Reflections... Our Titanic God
Two important commemorations happen this year - one that I consider very significant, and one that we all should consider very significant. First, my grandmother turns 100! When she turned 99, the Chicago Cubs congratulated her on their giant scoreboard and mentioned her during their broadcast. (She loves the Cubs.) Mabye this year they will let her throw out the first pitch! I look forward to attending her celebration in Des Moines, a celebration that is sure to both exhaust and exhilarate her. And on April 15, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic will be remembered.
Although our perspective narrows over 100 years, Titanic’s sinking was a momentous day in history. The first ten years of the 20th century witnessed the tremendous impact of industry. Wireless communication emerged, automobiles were mass produced, the Wright brothers flew, and elevators showed the upward and unlimited possibility of human achievement. When Titanic launched in 1912, people cheered our endless potential. However, Titanic’s sinking dealt a serious blow to such faith, and the advent of WWI shortly thereafter brought our faith in humanity to its knees.
In comparing Titanic’s sinking with the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania in 1915, the question arises: does Titanic point to the existence of God? It certainly points to our human proclivity for self-centeredness and self-worship. Why do we need God when we can create something like this with our own hands?! Yet Titanic and Lusitania do indeed reveal interesting insights into God and human behavior.
When Lusitania was struck by a German U-sub torpedo, the great cruise ship sank in a mere 18 minutes creating panic and literally an every man for himself rush for the lifeboats. Accounts from survivors indicated that women and children were physically pushed aside. On Titanic, however, which lasted for three hours before sinking, more time and care was taken to ensure the safety of women and children who made up the majority of Titanic’s survivors. In 2010 a Queensland (Aus.) University study examined human behavior on both ships. Researchers concluded that panic situations initiate our human flight instinct, our atavistic or animalistic instinct. But, when given time for rational response, humans rise above atavism and toward self-sacrifice, compassion, love for others, and hope beyond death. Reason overwrites instinct.
This conclusion is countered by those who argue that humans are hard-wired for survival, and that protection of women and children is innate to our tribal survival instinct. But if this is the case, such hard-wiring should kick in whether the situation is one of panic or thoughtfulness. And, if survival of the fittest matters most, then we do not want our best and strongest sacrificing themselves for the slowest and the weakest. According to Scripture, we are made in the image and likeness of God, and as such, every human being contains essential characteristics of God. In our human sinfulness, we sometimes justify actions that are counter to God’s image, yet this image remains. The Christian view especially highlights our higher (God-given) qualities of compassion for the least, service to others, and self-sacrifice even unto death. Moreover, these qualities are expressed through reason and rational response rather than mere emotion. I concur with others who understand this as a mark of our Creator. What do you think?
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