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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'#&@* happens'

It's no wonder this phrase is popular since it speaks so directly (if not eloquently) to the aggravations and disappointments of daily life. In many ways it is existentially and theologically sound: Take this stuff in stride. Don't let life's bad jokes and jokers get the best of you by surrendering to the temptations of unwarranted fury, melodrama or despair.

These two words express a healthy irony and detachment. There's a "pass the toilet paper and join the club" kind of resignation that allows one to keep on keeping on.

But this attitude can also be destructive because it's so dismissive. Yes, #&@* happens, but so do real tragedy and appalling evil.

Our theology has to know and acknowledge the difference. We have to be able to name those things for what they are, to feel their crushing weight.

The impersonal third person language is often inadequate: "#&@*" doesn't just happen; we do things by our own fault, our own most grievous fault. Here ironic detachment gives way to passion and compassion, confession and sorrow. What might be a better saying? "Sometimes what's happening is just #&@*."


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