Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why I am not a fatalist...

You hear it in the phrases people use:

“It was just meant to be…”

“It is what it is…”

“That was inevitable…”

“There ain’t nothing you can do about it”

“Everything happens for a reason…”

The seeds of fatalism are every where. Should this surprise us? Perhaps not.

Increasingly, however, I notice people of faith (inadvertently?) using the same language. People may not realize what they are doing, and I don’t mean to suggest that because someone uses a phrase (in passing) that it makes them a hard core fatalist. But, I suspect it might serve us well to raise our awareness. Because, in the end, words do mean things. We are shaped by the things we say.

At the heart of fatalism, we find (in practice) the removal of personal responsibility. Choices are inconsequential and fate controls life’s outcomes. I can see why this may have appeal on some level, but personally I can’t go there. I have concluded that the image of God (that I bear) is inextricably linked to my freedom of choice. I am where I am because of choices I have made (by at least 51%). Therefore, even when it is hard to accept that reality (because of painful consequences) I am simply not ready to give away the essence of what it means to be human.

But, perhaps more importantly, why does this matter on a practical matter:

1. If my choices are the primary contributing factor to what I experience in this life than I have a reasonable hope for change. I – and the world – can be different, because we all bear the image of God and have this amazing capacity to choose. However, if fate (destiny, disease, and dysfunction) carry most of the weight of what I know in life; then my choices will never have enough leverage to move me in a different direction. In fact, no one can ever really change, because the trajectory of life is set. All we have is what we have always known. Redemption, then, is but a cruel joke.

2. It really gives me something to celebrate next weekend, because those places that have been broken by my poor choices can find forgiveness in the cross of Jesus Christ. And his bodily resurrection unleashes a power in the realm of the Spirit that energizes my choices with a persevering capacity that I could never muster on my own. If fate is the most significant variable influencing my life’s direction than Easter doesn’t ultimately matter. It may have happened, but it doesn’t really mean anything! And if it doesn’t mean anything, why celebrate it at all?

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