Digging Out

There are two tragedies in life, to paraphrase the famous line from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. One is to fail to gain your heart’s desire. The other…is to gain it.

Mountaineer Cory Richards, pictured above in this famous selfie, almost experienced both on the same day.

In a poignant testimonialin National Geographic last year, Richards speaks of the thrill of being invited by two legendary climbers, Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, to climb the daunting Himalayan peak of Gasherbrum II. The honour of being asked to partner with them in a winter attempt was huge, but Richards also hoped that this great accomplishment, once gained, would put his whole life together.

“Climbing…saved me,” he writes, out of a rough adolescence. “I dropped out of high school, got into alcohol and drugs, and lived on the street for a while.” But climbing gave him a challenging purpose. He cleaned up, shaped up, and climbed up—higher than most ever do.

To ascend Gasherbrum II with these two iconic mountaineers would, he hoped, be the  final piece to his personal puzzle. “I felt that if I could just make it to that summit, then I would be permanently ‘fixed.’” (How many of us have a similar great goal we honestly believe will complete and crown our lives?)

The day came for the final, mad push to the peak, and they made it. But on the descent, an avalanche swept down upon them. Amazingly, all three survived. The famous photo was taken about an hour after Richards managed to dig himself out.

So he gained his heart’s desire on his way up. And he almost lost it on the way down.

Great story, isn’t it? But Richards has more to say.

[To read the rest, please click HERE.]

Learning from Rwanda

This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the massacre in Rwanda, a quarter-century since 800,000 people died at the hands of their neighbours. The Walrus recently ran recollections of survivors, and the tales are harrowing.

Two features of this story give the Canadian Christian particular pause.

The first is the well-known fact that Canadian general Roméo Dallairewas there in the bloody midst of it, commanding the last contingent of United Nations peacekeepers. Having been refused the few thousand soldiers he requested in order to stop the bloodbath early on, he in turn refused to obey the UN instruction to stand apart while Rwandans destroyed each other with machetes, guns, fires, and bare hands. He and his fellow soldiers, Canadian, African, and South Asian, were badly outmanned, but they did all they could to staunch the flow of hatred and death, and they probably saved upwards of 30,000 people.

This is one of the stories that prompted me to transition from a Christian pacifism to the ethical position often called Christian realism. Dallaire was convinced, then and now, that a small number of troops, properly deployed, would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives by stopping the wildfire while it could still be contained. Troops would do it. And Christian prayers didn’t.

How do I know that Christian prayers didn’t? Here’s the second feature. At the time, Rwanda was among the most Christian countries in Africa—indeed, in the world—with upwards of 90% of the population espousing Christianity. So when the butchery began, you can expect that lots of prayers went up. But for all the stories of people being strangely, even miraculously, saved from the slaughter, there was still a slaughter. A huge slaughter.

And how could there be, among Christians?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Evangelicals, Ethics, and Supporting Donald Trump

Evangelicals—at least, we white ones—are having a hard time in the public eye these days. Perhaps you’ve noticed.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University in Virginia, hasn’t helped things. His support for Donald Trump was early and has remained strong to this day. How strong?

recent interview by The Washington Post quotes Falwell not as reluctantly voting for Trump over Hillary Clinton, nor as supporting Trump because his policies, on the whole, more closely accord with Biblical values than do the alternatives. Here’s an astonishing clip from that interview that shows just how deep runs Falwell’s devotion:

Is there anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders?

No.

That’s the shortest answer we’ve had so far.

Only because I know that he only wants what’s best for this country, and I know anything he does, it may not be ideologically “conservative,” but it’s going to be what’s best for this country, and I can’t imagine him doing anything that’s not good for the country.

The bigger issue here is not Jerry Falwell, Jr., but that statements such as these keep enabling people to denounce white evangelicals—whether in national media, in social media debates, or around the dinner table at Thanksgiving or Christmas—as uncritical stooges of a wildly immoral president.

Christian theology is clear that each of us is a sinner and is capable of big sins, not just occasional little ones. Christian theology is clear that each of us is so sinful, in fact, that we need a Saviour, not just an Instructor or an Example. That’s the “Old-Time Gospel” Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s father would preach and presumably what Jerry Falwell, Jr. would say he believes.

—Except, however, when it comes to President Trump? How is it that Donald Trump is somehow elevated above the common lot and infallibly going to do what’s good for the United States?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]