Sunday, September 8, 2019

Its a sad, sad, sad, sad world

Rather than a mad mad mad mad world (a 1963 comedy film). Its a sad, sad, sad, sad world. Job tells us so.

But the message of the Bible, the gospel, is that we are not in this alone; it does not represent our final state, we can work against the 'sad', and we can, in Christ, nevertheless, live, grow and have joy.

And there is no one-to-one correlation between our 'sads' and our actions, but it is a fallen world. Heller in Catch-22 throws this into dark satirical contrast when Yosarrian and Dunbar start discussing the misaligned 'causes' of each other's afflictions, in the actions of other people.

Our sermon this morning was on this theme, and it is one that is rarely part of modern Christian pastoral theology, Christian spiritual formation or practical thought, alas.

Its theology, in the sermon, sprang from Job 42:1-6, amplified by Paul in Romans 11:33-36 and prior.

But one thing was missing: Genesis 1-3 -- God making us in his image (Gen 1:27-28) and for fellowship (3:8-9). But that fellowship broken as we, in Adam, rejected it, casting the world under our stewardship adrift from God's wisdom.

An aspect of the 'adriftness' of the cosmos, the world seems random, as Heller satirises, but we who are in Christ are not adrift in the randomness of a 'natural' world; rather we are in the cosmos created and sustained by God for his purposes and ultimate glory. As a loving creator, his glory will catch us up (in Christ). The cosmos is not a thing separate from God, an independent 'given' but is a thing running amok (compare Luke 13:4), although pervaded by his spirit, broken and fallen as it is. That falleness will not subsume us -- while it does affect us all in various, almost random ways -- because Christ has triumped over the death that ends it and has saved us from it and, sin, its cause.

The Catch-22 quote:

‘I wonder what he did to deserve it,’ the warrant officer with malaria and a mosquito bite on his ass lamented after Nurse Cramer had read her thermometer and discovered that the soldier in white was dead.

‘He went to war,’ the fighter pilot with the golden mustache surmised. ‘We all went to war,’ Dunbar countered.

‘That’s what I mean,’ the warrant officer with malaria continued. ‘Why him? There just doesn’t seem to be any logic to this system of rewards and punishment. Look what happened to me. If I had gotten syphilis or a dose of clap for my five minutes of passion on the beach instead of this damned mosquito bite, I could see justice. But malaria? Malaria? Who can explain malaria as a consequence of fornication?’ The warrant officer shook his head in numb astonishment.

‘What about me?’ Yossarian said. ‘I stepped out of my tent in Marrakech one night to get a bar of candy and caught your dose of clap when that Wac I never even saw before hissed me into the bushes. All I really wanted was a bar of candy, but who could turn it down?’

‘That sounds like my dose of clap, all right,’ the warrant officer agreed. ‘But I’ve still got somebody else’s malaria. Just for once I’d like to see all these things sort of straightened out, with each person getting exactly what he deserves. It might give me some confidence in this universe.’

‘I’ve got somebody else’s three hundred thousand dollars,’ the dashing young fighter captain with the golden mustache admitted. ‘I’ve been goofing off since the day I was born. I cheated my way through prep school and college, and just about all I’ve been doing ever since is shacking up with pretty girls who think I’d make a good husband. I’ve got no ambition at all. The only thing I want to do after the war is marry some girl who’s got more money than I have and shack up with lots more pretty girls. The three hundred thousand bucks was left to me before I was born by a grandfather who made a fortune selling on an international scale. I know I don’t deserve it, but I’ll be damned if I give it back. I wonder who it really belongs to.’

‘Maybe it belongs to my father,’ Dunbar conjectured. ‘He spent a lifetime at hard work and never could make enough money to even send my sister and me through college. He’s dead now, so you might as well keep it.’

‘Now, if we can just find out who my malaria belongs to we’d be all set. It’s not that I’ve got anything against malaria. I’d just as soon goldbrick with malaria as with anything else. It’s only that I feel an injustice has been committed. Why should I have somebody else’s malaria and you have my dose of clap?’

‘I’ve got more than your dose of clap,’ Yossarian told him. ‘I’ve got to keep flying combat missions because of that dose of yours until they kill me.’

‘That makes it even worse. What’s the justice in that?’

‘I had a friend named Clevinger two and a half weeks ago who used to see plenty of justice in it.’ ‘It’s the highest kind of justice of all,’ Clevinger had gloated, clapping his hands with a merry laugh. ‘I can’t help thinking of the Hippolytus of Euripides, where the early licentiousness of Theseus is probably responsible for the asceticism of the son that helps bring about the tragedy that ruins them all. If nothing else, that episode with the Wac should teach you the evil of sexual immorality.’

‘It teaches me the evil of candy.’

‘Can’t you see that you’re not exactly without blame for the predicament you’re in?’ Clevinger had continued with undisguised relish. ‘If you hadn’t been laid up in the hospital with venereal disease for ten days back there in Africa, you might have finished your twenty-five missions in time to be sent home before Colonel Nevers was killed and Colonel Cathcart came to replace him.’

‘And what about you?’ Yossarian had replied. ‘You never got clap in Marrakech and you’re in the same predicament.’

‘I don’t know,’ confessed Clevinger, with a trace of mock concern. ‘I guess I must have done something very bad in my time.’

‘Do you really believe that?’

Clevinger laughed. ‘No, of course not. I just like to kid you along a little.’

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