Response to Luke Bretherton

I wrote the following in response to a question Luke Bretherton posted on Twitter: “I sat down to develop a list of moral and political questions this pandemic raises. I can think of many perennial & contemporary issues #Covid19 intensifies. But can anyone think of an entirely NEW moral or political issue or question it generates?” 

This is my quick take. Not really my area, so really just spit-balling. Too long for Twitter though.

I wonder if at the other end of this pandemic we will imagine ways to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation with created nature in ways that are analogous to interpersonal practices of forgiveness and reconciliation. They are unlike in so many ways, but maybe alike enough to make such talk meaningful.

We seem to have developed practices of gratitude in relation to a created nature on which we are dependent for life and flourishing. But what about forgiveness and reconciliation when the self-same processes of nature that have allowed for life, flourishing, fecundity, in other ways cause harm, suffering, death?

If, as modern science is helping us to see, creation may be seen as having something like freedom in its evolutionary history to develop conditions for life, creativity and consciousness, then there must also be a shadow side to this freedom having the possibility to explore things that lead to dead-ends and death. You can’t have one without the other.

It seems to me when confronted with the harmful dimensions of nature many folks default to some rather unhelpful notions about God’s sovereignty or some type of stoic resignation in the face of a block conception of an indifferent universe. 

If, however, it makes sense to speak of a type of freedom that is part of the history of the created universe may we not find ways to seek forgiveness and reconciliation when things go bad as we seek to express gratitude and care when things go well? 

After all, we have theological resources that say not only is creation good and commanded to be fruitful and multiply, but also say that it groans for redemption. A good, but imperfect created order that is on its way to an eschatological fulfillment as we all are.

On the other side of this pandemic I worry not only how we deal with habits of social distancing that we are practicing at this time for very good reasons, but also the distancing that is taking place in our imagined relationship to the created order.  

I don’t want a future that does not include the embrace of friends and family in the future. Nor do I want a future that does not include a deep connection to the creative and life giving processes of nature.  

  1. Thank you Joe. I have been thinking about that issue. Some type of perverse relation between humans and wildlife which cause virus and influenza. It seems part of the fallen created order. I was actually mad at the woman in Wuhan who at a filthy seafood market killed a bat which I have heard from epidemiologist is a similar bat virus that caused SARS. So there is the aspect of human agency. We need to stay away from eating or the way we kill wildlife which creates the exposure. But your point is well taken of the fact that there is an inimical relation between humans and nature.
    I’ve asked the question as I am sure others have: “where is God in the virus?” Same ancient question- God is there in the natural cause-effect relation bringing about good in a mysterious way. Is this where reason hits a wall?
    ❤️ Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jo. I am sharing your questions in this regard. Thanks for your wisdom. I guess I am trying to find a way to start imagining healed relationships on the other side of this pandemic rather than just reacting to the fear, anger and grief that are so immediate. Peace and prayers, Joe


  2. Yes. Very good point and concern. I am hoping that this universal experience of virus will give us a renewed sense of unity with humanity, nation, and community. Stay safe and healthy ❤️Jo

    Liked by 1 person

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