So there was this Muslim cleric who put his foot in it, clean up to the knee, by saying that women dressing immodestly is the cause of earthquakes. There was naturally a response in this country that called for women to show some principled cleavage in order to test that holy man’s thesis. On Monday, many thousands of them did so, in what passes for political discourse these days. It would be fair to say that there were many incidents of déclassé décolletage — unattractive feminist scientists flaunting what they thought was sexuality, attractive bimbo queens taking the opportunity, natch, aging beauties reliving the glory days, and all of them over the top, so to speak.
When an ignorant religious official, from any of the world’s great religions, sets up shop to pronounce on how this causes that, simpliciter, it is not surprising that hilarity ensues. The problem with this is that the hilarity is every bit as ignorant as the cleric. The fact that someone reads something wrongly does not mean that there is nothing there to be read. The fact that someone is illiterate does not mean that the book he can’t read doesn’t exist. One time when our oldest daughter was around two-years-old, she was sitting in the car with her uncle in the parking lot of Safeway. They were waiting for her mom to come out, and while they were sitting there, she carefully spelled out the name of the store, and her uncle was quite impressed, until right at the end. “S . . . A . . . F . . . E . . . W . . . A . . . Y . . . Rosauers!” But the fact that she read the sign wrongly did not mean that there was no sign there to be read.
The fact that someone offers up a simplistic thesis (cleavage → earthquakes) only means that he is a simpleton. When numerous other simpletons answer him in kind, this proves nothing except that we have more simpletons around here than we initially thought.
When God judges nations, He does so on the basis of billions of variables. This does not mean that His judgments cannot be read, but it does mean that they cannot be read simplistically.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:3-7).
My point is that jiggling your boobs for a YouTube clip is a response to an ignorant Muslim that works equally well as a response to the apostle Peter, which is to say, not at all.
On a related front, I am currently reading To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. This looks to be an edifying read, and he promises to nuance the heck out of everything, but I do want to register one fundamental concern up front. I have a lot more to read, and will have more to say on this anon, but here is an initial observation. When we talk about affecting the world, for good or ill, we have to recognize how big the world is, how expansive history is, and how small we are. Any measurements we might take within the scope of a generation or two are going to be, of necessity, inadequate. They will be simplistic. And so, for example, if those who are training young people for “short term missions” promise returns too quickly, the result will be eventual disillusionment. It turns out that Africa was not transformed because you spent two weeks there hauling cinder blocks. But if those who believe that we cannot really change the world at all act on their belief, they will just slump down discouraged now.
We are like kindergarteners who, having planted their beans in the egg carton, dig it up every day to determine how it is doing. Not very well, the answer would be, because we are checking in too frequently. Daily check-ups are not what is called for — but that doesn’t mean that beans don’t grow.
Take some boy scout who helps a little old lady across the street. Is civilization saved? Did he make a difference? Not in any appreciable way, not that we can see. But then if we spent some time in a culture where nobody ever helped any stranger across the street, we get a glimpse of something larger. Taking your place at the end of the line at your local bank seems insignificant until you go someplace where standing in line is an alien concept. When the first people starting standing in line, where they making a difference? Were they changing the world? Not that they could see.
When evaluating how cultures change, how they rise, and how they fall, we really need to look at it in 500 year chunks. If we use two week slices for our sample sizes, we are just going to get confused — overconfident and confused, like the Muslim cleric, or full of scoffing, like the boobtubers.
Approach it from the other end. Is the world different than it was a thousand years ago? Doesn’t that mean that it changed? And, if it changed, was anybody or anything responsible? Not that they could see, but what is it that overcomes the world? Is it not our faith?