Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Creation Is Wild: We Pay A Price In Forgetting This Truth

 “There is a patience of the wild – dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself.”
--Jack London, "The Call of the Wild"

In the end, the wild in this world still wins sometimes. 

Mixed within Thanksgiving 2018 week news reports of how to cook a turkey just right or about Black Friday deals on flat screen TVs or heartwarming stories describing folks traveling thousands of miles to get home, there was an odd story. A tragic story. A wild story. The story of John Allen Chau.

Chau, a twenty six year old from Washington state, an apparently fervent Christian singularly devoted to spreading his faith to the wild places and wild peoples of this world, died in that effort on November 16th.  A month before he had traveled to the wildest of places, North Sentinel Island, an isolated spit of land in the middle of the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles off the coat of India.  There live a Sentilese tribe of 50 to 100 people, who have intentionally isolated themselves from the rest of the world for thousands of years. The Indian government considers the island off limits to all outsiders and tries to protect it.  But Chau was not to be stopped from his "mission". 

For four weeks Chau repeatedly tried to land on the island, at one point (according to his diary) yelling to the inhabitants from his kayak in the waters offshore: “My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you!”  He was attacked by spears thrown by the islanders, had his Bible pierced by a razor sharp arrow, and was repelled by the tribe, who wanted nothing more than to be left alone. Left in the wild. Left to themselves. Yet still Chau insisted, persisted and so the inevitable happened. Chau finally landed on the island and was killed, his body buried under the sands of that wild and mysterious place. Efforts to retrieve his remains have thus far failed.

As a Christian, the same faith as Chau's, what most strikes me about his death is what a waste of a life it is, what a product his demise is of naive arrogance found in the human idea that we can somehow tame all that is wild. Control all that which is ultimately out of our control.  Presume we "civilized" folks know best how other "wild" fellow human beings are supposed to live. Chau foolishly, tragically died, a victim of the wild.

Yes, the wild still has much power in our world in spite of what we humans might believe or imagine. Chau's death shows this truth. Yet in 2018 it is so easy to assume that the wild no longer has reign in Creation. 

Our world is more connected and interconnected than ever before, billions of us able to communicate with each other through one tap on a smart phone screen. Diseases that once ravaged this world in wild and frightening ways--smallpox, polio, malaria--have been eradicated through the work of modern science.  Travel has shrunk our world to hours spent on a jet plane, one day in Boston, the next in Senegal or Mongolia or Madagascar. 

The world has been tamed but so too this world is still untamed, a very, very wild place. Witness the California wildfires that ravage the coast and burn in spite of all we humans try to do to stop them. Witness climate change, born from the arrogance of humans who presume we can tame wild mother earth, recklessly use all of her resources and then not somehow pay the price for our avarice. Witness our shared lives, the countries we call home, the systems of global organization that seemingly unite our fractured global community. 

All it takes is a handful of wild leaders to destabilize world order.  So now the United States is singlehandedly beginning to dismantle the community of western nations created post World War II in the cause of peace. The forces of Brexit in Great Britain insist upon divorce from the European community even though such an action is likely to wreck the British economy. Wild despots reemerge as bullies on the world stage, like Putin in Russia.

The world is still a wild place. A very wild place. Even our God is forever wild, a God we too often insist upon taming through rigid orthodoxy, narrow religious belief, and the arrogant notion that our little tribe possesses God's truth, all others need not apply.

We as Christians, as a species and as children of God would be wise to remember this truth, the wildness in the very DNA of God and the stuff of Creation. To respect the wild places and wild peoples and wild nature. To have a bit of healthy and fear and true humility when it comes to how we engage and encounter the wild in this life.

Because sometimes, even in this twenty first century, the wild still wins.



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