We are regularly confronted with the vulnerability of our society. The Covid pandemic not only took millions of lives worldwide, and landed hundreds of thousands in ICUs, but also brought economic chaos and enormous social misery. We are also experiencing in many other ways how easily our world can be disrupted, because we are so incredibly vulnerable. In recent days, the leaks from the Nordstream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, which carry gas from Russia to Western Europe, have been constantly in the news. Is it a curious coincidence that a leak occurs in two pipelines almost at the same time? Or is it sabotage? Can a hostile power so easily suddenly upset our energy supply? Are we that vulnerable? Yes, we are!.
Another news item today was about storm Ian, leaving all of Cuba without power. How vulnerable Florida’s infrastructure is will become apparent in the next few hours. I heard on a radio program earlier today that the Netherlands is especially vulnerable due to the fact that many transatlantic data cables come ashore here via the North Sea. If a hostile power wanted to cause a lot of IT misery, this would be the perfect place to dispatch a few submarines to.
All countries have become increasingly vulnerable in the twenty-first century. Cyber-attacks can wreak havoc on virtually everything, from banking to drinking water supplies, and from health care to air travel. And so on. The Netherlands must remain constantly alert with regard to its sea and river dikes. Things can easily go wrong again, with fatal consequences.
Most of us also realize how vulnerable we are ourselves. Accidents are just around the corner for all of us, especially for those of is who belong to the elderly. We all know reasonably healthy people who have suddenly suffered a heart attack or brain infarct, or who are unexpectedly diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
Small businesses often prove to be extremely vulnerable when a staff member, who has vital expertise, decides that she will go to a competitor where a higher salary is offered. Sometimes trains can’t run in a good part of our country, because a few people who control the train traffic from the central switchboard in Utrecht have called in sick.
Yes, and churches are also vulnerable–local congregations as well as the ‘higher’ organizations. Perhaps this is even more true (especially at higher levels) for the Seventh-day Adventist Church than for many other faith communities, because a few individuals at the top of Adventist organizations often have quite a lot of power. They can steer policies in a particular direction, and it can take many years for this to be undone. The history of the Adventist church provides ample examples of this.
A local congregation also often proves to be extremely vulnerable. The aging of some members and a few moves can make it increasingly difficult to find enough people for all necessary tasks. In a small congregation a few newcomers with extreme ideas can adversely affect the atmosphere in such a way that some members prefer to go worship elsewhere, and the congregation may enter into a negative spiral.
But, fortunately, sometimes things can go the other way and a few newcomers can pull an organization out of the doldrums. But that our society–including our church environment–is and remains fragile, is a fact we cannot brush away. And that is all the more reason for us to make an effort to be vigilant when individuals and ideas emerge that cause harm, and to offer support, where we can, to positive trends and to those at various levels who want to give these trends the space they need to develop further.