Two Stories of Sinking Ships

The sinking of the Titanic is a story upon which other stories have been projected.  It was a true and tragic event that has become a useful illustration of human hubris.  Famously touted as unsinkable, it has ironically become the iconic image of a sinking ship.

Lately, it has also been handy for those who like to tell a story of class warfare.  Fatalities were higher among third class passengers than among first class passengers.  That is a fact, but does that mean that the first class passengers took advantage of their position and selfishly grabbed all the spots on the life boats?  The bloggers at think so.  They call it a “life-and-death class struggle.”

Are we sure about that?

John Jacob Astor IV gave his life; his wife Madeleine survived.

According to Cal Thomas, in his article Titanic: The Reality, there are other Titanic dramas that don’t quite fit a class warfare narrative.  Thomas quotes Dr. Harry L. Reeder from an article in “Tabletalk,” telling a slightly different story.  “Men of power and prestige (including Benjamin Guggenheim, John Jacob Astor and Macy’s department store owners Ida and Isidor Straus) sacrificed their lives for women and children of the lower class, many of whom were indentured servants.”

What I find fascinating is what these different perceptions of a one hundred year old story say about our interpretive frameworks today.  The conservative commentator notices that Wall Street types sacrificed their lives for the poor.  The liberal blogger notices that more poor people than rich people died.  They each chose the stories that fit into their guiding narratives and interpreted accordingly.

Politically, we are increasingly divided into two polarized world views, each operating according to a narrative through which all events and stories are interpreted.  On the left, the rich (read Wall Street) are greedy and exploitive, the poor are helpless and marginalized, and the government needs to play Robin Hood.  On the right, the marketplace is the source of growth and prosperity, the poor are best served by a healthy economy, and the government over regulates and punishes success to enrich itself.  There is some truth as well as gross generalization and misrepresentation in each story.  These narratives, in my opinion, are outdated, divisive, and manipulative.

There is a better narrative through which we could more accurately and helpfully interpret the events, politics and stories of our world.

It is a story of a perfect world, created by a good and self-existent God, that has been hopelessly contaminated by sin.  This world is a sinking ship.  Political battles are just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  (I couldn’t resist.) In this story, neither wealth nor privilege nor politics will guarantee a place in a life boat.  In this story, we are all equally valuable and equally vulnerable.

The Bible tells an overarching story of a good, gracious and just God offering salvation to sinful people.  It is a beautiful story of sacrifice and redemption.  This is the story through which we should interpret all other stories.

19 thoughts on “Two Stories of Sinking Ships

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  1. Great post and great insights Judy! I especially appreciate the element of how each person/group tends to interpret according to their already existing framework of reality. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for liking some of my posts, first of all! Much appriciated. Secondly, it is funny that I should find this post of yours – I just watched the James Cameron version of this story last night… Let’s just say I like yours better. ;D

    Thanks again and Jesus Bless You!

  3. Oh WOW, oh wow, this is good, Judy–and I like the “re-arranging the deck chairs” remark!! It also makes me think of the “least” and the “last” stories in the Bible. God bless you–have a great weekend!

  4. Love this post Judy. I reposted it on Facebook. Looking forward to reading more of what you write.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Larry. I agree that our political landscape is like two entrenched groups lobbing bombs at each other from ditches on either side of sanity. But sometimes I find the high ground of truth difficult to discern. Some positions, the ditches, are extreme because they are outside of the bounds of truth, but sometimes the truth is just extremely unpopular.

  5. We all see the world through particular lenses. It takes discipline and compassion to set our own lens down and pick up that of another person in order to try to see things from a different perspective. As Christians it is our duty to “get out of ourselves” and enter into the lives and experiences of other people for the glory and furtherance of the kingdom of God. That, after all, was what Jesus did in the incarnation. This includes rich and poor, male and female, slave and free.

    1. That is a great point, Carol. The first step is recognizing that other perspectives exist and that they should be heard and valued instead of rejected and attacked. If we really listened to each other, then perhaps we’d be better able to better understand their perspectives. All for the “glory and furtherance of the Kingdom of God.” (Love the way you put that.) Thanks for your thoughts, Carol!

  6. Amen! This world is a sinking ship. Yet, we wonder why there are problems and corruption. We don’t have to be negative or sour about the circumstances. On the contrary, we can realize the Truth of this world and allow it to spur us on the share the Gospel, find more ways to minister to everyone, and look forward to the unsinkable richness of eternity! 🙂

    1. “Unsinkable richness of eternity!” I love that – thanks Cristal. It does help to see the world as it is, doesn’t it? I appreciate your encouragement to use our understanding of the sinking state of the world to motivate us to positive action. What if Christians really did that instead of joining the chorus of criticism and complaint? (Speaking to myself here…) Thanks for your thoughts!

      1. Last week, I was studying Jude and read (from Matthew Henry) something that convicted me. He was describing the evil men and said they complain and grumble about God’s providence. Ouch. What does that make me? Yikes.

        1. I know, me too. God really doesn’t like complaining and grumbling, does he? I can’t be reminded of that fact often enough.

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