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God and Tsunamis

Job's, and Hopkins', are indeed dramatic theologies that we resist because they seem to make human beings matter very little. They portray an awesome, fearful God who masters tsunamis but lets people die in them.

Yet there may be another side to this way of looking at God. It is the way with which Hopkins ends his poem, a way that focuses on his fierce love. Humanity, according to the biblical story, has chosen autonomy over love, sin over obedience, and it deserves the fruit of its choice: death.

Yet God has pursued humanity like a lost love, sending even his son to die as a martyr in order to save humanity. His hard love calls new martyrs to save the rest of humanity, to bring them back to love God lest they die estranged from him.

Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
            Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;

God comes, in a word, in waves because he is Lord of all the created world; he hopes to save all humanity, even as he saves those who call upon him as they drown.

We who tend to think of ourselves in personal, even individual relationships with God will find this idea uncomfortable, for it suggests that God's contract is with the whole of humanity, and God is interested primarily in seeing that relationship to its eternal fruition.

Yet therein lies a remarkable paradox: perhaps our lives mean more precisely because they are not our own.

What if tsunamis are a reminder that human beings really must think of themselves as being in a collective contract with God? That our lives are part of a trans-historical narrative, and that our part is to bring about its final end? And that in the process it is God himself constantly in-breaking to help us do exactly that?

Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-
            cresseted east

What if, in other words, the truth is that to the extent that we let God "easter in us"—transform us into martyrs (Greek, "witnesses"), either in life or in death—we are helping bring about the salvation of the world?

3/15/2011 4:00:00 AM