Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Tsunamis and the Moral Anthropology
The tsunamis that have spawned mind-boggling human suffering across Asia represent perhaps the most difficult challenge to the anthropological presumptions driving the project that we've undertaken on Mirror of Justice. How can we insist on the theologically grounded dignity of the human person when the natural order itself appears to defy such dignity? Nature's challenge is especially poignant during this Christmas season, as the divine concern for humanity promised by the Incarnation seems relatively meaningless given the utter absence of concern embodied in the shifting of the earth's plates deep under the ocean.
Clinging to a belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good deity appears hopeless in the wake of these deadly waves. Invoking human free will offers little help, as the earthquake (unlike all war, much famine, and many diseases) is not causally related to any human act or omission. Chalking it up to the mystery of God is understandably seen as a cop-out. Another common response is to insist that creation fell along with humanity, and this world is obviously not as God desired. But why would God have wired the earth itself to unleash death and destruction once humanity rejected Him? Murder is a human creation; plate tectonics are not. Is not God culpable for earthquakes? And if God is culpable, is not the entire Christian worldview proved to be the illogical relic portrayed by critics?
It seems to me that if we want a moral anthropology rooted in the Incarnation to be taken seriously, we must try to offer an explanation of a world in which tsunamis rip children from their mothers' arms. This is an age-old question, but it must lie at the heart of any effort to engage a culture made skeptical of our "Catholic legal theory" project, at least in part, by pervasive human suffering seemingly caused by the God we embrace.
So I'll ask readers and co-bloggers: What do we have to say for God (and ourselves)?