Ancient Answers

Guidance for Today from Scripture and Early Christianity

Two Anniversaries

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April 24th marks two very different anniversaries: the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Holocaust and Genocide and the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Telescope. The first anniversary represents the darkest side of human nature, while the second represents humanity at its most inspiring.

Armenian intellectuals who were arrested and later executed en masse by Young Turk government authorities on the night of 24 April 1915.

Armenian intellectuals who were arrested and later executed en masse by Young Turk government authorities on the night of 24 April 1915.

The killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks began on April 24th, 1915, and took over 1 million lives by the time it came to an end. Armenians call it Medz Yeghern (“the Great Crime”) and it is acknowledged by most historians and governments of the world, but it continues to be denied by Turkey.

An article by the New York Times dated 15 December 1915 states that one million Armenians had been either deported or executed by the Ottoman government.

An article by the New York Times dated 15 December 1915 states that one million Armenians had been either deported or executed by the Ottoman government. (click to enlarge)

Fundraising poster for the American Committee for Relief in the Near East. The United States contributed a significant amount of aid to help Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.

Fundraising poster for the American Committee for Relief in the Near East. The United States contributed a significant amount of aid to help Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. (click to enlarge)

As their empire faded into the dust, the Ottoman Turks also attacked other minorities, especially the Greeks and Assyrians. But the greatest tragedy was the one that befell the Armenian population. As the map further down graphically illustrates, the extermination of Armenians was conducted on a scale surpassed only by the Germans a couple decades later. Wholesale deportations, destruction of entire villages and communities, and concentration camps dotted the Turkish landscape. These killings were not a result of wartime, as the Turks continue to insist. This was a methodical attempt to exterminate an entire group of people. It was genocide by any definition! Armenian communities throughout the world – including our own state of Maine – are commemorating this great tragedy with many special events and memorial services.

An Armenian woman kneeling beside a dead child in field within sight of help and safety at Aleppo, an Ottoman city.

An Armenian woman kneeling beside a dead child in field within sight of help and safety at Aleppo, an Ottoman city.

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit, as seen from the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit, as seen from the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The launch of the Hubble Telescope on April 24th, 1990, opened up the eyes of humanity to the ends of the universe. For 25 years the telescope has orbited above the earth’s atmosphere and has returned photograph after remarkable photograph of the immense glory and stupendous wonder of our universe. How can we look at the immensity of the universe and yet act in such small, selfish and monstrous ways to our fellow human beings? Do we not know that we are made of stardust and to stardust we return? This is the point where one can say to the religions of the world – including most versions of the Christian faith – “your god is too small.”

A god who condones violence – whether directly or by interpretation – is not a god worthy of the universe. On this anniversary of Hubble I’m tempted to say this about the Christian Church throughout the past 2,000 4th_day_4Ayears. Would Jesus Christ identify himself with the hatred and selfishness that continue to be exhibited in his name? Or would Jesus tell us to gaze in wonder at every picture of space that Hubble sends down to the small-minded inhabitants of this earth? Yes, I can just hear the theologians object: But Jesus is the Word of God, he created this immense universe and all its wonders; he doesn’t need Hubble! You mean like he didn’t need this earth or a human mother? How easily we resolve everything by retiring to the divinity of Jesus! This is the monophysitic heresy of the church! Alive and well in every other sentence we speak or sing.

No, I prefer to stop sometimes and think of Jesus alone on a mountaintop or in the desert, gazing at the starlit sky and wondering how deep is this ocean of light and darkness above us. How many wonders will be discovered in the centuries to come as human beings learn to look upward instead of downward and inward to our own selfish motives?

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 image includes galaxies existing shortly after the Big Bang.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 image includes galaxies existing shortly after the Big Bang.

Human beings have continued in their inhumanity ever since Jesus looked up at the sky. And yet, scattered throughout our centuries of violence and hateful acts, great spirits have dared to look beyond our darkened hearts and look to the skies for glimmers of light and hope. Today, our machines and ingenuity have enabled us to look into the very depths and origins of creation – 14 billion years ago – and, at the other extreme, into the tiniest domains of existence, where strange particles and mysterious forms of energy are joining the dance of continuing creation. The Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland, is doing for the extremely small scale what Hubble is doing for the extremely large scale of creation. The maps of existence they are creating are enough to blow away every fundamentalist lie and deception.

One of Hubble's most famous images,

One of Hubble’s most famous images, “Pillars of Creation,” shows stars forming in the Eagle Nebula.

There is creation all around us – the antithesis of our destructive urges. This is why the two anniversaries on this day pose such huge questions to us. Do we continue killing each other, often in the name of a god who is too small? Or do we join the galaxies and the subatomic particles in the dance of unity that many great scientists have tried to encapsulate in that ever-elusive “theory of everything”? Perhaps because it is a dance that unites all levels of being is the reason why it is so difficult to reduce it to a single theory or equation. Perhaps by trying to find a “theory of everything” scientists are making the same mistake that religions have made with their gods. Perhaps scientists are trying to make the universe too small, like religions make god too small.

NASA Just Released This Image To Celebrate The Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary. The image shows a star cluster with some of the most massive stars ever discovered.

NASA Just Released This Image To Celebrate The Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary. The image shows a star cluster with some of the most massive stars ever discovered. (click to enlarge)

Then again, after many years or centuries, perhaps scientists will have their “theory of everything.” But in the meantime we can enjoy the spectacle that unfolds before us thanks to the good use of human ingenuity. Have you ever wondered why religious fundamentalists are against education? Because they don’t want their god to be exposed as too small. But the map of the universe is growing ever larger and more detailed. Science presses on, to replace the maps of human hatred with maps of incredible beauty and mystery. Consider the two maps below. Don’t they look similar? Yet, the first represents the evil of men, while the second gives us a glimpse into our neighborhood in the amazing universe. Psalm 8 sings with these words:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of us, that you care for us? (slightly paraphrased)

The universe is the great equalizer. It puts our human acts in proper perspective. As we remember one act of human evil, let us celebrate the goodness of a God who is not too small and who beckons us to look at the heavens above.

Map of massacre locations and deportation and extermination centers

Map of massacre locations and deportation and extermination centers (click to enlarge)

Map of the Nearby Universe, showing our own galaxy, the Milky Way, in relation to other galaxies and galaxy clusters. The motions of galaxies are also illustrated.

Map of the Nearby Universe, showing our own galaxy, the Milky Way, in relation to other galaxies and galaxy clusters. The motions of galaxies are also illustrated by directional cones. (click to enlarge)

A diagram of Earth’s location in the Universe in a series of eight maps that show from left to right, starting with the Earth, moving to the Solar System, onto the Solar Interstellar Neighborhood, onto the Milky Way, onto the Local Galactic Group, onto the Virgo Supercluster, onto our local superclusters, and finishing at the observable Universe.

A diagram of Earth’s location in the Universe in a series of eight maps that show from left to right, starting with the Earth, moving to the Solar System, onto the Solar Interstellar Neighborhood, onto the Milky Way, onto the Local Galactic Group, onto the Virgo Supercluster, onto our local superclusters, and finishing at the observable Universe. (Click to enlarge!)

3 thoughts on “Two Anniversaries

  1. There really is not a single idea in this article that I disagree with. Having said that, I went back in my thoughts to your previous article on the only proof God offers.

    I am not sure whether you ever heard a presentation on the philosophy of the scientific method. The scientific method, by its design, is a systematic way to draw conclusions about what is unknown, by extrapolating from what is known. The beauty of the scientific method is that it assumes two things: 1- that the scientist has a vested interest in being right and 2- that the first , second and tenth conclusions a scientist makes about their observation are proobably as far away from reality as heaven is from earth. In fact the whole training of a scientist is to dynamite away as much subjectivity from them as possible, with the hope that what remains is at least semi objective. That is why research is not accepted until it is peer-reviewed and duplicated with the same results, time and time again.

    In a similar vein, the Lord Jesus, in Mathew 6 uses an interesting instructional technique. He starts with the known, how God deals with nature, grass, lillies, birds and extrapolates from what everybody has seen, and may not have noticed, principles that explain God’s written word. He goes from the known to the unknown, just like a scientist does in research.

    It seems to me that the problem we face as humans, is that with the development of technology, we have gotten so proud, that we have forgotten that we have a lot more that we don’t know , than what we do know. Couple this with the circular reasoning that reaffirms what lies we have convinced ourselves of, and we become like parrots, reiterating over and over again what lies we have convinced ourselves of. The religious fanatics of all religions and sects are such people. They are no longer searching for the truth…they KNOW the truth…some of today’s scientists also seem to KNOW, and maybe that is why a lot of the latest science seems fake and lacklustre, and the Ottomans KNEW that the Armenians and the Greeks were just waiting to support the Russians against their own neigbors, and therefore had to be killed and ethnically cleansed before these ” christians” brought in help from the allied enemies..

    May God allow us to continue to search for His truths, and may we never have the pride to think that we are big enough to KNOW His truths, scientific or otherwise.

  2. Reblogged this on wendynpatterson and commented:
    “Scope” in a profound dimension!

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