Friday, January 10, 2020

The rose in the death camp

For believers–as well as unbelievers–our attitude towards life and adversity has a lot to do with what we think is normal, expected, and exceptional. For instance, we may expect a park to be scenic. Pretty trees. Flowers in springtime. Nicely landscaped. Maybe a river, pond, or lake. 

In that setting, an eyesore sticks out. It's incongruous and disrupts the pleasant effect. We notice the eyesore more than anything else. If only we could get rid of the eyesore. If the general background is scenic, then ugliness draws undue attention to itself. 

But take a concentration camp, POW camp, or reeducation camp where ugliness is pervasive. Concrete buildings. Mud. Filth. Stench. Rusty barbed wire fences. Lack of foliage. Lack of color. Harsh or dismal light. Not to mention the physical and psychological suffering and cruelty. 

Suppose a wild rose bush blossoms in the camp. That stands out as something unexpectedly good. A boon or windfall. Not to be taken for granted but cherished. Just as a scenic background highlights an eyesore, an ugly background highlights a glimpse or glimmer of something better. A relief or refuge from the norm. A token of hope.

So it all depends on the point of contrast. And that can be psychological as well as physical. Mentally speaking, what do we put in the background? 

A less dramatic example is an ugly city with a cathedral. Once you leave the street and enter the cathedral, you put the raucous noise and urban blight behind you. Like a portal into a different world. 

Do we view a fallen world a blighted heaven or hell with pockets of heaven? Is it the vestibule to heaven or the vestibule to hell? 

What we mentally put into the background, what we regard as expected or exceptional, can affect whether, as Christians, our experience is characterized by pleasant surprise and thanksgiving or bitter resentment, betrayal, and disillusionment. Do we count our blessings or count our curses? Do we count on blessings, or regard them as a boon. 

It's important for our own peace of mind, as well as those we relate to, adjust to a realistic outlook and cultivate an attitude that isn't too optimistic or pessimistic, pollyannaish or cynical.  


  1. Some might enjoy this interesting dialogue between Glen Scrivener [Christian] & Matt Dillahunty [Atheist]

    Morality: Can atheism deliver a better world?

  2. That's a good way of making some important points, Steve.