Ancient Answers

Leave a comment

We are not neutrinos!


On a recent trip to Germany we visited friends in the city Karlsruhe, a typical German city of medium size. I did not know at the time – but found out just days ago – that Karlsruhe is the site of a very important experiment in physics: the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment, Katrin for short. Its purpose is to find the mass of the neutrino – the most insignificant entity in the universe. Insignificant because for a long time it was believed to have no mass, but scientists now know that it has an extremely tiny mass. What is significant about neutrinos is that they are present everywhere. Every second, right now, billions of neutrinos pass through your body! Uncountable numbers have been left over from the Big Bang birth of the cosmos 13.8 billion years ago. There are more neutrinos in the universe than any other kind of particle, but because they do not interact with any type of matter, they are hard to detect and measure. Because they are present everywhere in huge numbers, their mass could determine the future of the universe. Will it continue to expand for ever, to all eternity, until it dies a cold death? Or will it stop expanding and perhaps even contract and collapse again?

The main spectrometer of Katrin on its way to Karlsruhe in 2006. The project is set to get under way in June 2018.

You might think that the fate of the universe countless billions or even trillions of years in the future is hardly something for us to be concerned about. How about the fate of your grandchildren or great-grandchildren a hundred years from now? Is that something you might want to be concerned about? Although the current administration in Washington does not believe in global warming and human-caused climate change, the White House did release last Friday an exhaustive scientific report put together by 13 federal agencies that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization. The report says that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame.

Will it change people’s minds about climate change? Will it change the position of the current administration, which allowed the release of this report?

Change of mind is a hard thing for humans. And that is why in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) we hear Abraham say to the rich man: ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’

It is hard for humans to change our minds. It will be interesting to see what impact – if any – this newest report will have on public opinion and the politics of Washington.

The rich man did not change his ways, though he saw Lazarus every day at his doorstep. So also his brothers will not change their ways even if someone should rise from the dead. The human heart can be very hard, implacable.

Do we go through life like neutrinos, not interacting with what’s around us? Do we go through life like the rich man today, not caring for those who need our compassion? Do we go through life not caring how our lifestyles might be ruining the environment and the future life of our children and grandchildren? Those are good questions to ponder on today.

May the Lord preserve us from hard-heartedness. May the Lord continue to work on us, to give us soft hearts, compassionate hearts. We are not neutrinos!

Leave a comment

36 Degrees to Armageddon


Frank Schaefer is a noted Orthodox writer, speaker and blogger. He recently received a request from a friend in the Chicago area: “Please let me know if your contacts know of any truly loving Orthodox (Greek, Russian or other) churches or missions in Chicago or within an hour’s drive of Chicago.” Frank wrote on his blog: “I don’t have an answer. Do any of you?” I don’t see any responses on his blog. Is it really such a rare thing to find an Orthodox church that is truly loving?

It was in the news last week about a mosque in Chantilly, Virginia, that was “vandalized” –  not with messages of hate like other mosques around the country, but with messages of love! “We love you,” “We are your brothers and sisters,” “You are loved,” “We are with you!”

We need more vandalism of that sort! When Jesus in today’s Gospel reading told one man to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and then follow Jesus, he was talking to one specific man with a specific problem, a specific attachment that kept him out of the kingdom. Perhaps money is not your spiritual problem; perhaps not mine, either. Perhaps it is something else. Whatever it is that has power over you and how you see the world, Jesus today tells you and me: Go, get rid of it, and come follow me.

This year’s election was mostly about identity politics: LGBT, transgender bathrooms, white nationalist, Black Lives Matter, immigration, abortion, gun issues, legalized marijuana… . Only one issue didn’t make it to the floor of any debate or any major campaign speech of either party. And it is the one issue that will make all those other issues irrelevant! The one issue? Climate Change. Global Warming.

Oh, I can hear some of you thinking: Father is talking politics now! No, I am not talking politics, because neither political party seems to care about climate change or is talking about it. Okay one party tends to deny it while the other party gives it occasional lip service. But they’re all liars. They don’t care. We are all merrily marching along to Armageddon. Climate change is not a political issue. People make it a political issue so they can disagree about it and put it off for another year or decade, or even century.

I read yesterday that Arctic ice is at a record low for this time of year. The temperature in the Arctic right now is 20C above what it should be this time of year. And yes I should translate: 20C = 36F. 36 degrees Fahrenheit above what it should be this time of year. Imagine Maine 36 degrees above what we should have this time of year. It’d be a balmy 80 degrees out there.

Bathrooms for transgender people? Abortion rights? Open-carry rights for gun lovers? Higher minimum wage? Legalized marijuana? These are political issues, and you’ll never hear me speak for or against any of them. But all become irrelevant when the very fate of the planet is at stake. A wall to keep out illegals? We can build walls against illegals, but we can’t build any walls that will keep our own city of Portland from going under water.

Liberals should consider that identity politics and human rights won’t mean much as the planet dies. And conservatives should consider that gun ownership and prayer meetings will not hold back the warming and dying oceans.

Climate Change IS political – but not in the way you think. While left and right can disagree on practically everything, climate change is the one issue that can unite us and should unite us.

There is no one solution to the problem, which is why we should be talking about it. Human beings have shown incredible ingenuity and ability to work together when facing threats. There is plenty wisdom on all sides of political divides. We can do it – but we can’t ignore it for much longer. Climate Change WILL unite us, WILL break down political divisions of left and right. The question is whether it will unite us when we are together facing the irreversible catastrophe; or whether it will  unite us now to find creative ways that will save life on this planet and also enrich our own quality of life.

As a follower of Jesus I have no choice but to be hopeful. I have to overcome my own tendency to label people who don’t see the problem the way I see it. Jesus tells us in the spirit of today’s reading: Let go of everything that divides and come, come follow me into an exciting future.

In a recent movie, Arrival, aliens come to earth to help humanity – because humanity will help them 3,000 years in the future! Mutual help seems to be a universal code of conduct. Let’s start here in our own world. Let’s help each other live better lives. Let’s love one another, let’s work together. Let’s learn from each other. And that dear friends is the only politics you’ll ever hear from me – the politics of unity and mutual respect. It’s the only politics that will save us, the only politics that Jesus can use.