With the partial sinking of the Costa Concordia the web is filled with stories of maritime disasters. The most interesting one I read was on where the tradition of “Women and Children first” came from (which, FYI, was not followed on the Concordia). In pop-culture many people think that the origin of sending women and children to the lifeboats first came from the Titanic whose captain, E.J. Smith made the famous order. But in reality, he was carrying on a tradition. The origins come from the HMS Birkenhead in the 19th century.
On 26 February 1852, while transporting troops to Algoa Bay, the Birkenhead was wrecked at Danger Point near Gansbaai on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. There were not enough serviceable lifeboats for all the passengers, and even though the waters were shark infested, the soldiers famously stood firm and guided the women and children to board the only boats available. Only 193 of the 643 people on board survived, and the soldiers’ sacrifice gave rise to the “women and children first” tradition when abandoning ship. On the Titanic, after giving the difficult order, EJ Smith admonished the men to “be British” recalling the British soldiers on the Birkenhead. Of the Titanic survivors, 80% were women and children.
Why would men do such a selfless thing? I mean, most fathers would sacrifice themselves for their families but what would make a man sacrifice himself for a woman or a child he does not know? I would think that at a core level it has to do with the fact that he sees himself giving up his life for the future. It wouldn’t be, of course, their personal future but for the future of society. The children really are our future and mothers are always central in family life to raise up the next generation. It has been an unspoken but understood social contract even if it has not always been followed.
The question I raise today is what are we doing as Christians for the future? Hopefully it shouldn’t be as drastic as giving our lives but how far are we committed to making a better world for those who follow after us? So much of what I see in our society is an almost desperate grab at holding onto the past. So much of the fear based politics that permeates our airwaves right now is about being scared that someone is going to take away something we have. But isn’t giving instead of keeping the core of the Christian faith? Isn’t the idea that God gave it all for our future? Yet today, “being Christian” seems to be more about being against things or people than being for anything.
What are we doing for tomorrow, not our personal tomorrow but for our collective tomorrow?
Let us be Christian in the truest sense of the faith.
What is your hope for our future?
Until next time,