It is now more than one week after the terrible shipwreck of the Italian passenger cruise liner Costa Concordia off the Tuscan coast. The tragedy has captured the world, as shipwrecks always do. I’m sorrowful for the families of the victims who are still missing and those who are dead. I am sad for the wrecked lives of those who are related to the Captain, and I’m sad for the captain himself. I wrote last week about the bravado he displayed in using the cruise ship as a personal yacht and maneuvering close to the shore for a personal reason. I’d thought about Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that in the last days certain emotional conditions would be driving humanity; selfishness, greed, disobedience, hatred, brutality, etc. The captain’s behavior certainly illustrates several of the prophesied those conditions, and moreover, how the conditions of those who exhibit them affect all of us.
The UK Guardian has a retrospective piece called “An All-purpose symbol for our times” that is poetic at times and its tone the appropriate level of melancholy. In part, they wrote:
“A giant white ship lies on its side in the glittering Tyrr- henian Sea, the hi-tech wedding cake of its once-towering superstructure now food for thought and shellfish as it forms a man-made reef close to the dwarfed land. The wreck of the Costa Concordia is a grave to a still uncertain number of people, yet it is also a metaphor. Where other transport accidents might be discussed with muted horror and careful respect, a shipwreck brings out far more primitive and irrepressible responses.”
“When you look at pictures of the fated ship, from the shore, or the air, or even from space, the size of it is staggering – seeing these cruise ships sailing in and out of Venice recently, it was astonishing how their towering decks loomed above churches and dwarfed palaces. But as with any maritime disaster, the shell of the ship is also a mystery, concealing stories of horror and courage.It is impossible not to imagine the invisible world inside, flooded cabins, inverted restaurants, corridors become watery tombs. The imagination of disaster fills in the unseen details. Nothing grips the imagination like a tragedy at sea. George Orwell was a child when the Titanic sank. As an adult he wrote decades afterwards that it meant more to him at that age than any single piece of news from the first world war, which broke out two years later. He remembered how every detail in the newspapers of the Titanic’s sinking and the terrible struggles of the survivors haunted his young mind. Above all, he recollected imagining the last moment when the ship stood completely vertically in the water before plummeting into the depths, and the people still on board hung from railings high above the water.”
|One by one: Infra-red footage shows passengers of the Costa Concordia queuing up (on the right) and then slipping down one-by-one (on the left) the belly of the ship via a rope. Source|
“The giant cruise ships of today reflect our own society just as exactly as the Titanic reflected the world of 1912. The moral questions that hover over exactly what happened on the Costa Concordia inevitably resonate far wider than the incident itself.”
I agree. Though The Guardian remarked on the symbolism the global media is making about the shipwreck mirrored against the economic times, I’d like to make that observation balanced against our moral times. Courage, duty, man against creation, life, death all are part of the moral discussion and is relevant against what Paul prophesied in 2 Timothy 3. Cruise liners are called “floating pleasure palaces” for a reason. They are designed with an intent to offer the maximum relaxing, hedonistic, pleasure-filled time of carnality that anyone can indulge in. It is the most carnal vacation, practically, that anyone can experience on earth. Thus, part of the discussion is hedonism, and how God views it. (James 1:13-14; Gal 5:16-17)
Ecclesiastes is a book that reveals the depression & melancholy that invariably results from seeking happiness in worldly things. Just about every form of worldly pleasure is explored by the writer in the pages of that wise book, and none of it gives him a sense of meaning. For those who embark on a cruise with a hope that this vacation, this indulgence, will give long lasting satisfaction, will be sorely disappointed.
I am NOT saying that the shipwreck was a judgment of God. Ship happens. I am NOT saying that taking a cruise means a person is unGodly or wanton. For many people it is a safe, affordable way to take a vacation, simple as that. But it could be ungodly and wanton, and for many it is. For even more people, that is the point of the experience. For those people, you might as well call the ship a ship of sin, because any temptation can be found within the ship’s halls. Everything about a cruise ship is designed with an intent to satisfy the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. (1 John 2:16). Gambling, drinking, sexual indulgence, gluttony, adultery, fornication, immodesty, carnal entertainment … the list goes on. The News program 20/20 did a spot Friday night of the Costa, and also the cruise ship industry in general. I was shocked but not surprised to see video depicting the worst effects of sinful man in the cruise ship hallways, as drunkards stagger, vomit, fornicate, fight. The number of brawls amazed me, as the cruise industry admitted that free-flowing alcohol with no moral restraints inherent in such cruises invariably leads to more frequent brawling than the industry likes to admit.
Again, a cruise is and can be a wonderful thing. If you have gone on one and had a great time, then I am really happy for you. But they are also a carnal thing and even if you are steady in your moral compass you know you will be trapped on board a floating pleasure palace where others’ decisions to succumb to temptations will affect you. As it did to those on Costa Concordia when the captain, in the company of a young woman not his wife, ordered dinner with her an hour after the ship had hit the rocks and some passengers were only minutes away from dying.