Friday, June 23, 2017


Years ago there was a Biosphere experiment.  Scientists constructed a completely sealed and very large ecosystem whose purpose was to see if we could maintain life on another planet that does not have the same atmosphere as we do here.  There were a number of problems with the experiment but in particular that is a fitting analogy for our culture today.

One of the obvious ways to create oxygen in the sealed ecosystem was to have a tree.  There was a very large tree that grew unencumbered inside the biosphere.  It grew very large.  Then a strange thing began to happen.  It began to drop branches.  Very large branches.  Dangerous branches.  The problem was that the tree never experienced any stress particularly from forces such as wind.

Normally wind would sway a tree back and forth.  As a tree is forced to bend back and forth, it makes the whole tree stronger (not much unlike stressing our muscles make them stronger.)  The tree in the biosphere, never having been exposed to such forces, grew to the point where it was unable to hold up its own branches and they would break off and crash to the ground.

So now we have universities constructing “safe spaces.”  These are places where you can go and not experience any stresses outside of your comfort zone.  I am all for such places.  In past ages we called these spaces Mom, or friends, or ministers, or councilors, or any other number of people.  Universities and colleges (and seminaries for that matter) were places to challenge your ideas and concepts and to have them tested against the cultural storm that rages.  It was intended to make you stronger whether that means it makes you reaffirm your conviction or change - not to be a cultural ghetto were one could wallow safely in myopic self absorption.  

Early in my seminary years I had a professor that I respected greatly.  One day he taught a class in which he stated that “the Church” is moving away from understanding the Eucharist as Jesus fully present.  This struck me hard.  I was passionate in asking questions and after had a major meltdown. 

Embarrassingly enough I ran to the chapel and threw my books and notes across the pews, fell prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary and balled my eyes out - not something I am prone to do - and questioned my faith and my vocation.  Apparently someone witnessed this because when I was done I found all of my things neatly stacked at the back of the chapel.

Oh . . . it goes on from there but I will spare you all of that.  The point is, I was given the opportunity to deal with this (not be protected from it.)  I found my "safe space” in the solace of friends, in doing research, speaking with other professors, clarifying, sharpening my understanding, and developing constructive ways of speaking with someone who hold opposing views about this topic.  All of this serves me to this day.

Do we need better safety for some of our young persons?  Most likely.  Thus it always is and always will be in a fallen world.  But to create a biosphere where people can “grow” unencumbered by any challenges leaves us vulnerable to stresses that can tear us apart once we are no longer surrounded by those who can help make us stronger.

1 comment:

Nan said...

I misread that as blogosphere experiment...