Caring about life means caring about peripherals, too
::I had started this post several weeks ago as I watched desperate business owners begging to be allowed to open their business while governors and mayors insisted otherwise. I edited it to include current events, because there is some related aspect to it.::
Between the protests and riots (not the same thing) in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd, and the conflict between people who want to get back to work to save their businesses and those who want everyone to stay home, it's clear there is a disconnect between what it means to show we value life and want to save it, and how private property and the ability to work and earn a living fit into it.
Life does not survive in a vacuum.
If we look at humans are mere biological machines, some of this makes sense. You keep the blood pumping through the meat, the meat stays fresh.
But you and I know there's more to life. People mostly kill themselves not because the blood and meat aren't working, but because something is wrong outside of that realm.
Faith. Laughter. Tears. Love. Pain. Joy. Good food. Humor. Roller coasters. Family reunions. Animals. Beautiful flowers. Gorgeous landscapes. Work. Church. Facing challenges and overcoming them. Hope. A future to look forward to. Creativity and a chance to exercise it. The feeling of accomplishing something. A feeling of ownership. Building something where there had been nothing. Systems that establish order so meat machines don't crash into each other.
Meat machines need more than oxygen. They have to have a sense of purpose and place in order to exist.
This makes sense, because we are created in the image of God. That doesn't mean we look like God, or are gods, but that we have a duty to reflect Him, as a bearer of his image, and therefore have some of the characteristics (free will, creativity, love for our children, a sense of justice and anger over injustice, a desire to have relationship, etc.). It is not enough for us to sit in a fishbowl, mouth open, pulling meat-necessary oxygen into our lungs, eyes glazed over, doing nothing. We were created for more than being fresh meat.
This is why the arguments that pop up when people get upset about watching their business, homes, community centers, community gathering places, museums, and so forth shutter their doors or be destroyed--whether by the torch or brick of a rioter or by a govenrment mandate during a pandemic--are often bogus. People concerned about those things aren't more concerned about buildings than human lives; they simply realize that when the smoke clears, some meat machines are going to fall into hopelessness and shut off the machine because all that's left is the fish bowl and taking in oxygen. Some meat machines will lack further opportunities to thrive, and will sink into a life pattern that leads towards rot.
"You care more about the economy than you do people's lives!"
"You can't reopen a store if you're dead!"
"You care more about buildings and systems than the death of a human being!"
These are false dichotomies, or false dilemmas.
You have to care about both, the biologicl being and the peripherals that make it get out of bed in the morning, or the meat machine won't thrive. Sometimes, that means a tricky balance.
How do you protect the biology without destroying the peripherals that make the biological being even want to exist? How do you address injustice and save more biological beings from it without destroying the peripherals that made a community?
I know when I struggle with depression, the best thing I can do is revert to a daily routine of work, exercise, getting out, being around other people, and reading the Bible. If the peripherals weren't important, I should be able to come out of depression simply by lying in bed breathing. If you've ever struggled with these issues, you know that's the worst thing to do.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
The Bible says Jesus came to give us life, and more abundantly. This is in contrast with the one who wants to kill, steal, and destroy.
That tells me there something beyond being the meat machine because if Jesus came to give us abundant life, and we already had oxygen, we were lacking full life. It also tells me that God knows we ought to have more to be complete. Jesus is the finisher of us, so we aren't complete without him and what it is he brings.
This is all a bit of an intellectual exercise, of course, because people who are scared or angry do a lot of things that might be counterproductive in hindsight. When you have very little power against something that is destroying your life and its peripherals, the response is often visceral. And of course, there are the opportunists who just want to see everything burn, or are fine with theft or staying home and having a check sent and things delivered to their door. There's a whole gamut, and some of those responses are distinctively anti-life, or at least, anti-abundant life.
But even in that, the worst moment or the worst person is acknowledging that there is more to life than simply existing as a biological being, even if that comes out as anger over injustice or self-medicating while trapped in the four walls of home.
I want to give people permission to mourn the loss of their livelihood, their job, their business, their community culture, their economy, their building, and whatever else--without feeling guilty or being shamed because they don't "care about saving lives!"--because it is all part of a loss of hope. And we don't truly live when we are hopeless.
[Read Terry Bisson's "They're Made Out Of Meat"]