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Providence, the End of Man, and the Emergence of Human Beings
By Martin LeFevre
Contributing Writer
New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat

God, in the belief system of Christians, is conceived as a separate “Supreme Being” that created the universe, and occasionally intervenes in human life. Providence is the belief in the notion of the protective care and direction of this monotheistic deity.

Attesting to the truism that beginning with the wrong premise will lead you inevitably to the wrong conclusion, one of the proliferating number of New York Times religion writers proclaims: “Providentialism is basically inescapable once you posit a divinity who made the world and acts in history.”

Perhaps so, but why would anyone these dark days “posit a divinity who made the world and acts in history?” God must be one miserable Supreme Being if we’re made in his or her image.

There is no Father God, no separate Creator sitting apart from creation and occasionally intervening in human history. Such conceptions and projections are childish, and belong to the childhood of humankind.

But is there such a thing as “providence” at all? If so, providence clearly works in reverse, using the worst of man, such as war, to bring forth radical changes.

Yet even secular progressives follow the hackneyed scripts of monotheism and nationalism. Referring to wartime advances during World War in radar and anti-aircraft shells, not to mention the atomic bomb, Paul Krugman doubles down on his nationalistic, World War II mindset, declaring, “All of this was made possible not just by America’s economic might but also by its cultural and social openness.” It’s a hideous commentary on the human prospect, and a sad reflection of an archaic worldview by a leading American progressive.

On the other side of the political spectrum, how can Christians, who continue to believe that humans are made in “the image of God,” continue to support an extreme conduit of collective darkness, Donald Trump? If there were such a thing as providence, would it ‘permit’ the racist Donald Trump to be elected again in 2024?

If so, it will be because America has left immanent intelligence no choice. Facing the fact that Trump is no aberration in America, and not simply a Republican malignancy, as Krugman asserts ad nauseum, is essential to preventing Trump’s return with a vengeance.

Imagining that “the destruction of Hitler’s Germany was a true and righteous judgment of Almighty God,” as a Catholic NYT columnist intones, is spiritually satisfying but philosophically shallow. It’s totally unhelpful in explaining how humans under God’s Providence could have fallen into the present global ecological/psychological crisis.

Foolishly engaging with an online persona called “The Bronze Age Pervert,” Ross Douthat disses and dismisses his question: “If God’s judgment is loss in a war or at the hand of brutal persecutors, does this mean you think God judged Jesus to be bad and the Romans to be good?”

Glibly, Douthat replies that Christians “understand God’s judgment on Christ’s life and message in the light of his resurrection, not just his death on Calvary.” That simply whitewashes the question with another belief (in Jesus’ physical resurrection), which is what Christianity has been doing with the failure of Jesus’ mission for 2000 years.

Roman Catholicism, with which I was brainwashed in parochial school (compulsory Mass in Latin six days a week, five before school, as well as mortal-sin-if-you-miss Sundays), goes further. Douthat absurdly argues that the Roman emperor “Constantine’s conversion in the 4th century proclaims God’s favorable judgment, with St. Peter’s Basilica standing as a victory monument.”

Egad, how can any educated person, given the Church’s closeting and covering up pederasts and pedophiles, not to mention its history of power and corruption, believe such balderdash anymore?

All the historical frippery and Christian revanchism (2.6 billion Christians! Hundreds of thousands Woodstock-light World Youth Day young people in Portugal!) does not begin to address the essence of the question of providence.

It comes down to the question: Does the Intelligence that imbues the universe, with its miraculous expression in the multitude of life on this little marble, care in a non-anthropocentric sense about the fate of creatures that evolved brains complex enough to have direct awareness of it?

Clearly not in any progressive way, even in the conservative believer’s strangely progressive interpretation. Man, the rapacious primate that has fragmented the Earth and himself to the breaking point, has come to its logical, illogical end.

Perhaps Homo sapiens could have changed course if people of his time had truly listened to Jesus, or a dozen other great teachers. (To make Jesus singularly special as the one and only “Son of God” is its own kind of blasphemy).

But we didn’t, and now we’re staring into the abyss, while debating how many of God’s warriors danced on the historical pin of the Thirty Years’ War.

Therefore providence, if it exists, works in reverse, giving us chance after chance to change course before the present singularity, the sum of all human darkness. True faith in humanity and providence (and mine has been shaky of late) trusts that human beings will hear the last trumpet.

Martin LeFevre

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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue.






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