One of my frustrations these days is with how we treat people. We often treat people like props. Just look at what happens when the President of the United States signs a bill into law. Sometimes the lawmakers that worked on the bill are front and center. At other times, it is a person or group of persons that represent those for whom the bill was written. They are people, but they are treated like props.
In one of my favorite movies, Disney’s The Kid, a shady baseball team owner is in trouble for not following through on his promises to fund a baseball camp for kids if he got a new stadium. Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis) is called into smooth things over so he tells the owners assistant to get a group of kids from the stands. The goal is to film these kids throwing pies in the owners face for breaking his promise. Afterwards, Amy (Emily Mortimer), Russ’ assistant says, “Russ, today we shamelessly exploited those children just to help some crook with his cash flow problem.”
That sounds like what happens in some corners of the Christian community. We use the tragedy to expound on what God is or isn’t doing about sin in the world. We use people as props to explain God’s plans. In the process, we lose the fact that people, made of real flesh and blood, are suffering unimaginable devastation and loss.
John Donne, a poet that lived in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…”
We are all created in the image and likeness of God. And as such, we are all connected by a spiritual paternity. This means that these people are not simply suffering strangers, but family. They are loved by God and each of them was worth dying for.
In the Movie Star Wars: Episode IV, Obi Wan Kenobi suddenly loses his balance at the same time the Death Star destroys the planet Alderaan. He was asked what happened, and he says, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”
As our recent memory will remind us, once again, something terrible has happened. Another tragedy has befallen our world. Lives have been lost. It is appropriate to weep and mourn and to pray. It is also important to remember that these are people whom God loves. They are not props.