The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Masters of the universe?

We as Americans have for a while been quite used to calling the shots and very accustomed to being in control. Theologian Douglas John Hall has suggested that the Western world, of which the U.S. is the major player, has operated out of an anthropology (a view of what it means to be human) that sees people as masters. We've been known to talk about ourselves as "masters of our own destiny." Much has happened in recent history (e.g., 9/11, climate change, recession) to challenge this view. But still, the master motif does seem to reign.

I thought about that recently as I noted a poll that appeared on my computer screen. It asked who was more responsible for the poor state of Michigan's economy: President Barack Obama or Gov. Rick Snyder?

Now, personally I have some ideas about better ways of organizing our economy (too bad no one will listen to me!). But the question itself betrays something fundamentally askew in our view of the world. And that is, that we are masters over everything that happens in the world and that just the right person and just the right policies will produce what we are searching for.

Maybe not all economic matters are under our control. Maybe the market is not as scientific as some free market ideologues believe. Maybe the economy is involved in such structural realignment that discussions about taxing or not taxing, spending or not spending truly do not address the deeper matters facing us. Maybe it is phenomenally arrogant to assume that Obama or Snyder is responsible for the state of our economy. Just maybe, some things are out of our control.

Maybe what needs to depart in our corner of the universe these days is not Obama or Synder, lower taxes or higher taxes, more government or less government, but rather our stubborn worldview that we are the masters of the universe. I think the Bible that speaks of life as a gift that is given (rather than a reality that is earned or manufactured by us) would applaud the loss of this worldview. And I suspect in the process we as individuals might be healthier, the earth might hemorrhage a little less and relationships between people who disagree might be healed. 


Julian Grev

Julian Grev

Posted at 12:37 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/11/2011

And the life that God has given let no one tear asunder.  The message of Jesus heard so little these last centuries is to reconcile with God and one another so as to stop tearing others' lives asunder.  Whether in the upper room or on the mountaintops, Jesus was the great redistributor of life, bread and wine.  We perhaps can never realize a Golden Year of Jubilee or even a Sabbath Year of Forgiveness, but we can put band-aids on the torn lives and perhaps stop some of the tearing.  My Norwegian relatives wonder how we who call ourselves a Christian nation cannot accomplish what they have done quietly to stop the tearing up of people's lives and restoring those torn.  We must not go back to sticking our heads in the sand and crying It is God's Will, only through our "hands" can God's kingdom be on this earth as it is in heaven.


Robert Buntrock

Robert Buntrock

Posted at 8:33 am (U.S. Eastern) 10/19/2011

Kudos to both columnist and commenter for great, eloquent insights.

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February issue


Embracing diversity