In God’s hands

by
22 February 2019

THE declaration by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, that the Brexit process was “in God’s hands — and we can never be quite sure when God will take the matter in hand” — was not a sparkling piece of theology. It is an attractive and, therefore, common conception that, finally, at the very end of a process, be it in the political, social, creative, or commercial sphere, when humans have demonstrated their utter inability to sort things out, and their infinite ability to screw things up, God will wade in and make everything better again. This might be true eschatologically, but even the gloomiest of the “no-deal” predictions has not yet equated Brexit with the end of the world. In the interim, a more grounded theology sees God at work in every stage of a process, working primarily through human agency. The trick is to spot when an action is of God, since not everything is as God wills it to be. It does not take a theologian, or even someone with a philosophical turn of mind, to see that much of what happens politically is a consequence of an earlier decision, or lack of one. The current Brexit stalemate has come about largely because the European heads of state recognised — more clearly than the British electorate — what the result of leaving the single market and the customs union would be. Mr Juncker does not have to read many pages of the Bible to encounter the record of a people forced to live with the consequences of their political and moral choices.

 

Fouling the air 

THE widespread climate protests by school students last week deserve the attention of policy-makers. Each week seems to bring another hint that the campaign to keep global warming below 1.5°C by 2050 is going to be harder than was thought. Little account is taken, still, of the planet’s diminishing ability to repair itself. This week’s scare was another indication of a positive feedback loop. The phrase is used when a reaction changes the conditions in which it operates, thus accelerating its effects. In the matter of the climate, this is anything but positive. The level of methane in the atmosphere has risen markedly in the past four years. The gas is 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, but much more easily dispersed. Scientists are puzzled about its source, and fear that the planet’s ability to break the gas down is failing.

It is hard to see the laissez-faire attitude of the elderly politicians who hinder efforts at reducing greenhouse gases — President Trump in particular — as anything other than a selfish disregard for the human habitat after they have made their departure. Perhaps Donald Tusk could suggest somewhere in the afterlife where they might experience the consequences of their inaction.

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