Thursday, October 14, 2010

The 34th Person: More on the Chilean Miners

The events in Chile continue to reverberate around the world. LiveScience had a post yesterday titled: To Hell and Back: How 69 Days Underground Affects Spirituality. In it they cited several quotes from the miners emerging from their time in the collapsed mine:

  • "I have been with God, and I've been with the devil," Mario Sepulveda told reporters, adding, "I always knew God would get us out of there."
  • 44-year-old Esteban Rojas stepped out of the rescue capsule Oct. 13,[and] dropped to his knees in prayer.
  • The youngest miner, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, wrote in a message on Tuesday (Oct. 12) that there were really 34, not 33, people in the mine, "because God has never left us down here."
The article reviews the history of traumatic events and spirituality. The particulars for any one individual vary, but it is known that any major traumatic event can cause a significant evaluation and re-evaluation of one's faith leading to growth- or denial of faith.
It's a phenomenon called "post-traumatic growth," in which people who go through something terrible report that it made them better. Not everyone experiences post-traumatic growth (some experience the negative side of trauma, post-traumatic stress). But according to a 2005 review of research published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, religion, along with other traits like optimism and acceptance, was associated with more growth after a traumatic period.

Chileans as a whole are embracing the mine rescue as a miracle from God. Before the rescue began, Chilean president Sebastian Pinera said, "When the first miner emerges safe and sound, I hope all the bells of all the churches of Chile ring out forcefully, with joy and hope. Faith has moved mountains."
--Link at LiveScience
This is really all unanswerable in this life. Faith is not based on logic and the scientific method of proof. If it were, it wouldn't be faith. If we can see it, know it, physically connect with it, we don't need faith. Faith is, by nature, transcendent. I cannot give you any proof about the things I have ultimate faith in. But neither, at this point anyway, can you give me any proof that I am wrong. Faith has answers to questions that may be beyond answers.

This, of course, is where many people get both separated or connected more. The fundamentalist approach to faith believes that you can "prove" it by books such as the Bible. The atheist approach says since it can't be proven, it doesn't exist. Ultimately, because it is often about great issues of life and death and eternity, we get so connected to our viewpoint that all others must be wrong. If your is so different from mine, then one of ours has to be wrong. It is, sadly, a dead end to discussion, diversity, communication, and even compassion.

You don't have to agree with the Chilean miners, President Pinera, or anyone else. All I have to do is celebrate with them and leave myself open to the possibilities of faith and hope that are presented to me in their experience. Someday I may be in one of those "fox holes" of life and discover that they were closer to the truth of the universe than I am today. In that openness we allow for a God who is bigger than we are and beyond our ability to understand or expand on.

And for that, I am deeply grateful.

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