There are things I keep hearing said, mantras repeated like assumptions, and taken so for granted that we don’t realize how we’re indoctrinating ourselves against a different way of thinking. Over time I’ve come to develop responses in my head to some of these mantras. I decided it was time to start writing them down.
There are those Christians who hear about activism or social justice, or the fight against climate change, or any attempt to right the many wrongs of this world, and they say: “Why polish the brass on a sinking ship?”
Certainly some days it all seems hopelessly futile; people never seem to learn from mistakes and never seem to think of the welfare of others, and even when a small change for the better comes it is often much smaller than needed, compromised by corruption or cost. It feels very much like polishing the brass on a sinking ship.
But these words seem founded on a different kind of futility: the ship itself is given up for lost. Not only should we not polish the brass, we shouldn’t even try to plug the leak. A whole new ship is going to be launched one day, and this old and battered one isn’t worth the trouble.
Perhaps they have forgotten why we are all on the ship in the first place: we were hired to be crew. And perhaps they have also failed to remember why the ship is sinking: the crew mutinied and stove in the hull. It is no deficiency in the ship itself. We polish the brass because, there being no hope of preventing the sinking through our efforts, we do what little we can to still act like crew instead of mutineers. What’s more, the Captain has given precisely these orders. Why should I sit idle when He has told me to work?
If you really believe there is no hope whatsoever for this ship, it is equipped with ‘lifeboats’. By all means, you are free to make your escape. But surely you’re aware that the Captain has not abandoned ship even if you have abandoned all hope. He has sworn, against all reason, to go down with her to the depths—and raise her up again. And on that day, He will look into His logbook and remember who acted like they were crew, and who acted like they were ballast. What He will choose to do next I don’t know. But I know that He is more than just; He is also merciful.
That is why we polish the brass on our sinking ship: because to do otherwise is to give up trust in our Captain, and to succumb to the temptation of despair.