Doomsday! Y2K! End-World Mayan Calendar! Meteor Strike in Russia!February 21st, 2013 by Dean Foster | Discuss This »
The Cultural Reasons Behind the “Chicken Little” Movement to Intercept What Heaven Sends Us … or Not.
The recent meteor strike in Russia produced, on the one hand, the predictable call to humble submission and awe in the face of that which only heaven can send us, and, on the other hand, a call to arms to muster the resources required to head off any future astronomical catastrophes. It’s an interesting combination, from my perspective, which is always one of looking at the headlines through the cultural lens. While the West was as awed as anyone by the event, it was not humbled by it. In fact, the event produced just the opposite in the West: a renewed effort by organizations, some government, some private, to create the systems and weapons necessary to identify and intercept any future heaven-sent threats to our existence. And while the Russians (not culturally part of the West by any stretch of the imagination) certainly appreciate the value of such a scientific interception project, their primary reaction was to view the event as proof of our human frailty to greater heavenly forces over which we have no control. No doubt, actually experiencing a meteor strike – and at the very center of “Mother Russia” — can engender a more subjective response than if one were merely objectively observing the event from afar. But that the subjective response in Russia was far more fatalistic and created an occasion to reflect on our human helplessness, and that the response in the west was far less humble, and created an occasion to apply human rational logic to stave off the next astronomic catastrophe, says much about the role of culture in both the west and Russia, especially at this moment in time.
Russian Orthodoxy is as mystical an interpretation of the Christ story as they come. Its essence is the requirement to reject material evidence and human rationality and intercession, and to submit to faith, in its most illogical, mysterious forms. Western Christianity, particularly the reformed kind known as Protestantism, which provided the theological underpinnings for the development of the rational Western mind, and the capitalist economic system that was one of the results of that mind, has struggled with the role of man and God since the beginning, and has created a theological universe not entirely based on faith with plenty of room for human rationality and intercession. And while fundamentalism exists in both camps, fundamental Protestantism is, in many ways, a rejection of the too, too worldly nature of reformed Christianity; fundamentalist Eastern Orthodoxy is gilding an already too, too orthodox Christianity. So while, at this moment in time, rejecting evidence, science and rational thought may be part of the dialogue in Protestant societies with a fundamentalist wing (read: creationism, rejection of global warming, evolution, etc.), it is fundamental to the Eastern Orthodox reality. In Orthodoxy, submission to the unknowable is essential. In Protestantism, it is a cult-like reaction to the all-too-scientific rationalism of modern, secular life.
Is it no surprise, therefore, that the primary reaction to the meteor strike in Russia, experiencing a surge in reactionary Putinesque thinking as it is at this time, was a submission to the unknowability of the event, and the primary reaction in the West was an attempt to bend and control the nature of such future events through human intercession? Such is the power of culture.
Zada Dingel, March 7th, 2013 on 12:03 am
great blog! I only found you the other day but I loved reading your last post. Keep up the great work.
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