Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Selfish Tower of Babel

A professor in the  Philosophy department of the Catholic University, writes in an article in the Peace Weekly, on how some foolish words of some pastors on the Sewol tragedy were criticized by the press and provoked the anger of many of the citizens. They attempted to justify God's action in the tragedy and the words used were,he believes, an undigested understanding of Theodicy.

The reason behind the words uttered was the understanding that the existence of evil in the world is the result of punishment or for the education or testing of the just. Theodicy is the philosophic word that wants to justify God in the face of all the evil we see in the world that militates against an all powerful and all good God. The term was coined by the  German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716).

The place of evil and the goodness of God have always been a problem and the way it is explained has always posed difficulties.One existentialist philosopher reading the words of the pastors trying to justify God's place in the tragedy said: "Even if his whole body became a tumor he would oppose to death the God who permitted the slaughter of the children," 

One of the strongest opponents of theodicy was the Jewish philospher Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995). After Auschwitz concentration camp history, in the 20th century, Levinas believed we can no longer use theodicy with any intellectual or rational support. When we see the tears of suffering on the face of others we are responsible to do what we can to alleviate the suffering. With this kind of thinking the immature understanding of theodicy has no room in which to stand.

In the Sewol tragedy we had from the beginning to the end human greed and incompetence, there was no need for theodicy. If we do not know how to give warm words of condolences then it is better to say nothing rather than to be a false  prophet. When we see the tears of the families of the victims we feel with them and do what we can to diminish the suffering they have to endure.

My suffering and the suffering of the other when seen separately is of no help. We have to join our suffering with that of the other and do what we can to be with them in their suffering. If we see the tragedy of the Sewol with these eyes than we see how many of those volunteers at the scene of the accident were doing just that. The teachers who accepted death to help the students, the divers who died, and many others working to rescue the passengers.

The efforts of the politicians and religious people who were trying to give meaning to the disaster and wanted their meaning accepted were only adding to the violence that the families were feeling. The attempts to find scape goats, side shows and  temporary remedies to soothe the citizens' anger is not what we should be about, but work to dismantle the selfish tower of Babel we have constructed, and be led by a just moral order: a time  to listen or our consciences.

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