Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Habakkuk 1) transports me to the high pelagic seas, where industrial fishing enterprises are continuing to employ their driftnets to capture our Friday night chef’s special at the Bonefish Grill, orange roughy or Chilean seabass or bluefin tuna, with the gillnets also capturing quite a bit of by-catch (unwanted or unpalatable species, such as dolphin) that gets discarded. Marine scientists tell us that overfishing the ocean waters began in the 1800s, as technology improved, and by the start of the 21st century these large scale fishing enterprises had reduced the number of ocean fish to 10 percent of their 18th century population. The journal Science predicts that if the industrial fishing rates continue at the current pace, all the world’s fisheries will collapse in less than fifty years. The driftnets are effective, to say the least.
Habakkuk sounds like he has been reading this article in Science as he laments the declining state of human affairs. The treacherous spirit of injustice in the world is portrayed as something of an industrial fisherman, complete with a seine, aka driftnet, a vertical net that catches whatever happens to be passing by. The prophet rants at God, wondering why the Creator isn’t doing something about this pervasive evil in the world that is capturing people indiscriminately. Why is God silent while the wicked are swallowing up the righteous? Further, why did God create such a world, with people as vulnerable as the fish of the sea, with the enemy bringing all of them up with his net, giving him something to feast on? What’s the future hold, more of the same, with this corporate raider of souls continually emptying the net for yet another trawling trip to destroy nations without mercy?
We don’t have to look far into the state of the world to see that the prophet had a point in this ballistic prayer that seemed about to make his head explode. As in the world of large scale fishing, it seems that the enemy’s technology for capturing the spirit and soul of humanity has greatly improved, placing the fragile spiritual ecosystem of individuals and families and communities, not to mention our entire planet, at risk. Two recent conversations punctuated this sense of being caught in a diabolical net of systemic injustice. One was with Kim, as she began work on her portfolio as Teacher of the Year. One of the questions she has to answer is something like, “how would you eradicate the drop-out problem in our schools?” As she began thinking about the scope of this challenge, she realized how many threads are in that driftnet that catches young people – poverty, discrimination, lack of access to health care, family violence, bullying, drug abuse, mental illness, etc etc etc. Pulling on the thread of school reform, i.e., improving curriculum and teaching strategies, the two areas under the purview of schools, is hardly going to unravel the driftnet of injustice. A similar conversation was with our neighbor, Bob, who is active in the St. Vincent DePaul Society, working to feed the hungry and help the poor pay heating bills. He lamented that he felt like he was just putting his finger in the dyke, that the problems of poverty have countless threads weaving through the lives of the struggling families he sees every week. It’s not as if we don’t have the resources to change all this; it’s that the resources are being concentrated more and more among fewer and fewer, with the gap between rich and poor growing at an alarming rate. If this gap continues apace, it is likely the middle class will soon be as endangered as orange roughy and Chilean seabass. Maybe it’s time to join Habakkuk in some good old-fashioned yelling at God, as we work to unravel these various driftnets.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.