A great white shark nearly took off a salvage diver's head in South Africa, according to a now-viral video. Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles' phenomenal quarterback (and very committed Christian), has been ruled outfor the rest of the year with a knee injury.
And the wildfires in California have destroyed over a thousand structures as of this morning. An anesthesiologist lost his home to fire in Santa Rosa last October. Then a second home in Ventura, which he was renting to members of the military, burned down last week.
What do these stories have in common?
Shifting themes: A terror attack struck a bus terminal near Times Square yesterday morning. The would-be suicide bomber was reportedly inspired by ISIS attacks on Christmas markets in Europe. Reuters is reporting that Russian-language hackers have stolen nearly $10 million from at least eighteen banks, fifteen of them in the US.
And the New England Patriots played without Rob Gronkowski when they lost to the Miami Dolphins last night. The All-Pro tight end was suspended for the game as punishment for an illegal hit on a Buffalo Bills player last week.
What do these stories have in common?
Great white sharks may be "top tier predators" in nature, but their hunting behavior is obviously amoral. Pro football players may occupy a similar rank in athletics, but the hit that injured Carson Wentz was both legal and typical for the sport. The latest California wildfires are being blamed on natural causes such as dry conditions in the region and the state's Santa Ana winds.
However, Islamic terrorists, cyber-hackers and football players who blindside other football players are clearly making immoral choices. What's more, they illustrate a larger narrative I'd like to explore and relate to the grace of Christmas today.
"You have never talked to a mere mortal"
If our culture embraced the sanctity of human life, we would believe that every person we meet is worthy of our deepest respect. As C. S. Lewis noted, "You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."
However, it has been conventional wisdom since Darwin that humans are the coincidental result of natural selection. Since Freud, many have believed that belief in God is an illusion based on the infantile need for a powerful father figure. Postmodernism has taught us that the Bible is a compendium of personal opinions about a subjective faith.
In such a culture, we ought not be surprised by the abortion of unborn babies and euthanizing of unwanted seniors. Or by the endemic racial discrimination that is part of the fabric of our society. Or by the proliferation of pornography and sex trafficking in our time. Or by the burgeoning ranks of homeless and hungry people in our midst.
Islamic terrorists especially illustrate this theme. They believe that every person who is not aligned with them is either an infidel (non-Muslims) or apostate (other Muslims). In their view, such people are worthy of death.
Thieves are another example. Whether they are stealing electronically from banks or in person from front porches during Christmas, they clearly believe that they have the right to take what is ours. Athletes who intentionally injure other athletes are demeaning their peers as well.
We could illustrate this cultural narrative at great length today. Three former NFL players now working as television analysts are being accused of sexual harassment this morning; a woman who was stopped from smoking on an airplane threatened to killeveryone on board; the stories of Rohingya women and girls raped by soldiers in Myanmar are truly heartbreaking.
Think how different the news would be if each of us saw each of us as God does.
The grace of Christmas
If you believe that the behavior I described in the last section is immoral, beware: "You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things" (Romans 2:1).
Every time we sin against someone, we claim that we are more valuable than they are, that the sanctity of human life does not apply to them as it does to us. But here's the good news: Our Father sees us as worthy of his unconditional love, no matter how conditionally we love each other. The Christ of Christmas became one of us that each of us might be one with him.
In worship last Sunday, I heard a Christmas song with this powerful chorus:
How many kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me.
Why do you need his transforming grace? Who will experience his unconditional love in yours today?
NOTE: Today's Senate election in Alabama is generating national attention. Our ministry is nonpartisan and does not endorse or oppose candidates. However, I will address the results of the election in tomorrow's Daily Article as we discuss its significance for our culture.
Originally posted at the Denison Forum.