I was born at a very young age.

So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense. When people are starving only a few thousand miles away, when wars are raging close to our borders, when countless people in our own cities have no homes to live in, our own activities look futile. Such considerations, however, can paralyse us and depress us. Here the word call becomes important. We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people. But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time. Henri Nouwen (via recycledsoul)

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John Piper, tornadoes, and the effects of the Fall

John Piper’s blogging about tornadoes again. It’s not the first time he decided to venture into this territory. As a Calvinist, I understand the desire to cling to the belief in the sovereignty of God when disasters happen, but it feels to me like Piper has crossed a line into attributing motive to the almighty God of all the universe, as if mortal man can explain the mind of God. There’s something about his post that doesn’t set well with me, it just feels presumptuous.  Piper operates from the assumption that God somehow sent the tornadoes for some purpose, and then proceeds to consider several possibilities and reasons why God might have sent tornadoes to small-town America instead of big bad sinful Hollywood or Washington D.C. (I’m not going to even go into the fallacy that Hollywood or D.C. is somehow deserving of a natural disaster, or the assumption that small-town America is less sinful). While he may very well be theologically correct in the abstract, to suggest that any of those reasons explain the tragedy or offer any sort of comfort to people who have lost their loved ones reminds me of Job’s friends coming to offer theological platitudes to explain why he’d lost everything. I think Job 38-39, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand,” is really the only appropriate approach–trying to explain God’s actions presumes that we are capable of understanding. The reality is that we live in a fallen world, the effects of sin and the fall have permeated everything, including nature. In a fallen world, natural disasters happen, and it doesn’t have to be because of anybody’s sin, or because God is trying to send a message to anybody. The fall happened, and because of that, things can suck[…]

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On the right side of history and historical blind spots

I think that most of us like to imagine that when we’re faced with the choice of doing what is right, taking a stand on the important issue of our time even when no one around us is standing, that we’ll be on the right side of history. But the reality is that throughout history, most people choose comfort and social acceptance instead of taking a stand. Most people don’t act until there is a critical mass so that to stand no longer means standing alone, and some still cling to the comfort of the past and tradition even after history has passed them by. We smugly look at history’s past sins and proclaim that if we had been there, we would have done the right thing, but would we have? It’s easy to say we’d do the right thing when everyone agrees with us now, but social pressure isn’t easy to stand against, and going against what you’ve been taught all your life is easier said than done.  I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot, but I’m not sure how to tell if there’s some sort of massive historical/cultural blind spot that I’m missing. How do you step outside of your culture enough to be able to see whether you’re helping to perpetuate injustice? How can we be sure that our grandchildren won’t look back on our time and be appalled at some great injustice that we completely missed?

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