Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of Crosses and Parallels

A dewy-eyed Rod Dreher reports having watched Haitians on television praying and singing hymns amid their profound suffering, and locates A Very Special Lesson:

From one point of view, this is insane. From another, it's heroic. It's what you would expect from a people whose religion centers on a God who was humiliated, tortured, and nailed to a cross until he died in agony. The crucifixion is not the last word! This behavior from the Haitians makes perfect sense from a Christian point of view ...
I had to read this a few times to make sense of it, but I think Dreher's Very Special Lesson is that Christianity has taught Haitians, through the example of Jesus, that unbearable suffering -- dying on a cross in Calvary, watching your loved ones pried off a piece of rebar in Port Au Prince -- ends happily.

This comedy more or less hangs together for Jesus, who, so the story goes, rounded off his terrible weekend by floating up to a luxury suite and sitting in judgment over matters of damned versus saved for all humankind from that point forward -- nice work if you can get it. He also went on to be the subject of countless paintings, the protagonist of one of the world's most widely-circulated books, the recipient of countless billions of prayers from people of all walks of life, the first one thanked after any number of victories in sporting events, and surely not least, the guy who changed George W. Bush's heart. It's not a deal I'd take, but it's not a bad trade-off on the whole.

The comedy for these singing Haitians is not so easy to sketch. It's perfectly compatible with Christian theology that they'll not only endure the horrors of this recent earthquake, but still end up in hell after they finally die -- an eternity of rebar, rubble, and agony. It should surprise no one if the trauma of this experience scars their psychology and perturbs their world-view in a way that increases this likelihood since Haitians, unlike the Jesus in whom Dreher sees an easy parallel, are saddled with a regular, everyday human nature with all its limitations in carrying capacity and perspective, not one charged with extra god powers. They might just fall out of the praising, singing, joyous mood that Dreher saw on tee-vee.

Cheap casuistry aside, it seems to me that if god exists and wants to see a happy ending for the wracked people of Haiti, now would be an excellent time to step in and make it happen. Meanwhile, the best available evidence suggests that we fellow human beings will bring the survivors in Haiti out of ruin and despair or nothing will.

(via Rust Belt Philosophy)

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