The Summer of Our Discontent

I have a post entitled “What This Summer Taught Us about Humanity” over at On Faith that reflects on three public tragedies of the month of August and how they remind us of three truths about the human experience.

Though few of those who mourned Robin Williams actually knew him personally, many experienced a sort of intimacy borne in part out the of American celebrity culture but also out of his own gifted ability to relate onscreen. We knew him in a way, and we felt a true sense of loss. Even for those like me who could not watch the video of James Foley’s torment, the reality of the video made him known to us in a personal way; we were confronted with his last moments of life, an intimate knowledge to be sure. We have similarly come to know something of Michael Brown’s life and death through the many witnesses retelling the events of that night in Ferguson, Mo., and the many remembrances in the aftermath.

Disparate circumstances and motivations for each death, a similar profound sense of loss. How do we explain it?

Human death is always tragic; it represents a painful loss of life, relationship, and potential. The tragedy is compounded exponentially when the death is unnecessary or avoidable. That deep sense of loss or tragedy is felt as a sickening in our collective gut, an unanswerable grief that nevertheless begs for an answer. 

Despite the disparate circumstances and motivations for the events of August, we experience a similar and profound sense of loss for each one. How can we explain it? 

The holy scriptures attribute this profound sense of loss to a unique and inherent feature of a humanity that is created in the image of God. The creation story of Genesis teaches that humans have dignity because they bear and reflect the infinite glory of the Creator from whom all glory and dignity flow. The Christian gospel compounds the unique dignity of humanity when it teaches that God personally identified with the human race by first becoming a human and then dying a human death in order to reconcile humanity to him. 

As a result, death speaks to a truth that is broader than the individual event. There is a deep wrongness to it, a meaningful wrongness that surpasses the merely naturalistic explanations of solidarity within the species. We are touched with a timeless, expansive glory that makes death seem somehow slanderous, somehow deeply inappropriate.

 You can read the entire post here.

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