer, every one, and to remember that all unjustice, the wrong use of power and principality, all our corporate shortcuts contribute to the problem, and that I have a part in this. Even if I do not have an answer.