I came across the following quote on a friends Facebook page earlier this week. “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why?’ If you need a reason, invent one that empowers you and begin living from there.” I am frankly unsure of whether this is a quote from my friend or from someone else – but it has stuck with me throughout the week.
Initially, I found myself disagreeing with his statement on several levels. Of course the question of “why” matters, and virtually any field of human knowledge pre-supposes that there are actual answers to the question of “why”. But I also understand that we can come at this differently – much like Calvin and his furry friend.
Nonetheless, Science, Philosophy, History, Mathematics, Industry, Technology – all of these disciplines seek in their own way to answer the “whys” of life with actual facts – not made up reasons. In other words when these various human endeavors seek to answer a question within their individual field of study they presuppose that there is an actual answer to the question which they are asking, and that it is an objective answer. To quote Fox Mulder:
And we’ve kind of come to believe that there are no answers.
Or that the answers don’t matter.
Or, you can make up any answer that works for you and it’s just fine because – there is no such thing as absolute truth.
And I fundamentally disagree with that. Two plus two is four and that is the answer – period.
I suppose that the statement, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why?'” could be interpreted in various different ways; but maybe fundamentally it is an example of the ultimate metaphysical or existential question – Why?
And on that level, I kind of get it.
It’s a big universe. There’s a whole lot that we don’t understand. There’s a lot of suffering and pain and we have a pretty limited vantage point.
But it is in light of these ultimate questions of philosophy and religion and existential angst that I believe that the question of why is all the more important, and the answers all the more profound.
And, like any other endeavor of human reason, I just don’t believe that we get to make up the answers. I actually agree with Fox – the Truth is out there, and it’s up to us to find it – not invent it.
Speaking of suffering and pain and unanswered questions, the other thing which has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind this past week is the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iraq by ISIS. And for me, this is where I begin to resonate with the question above of “Why?” Why does God allow this? Maybe more importantly – why do we? And there is a temptation to say, “There is no answer.” After all, what can you possibly say in the face of such evil?
The Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group announced through their mosques last Friday that local Christians must either convert to Islam, pay the jizya, or leave the city. “They gave us four choices,” one refugee told CBN News. “Either convert to Islam or paying tax [jizya, the Islamic tax on non-Muslims] or leaving the city or the sword. They are using the sword to cut off hand[s] and also beheading other[s] so I don’t think this is the behavior of human beings, but wild animals do that,” he concluded. If they did not conform to these demands by noon on Saturday, July 19, there would be “nothing for them but the sword.” Often, even if they are able to pay the jizya their wives and children are still taken from them.
Christianity is not new to the region. It was introduced by two of Jesus’ own disciples – St. Thomas and St. Thaddeus (also known as St. Jude) in the 1st Century. Although Christians have lived in northern Iraq and Syria for nearly two-thousand years, and at least six hundred years before Islam, today they face extinction across the region. Christians are being killed by the hundreds. There have been crucifixions.
Children are being beheaded.
Thousands of Christians have fled the country leaving it all but empty of Christians.“Our people are disappearing,” Canon Andrew White, the head of the Anglican Church in Iraq said to the BBC, “It looks as though the end could be very near.” “If we all leave, it sends the message that there is nowhere safe for Christians to live in Iraq — and this worries me,” Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche, told the Washington Post. “I’m not a vagabond. This is my home, and I will die here if necessary.”
The Vatican released a statement on Tuesday saying, “The dramatic situation of the Christians, the Yazidis, and other minority religious and ethnic communities in Iraq demands that religious leaders, and above all Muslim religious leaders, people engaged in inter-religious dialogue, and all people of good will take a clear and courageous stance. All must be unanimous in their unambiguous condemnation of these crimes and denounce the invoking of religion to justify them. Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders, have? What credibility could the inter-religious dialogue [which has been] patiently pursued in recent years have?”
“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Pope Francis said. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”
“His comments were significant because the Vatican has vehemently opposed any military intervention in recent years, with St. John Paul II actively trying to head off the Iraq war and Francis himself staging a global prayer and fast for peace when the U.S. was threatening airstrikes on Syria last year. But the Vatican has been increasingly showing support for military intervention in Iraq, given that Christians are being directly targeted because of their faith and that Christian communities which have existed for 2,000 years have been emptied as a result of the extremists’ onslaught.”1
It’s not enough. Christians are fleeing their homes, leaving behind all that they own, leaving behind their very country. They are giving up all that they have including their lives, and we are not coming to their aid. The question of “why” looms large in my mind, and I have no clear answers. This is how the Crusades began centuries ago when Pope Urban II called the first crusade in 1095 in response to an urgent plea for help from the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople. It was Urban calling the knights of Christendom to come to the aid of their Eastern brethren. It was the first great Western Christian counterattack against the Muslim attacks which had taken place continually from the inception of Islam until the eleventh century, and it was in defense of Christians experiencing this exact same sort of genocide.
I’m not saying that it’s time for a new Crusade.
But I’m not not saying it either.
The question of “why” can appear to be one without an answer when we encounter the apparent meaninglessness of life. In the face of suffering and unimaginable evil we are tempted to throw up our hands and say that there is no reason in the world.
But the question really does have meaning, and the truth really is out there. And if it takes some seeking to find the answer – well, maybe it’s worth it.
There is joy in the face of suffering, love which overcomes evil, hope which does not disappoint. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”2 Love is the answer.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life;”3 “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”4 “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”5 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”6
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ((Romans 8:35, 38-39))
There are answers to the questions of why, and the answers are found in the love of Christ.