In a CNN article titled “Effects of Agent Orange ‘ongoing silently’ in children,” Elizabeth Johnson describes the devastating effects on the children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren born to those exposed to Agent Orange during the war in Vietnam.
The deformities get worse; what we did then affects those being born now. “They are projecting that the diseases can go to our 5th generation of grandchildren,” said Barry Rice, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Tennessee council.
Reading this brought to mind the words from Scripture about how the “sins of the fathers” will be visited upon the children for generations to come.
I used to think this was meant to describe the actions of a stern and terrifying God, but I realize now that it simply describes what actually happens: our children inherit the unintended consequences of our behaviors. Generationally, they live with climate change and systemic racism and, if their grandfathers were exposed to Agent Orange, they also live with the potential for inheriting debilitating deformities.
What we do now will affect those born a century from now.
For better or worse, here is a place where Scripture and science agree: everything is interconnected. Referencing physicist David Bohm, Margaret Wheatley writes: “Action in one place, even at a distance, affects action in another place [because] at a level we can’t discern, there is an unbroken wholeness.” This unbroken wholeness means that our children and grandchildren inherit the consequences of our current actions.
As St. Paul says, “If one member of the body suffers, we all suffer together,” across time, across space, across generations.
That’s not the end of the story, however. After all, ours is a resurrection faith, and we know that acts of kindness – the good that we do – can also have far-reaching effects.
All this quantum interconnectedness isn’t just about the bad things. The smile we give to a child or a stranger, the vote we take time to cast, cozy hours spent reading to a child, faithfully going to a difficult job, raising money or awareness for a good cause, taking political action, trying to live by Jesus’ injunction to love and serve God and one another – all these, too, have far-reaching effects for the well-being of the world. And certainly, we can pray for “this fragile earth, our island home” and for our children (see the prayers below).
Everything–the physicists say, Jesus says–everything is interconnected. “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” across time, across space, across millennia.
So consider what good things you might do today to help tend the children in your care–and the universe itself. We can’t do one without affecting the other because they are, after all, part of an unbroken wholeness, all of it held together in God.
Prayers for Today
Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
from the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 827, 829
What helps you to serve God first in this complex and interconnected world?