Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Finding Love in Chernobyl

This summer I binged my way through the HBO miniseries "Chernobyl," a dramatization of the nuclear plant disaster in 1986 and its aftermath.

I loved it.

There are themes and ideas in "Chernobyl" that could fill a book or a year's worth of blogs. It is a condemnation of lies.  It is a warning against fear of imperfection. It is also a celebration of the ordinary heroes of history, namely the thousands of citizens and soldiers who responded to the disaster and suffered as a result.

In the second episode, there is a scene of some of these ordinary heroes that I found profoundly moving. After the initial explosion, the leaders gather a group of plant workers and ask for three volunteers for a special task. In return they will get a permanent increase in pay and other benefits. The workers, smelling baloney, refuse to volunteer until they know what is actually happening.

After some silence, the leaders tell the truth: the reactor is still melting down and when it falls into the flooded basement, it will cause an explosion that will likely kill or contaminate millions of people. The only solution is to go into the basement and manually open the drainage pipes. The basement is so filled with radiation that anyone who enters it will die within a couple years. There's even a chance they will die in the basement.

They will likely never enjoy their additional benefits. They will not be remembered by history. They will not be thanked by the millions who never knew their lives were in danger. Their only real reward is to know that they will give their lives in order to save millions more.

Slowly, three men stand up and volunteer. They are named in the show, but I don't know if they are real names or they were made up to fill in a blank space in the pages of history. The episode ends with them walking into the dark basement to meet their fate.

Years ago, Veggie Tales in the movie "Jonah" defined compassion as "you see someone needs help and you want to help them." In John's gospel, Jesus says, "No one has greater love than this: that one lay one's life down for a friend" (John 15:13). In these few heroes forgotten to history, I saw that love and compassion personified. They voluntarily shortened their lives in order to save millions of people that didn't even know they were in danger.

Not all heroes are famous and not all love is romantic. Sometimes it is just doing what needs to be done. Sometimes God's grace can be seen in an HBO disaster movie.

From the Gray,
Pastor Ari

“You're a danger, like love and radiation.” -All Star United, “Love and Radiation”

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