I think a lot of people assume that everything thinks that death is a bad thing and should be prevented if possible. Maybe that’s an assumption on my part too. I don’t know.
I keep asking myself – “How many more deaths will it take for people to take this seriously?” Here’s the thing with this question – it can apply to a lot of situations. COVID-19, war, climate change, gun violence, drug addictions, racism, poverty and homelessness, health care, among other things.
The problem with the statement is that it’s based on a faulty assumption – that everyone thinks that death should be avoided. Given that these things seem to go on undeterred maybe a better question would be “what would it take for us to actually do something to have people take these things seriously?” Again, maybe it’s the wrong question though. I’m starting to think that there are people who don’t think there is anything wrong with what is happening with any of these things.
Maybe this is the effect of post-modernism. The quick and dirty version of post-modernism is that there are no more meta-narratives – meaning that stories or values that everyone can relate to or value. Instead, each person has their own narrative. While that may sound negative on the surface, it doesn’t have to be. It can, and certainly looks like it is on a large scale. However, it is not the whole story.
Post-Modernism also offers a positive effect – humility. If there is no more meta-narrative, then that means I don’t have all the answers. It means I have to be open to learning, to different perspective (ones I didn’t even know existed), to different cultures, and language (with definitions that I hadn’t considered before). This requires a level of maturity though. I say it that way because I don’t know how else to describe it. It takes being self-differentiated enough to observe systems while not getting caught up in them. It requires self-confidence enough to know that one can be wrong about something.
The bigger question comes down to this – are there enough people who can live into the positive post-modern effect? Or are we doomed to some kind of destruction of the negative effect of post-modernism? Most likely, the answer is somewhere in between the two – meaning that we’ll be stuck in this in between area where we have positive growth and negative effects. Because it is rare to ever have anything that fits nice and neatly into the extremes. And we should be grateful for that. Extremes aren’t where the truth is (as much as the extremes like to claim they have the truth). The truth often lies somewhere in the middle, or even all along the spectrum. It’s messy and complicated. And often isn’t blurry. That’s part of the effect of post-modernism. What was so objective and clear before is discovered to be not so clear – especially when we start to hear from voices that were ignored or silenced before.
Homelessness isn’t nice and easy (if they would only get a job…they are lazy…they are drug addicts…etc). When you start to learn people’s names and hear their stories you see that homelessness and the solutions for it are messy and complicated (many people already work…health issues impact homelessness which impact health and the same is true of transportation, food availability, abuse, etc.).
But this could just as easily be said for any of the challenges that I listed earlier – COVID-19, war, climate change, gun violence, drug addiction, racism, poverty, and health care.
When all of these issues are just issues, they remain abstract. When they are abstract, they are just talking points, data, information. The arguments are just words on a bumper sticker, a meme, a comment, a Tik Tok, a political talking point. The issue becomes another battle in an ongoing war. The casualties are the people who face these things. When issues are abstract and used as weapons in these battles and wars, then people are dehumanized and used. And we loose sight of the image of God in others and in ourselves. Because if those we don’t know, those that are our enemies, those we disagree with are no longer seen as being in made in the image and bearing the likeness of God, then we lose sight of the image of God in ourselves too and so will others.
Assumptions play into this. We have the opportunity to break assumptions. We can’t change others. But we can learn and change. We can observe and offer an alternative. We can proclaim good news that frees people and invite others into a new way of being in relationship. We can do those things regardless of what others are doing.
I invite you to this.