From David Brooks in the New York Times today, a haunting examination of how people cope when trauma strikes – sometimes more than once – and how others may help them cope.
Here is, for my money, the most interesting theological insight raised by Brook:
Ashley also warned against those who would overinterpret, and try to make sense of the inexplicable. Even devout Christians, as the Woodiwisses are, should worry about taking theology beyond its limits. Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.
In the past year, I’ve had the privilege of preaching at two funerals for parents of middle-school aged children, as well as at the memorial mass for a young woman brutally murdered in Southie. One of the themes that I haven’t been able to escape in all of these homilies is that death and all its boorish consequences isn’t a fundamental part of God’s plan.
Neither, I should add, is tragedy part of God’s desire for the world. In some cases, it is easier to place one’s finger on just what is wrong: the monstrous actions of one person or another. The real difficulty as ministers, however, is when the countless tragedies faced by the Poor People of God are based in what Aristotle would have called poor chance: the unexpected heart attack, the blown tired on the freeway, the list could go on and on.
And yet, Brooks is right on the target here: our faith can’t provide us with the specific data points to explain away why bad things happen to good (or, for that matter, any) people. What it can do is provide us with hope that the in breaking Reign of God won’t be stopped precisely because the battle has been won, is being won, and will be won.