Lesson 7: Fatalism and Technology

I sensed a fatalism in response to the lessons on just war theory. There was a lot of “yes, but…” reactions, comments such as “I don’t think there is anything like a just war, but I am in no way a pacifist” or “I have always regarded myself as a pacifist, but events lately have forced me to reconsider.”

Some referred directly to the situation in Ukraine. They mentioned feeling helpless to prevent war crimes, avoid the threat of nuclear war, or receive truthful reports. I would add the difficulty of applying moral principles when both sides claim they represent God. Putin justifies the invasion as a Christian mission to save a culture from pagan corruption. In such a situation, the winner decides the rules.

The fatalism I sensed was primarily directed at human nature. The idea was there would always be someone in power willing to start a war to get what they want. This is obviously intensified in our day because of the speed and power of modern technology. My son used to say the first rule of technology is if something can go wrong, it will. We live under that cloud.

This fatalism extends to the violence pervading our society. With modern technology, a small group and even one person can wield devastating power and destruction. We find ourselves helpless preventing individuals with assault weapons from massacring school children. Normal inhibitions no longer work when perpetrators perceive mass murder as a form of their own suicide. It’s worth noting you can carry this over to losing confidence in the fear of retaliation preventing nuclear warfare.

Many of us think this kind of anxiety has created a culture of fear. Some ascorbate this by claiming we are participating in a cosmic battle between good and evil, God and Satan, in which we must meet violence with violence. The NRA expresses this when it claims the only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. Security becomes the dominant value, defending oneself from evil the ultimate priority. That makes us vulnerable to the suppression of freedoms and acceptance of autocrats. In fact, the only resolution is standoff or genocide.

Rather than give in to fatalism, Christian faith opens up hope in the future by overcoming fear. Martin Luther King’s warning that we must learn to love our enemies in a nuclear age or else is a challenge to be met with commitment, not despair. Faith assumes the transforming power of love. In this context, a set of moral principles points to the desired future and acts as a standard for decision making by at least asserting what is good and bad.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. paul wildman says:

    Fear and fatalism now pervades all of us Fritz you are spot on here. To cheer we must be able to tear. We are loosing species, indigenous cultures and their languages and indeed the planet as I type this. How then not to despair?

    In our evolution have we become flawed in our biology, our memeology, our neurology? Where is the fatal flaw in Homo Sapiens?

    This is where Fritz’s last paragraph above comes into play – strong words, wise meaning and a ray of help hope for us all.

    Thanks Fritz – i very much enjoyed and appreciate this lesson

    ciao paul

  2. Anne Crawford says:

    I would like to believe the claim that “Faith assumes the transforming power of love. ” But just today I read in a church newsletter (of a congregation near me) that at a Council meeting someone suggested that the church (this particular congregation) NEEDS to have individuals with conceal carry permits bringing guns to church because of the current rash of school and other shootings! I was floored. I too would claim that I am not a pacifist, but I can’t believe that any part of the answer involves armed church members in church on Sundays. Sigh…..


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