When a young person is informed of her parents’ divorce, it might be that her deepest questions are about her being: How can I be at all now that Mom and Dad aren’t together? Now that they are two, she is unavoidably divided. She has one room at Mom’s and another at Dad’s, one schedule at Dad’s and another at Mom’s. As philosopher Martin Heidegger said, we have our being in our practical way of living, in our actions. And now post-divorce, because this young person’s action and living is divided, so too is her very being. Her parents are seeking to reverse, to go back, to be as if the two never became one. But she can’t do this because she belongs (in the very material of her person that acts with and for them) to both of them.
This, then, is what churches need to do for children of divorce, something that is really not doing at all, but being: being together. The youth group, the children’s ministry, and the worshiping community on Sunday mornings all can be the community where children of divorce find ontological security, because the church, as theologian Edward James Loder once said, “knows of love greater than a mother’s or father’s.”
No doubt many of us would object to the accusation that we share or agree with such a mind-set. That’s simplistic nonsense, we might think. No one with any education or experience would ever hold to such a juvenile relational bartering system. But hold on for a moment. Think about the last fight you had with your significant other—was there an element of deserving tucked into the conflict? “You hurt me, so now I’ll hurt you”? I can’t tell you how much self-abuse I’ve come across in my years of ministry that had some element of inward-directed retribution at its core: the teenage girl who punishes herself by cutting her arms; or men who sleep around to prove that they deserve the contempt of their wives. If we cling to quid pro quo when dealing with others and ourselves, why wouldn’t we project it onto God (or the universe)? We are all helpless moralizers, especially when it comes to suffering.
On the opposite end of our natural tendency to moralize life and suffering stands the counter-intuitive affirmation of Christianity. Christianity affirms that Jesus severed the link between suffering and deserving once for all on Calvary. God put the ledgers away and settled the accounts. The good news of the gospel is NOT that good people get good stuff. It’s not that life is cyclical and that “what comes around goes around.” Rather, it’s that the bad get the best, the worst inherit the wealth, and the slave becomes a son (Rom.5:8).
Though C. Michael Patton clarifies what he means by it at the onset of his post, I don’t think “excited” was the right word to use. That said, Patton makes interesting points about how we risk being overwhelmed by tragedies and terrible news from all over the world, thanks to social media. If planning to read this article, it’s recommended that the whole thing is read because of Patton’s context and clarifications:
This is the plight we find ourselves in today. I believe it is the primary cause for today being called by many “the age of despair.” We have access to so much information, it creates an overload of knowledge concerning the state of affairs that go on beyond our own community and responsibility. We feel it is our duty to pray for, cry for, and give an answer for the evil report of the entire world. We feel as if we are doing something good if we have a good day and are able to do this. But this is not often the case; it can eventually make us useless in bearing any burdens and dealing with the problem of evil at all.
At this point, we can easily become disillusioned by the problem of evil in an unnatural and imbalanced way. When we are overly excited about the evil around us, our worldview becomes imbalanced and distorted, as does our view of God.
How did Harriet Tubman lead so many slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad? With careful planning, plenty of luck, and a little opium:
DRUG THE KIDS: Since Tubman always tried to keep families together, her traveling parties often included small children who could slow the group down or, worse, give it away by crying at the wrong moment. To curb these problems, Tubman always carried paregoric, an opium tincture that could knock out tots for hours at a time.
That Jabba the Hut bean bag chair looks mighty comfy.
Wow at the French Alps and Bolivia.