Monday, December 5, 2011

Herman Cain, Satan, and the Physics of Falling

In the early days of his run at the Republican nomination, I was really excited about Herman Cain.  I really liked the guy.  Actually, I still do.  He was not afraid to talk (or even sing) about Jesus, for one thing.  That, to most politicians, seems like the kiss of death.

I'd like to say that I was surprised by the derailing of the "Cain Train", but I am not.  I am old enough and have learned enough about men (partly from introspection) that sinful behavior never surprises me too much.

What I was extremely surprised at was that I actually felt a small bit of glee in watching Cain fall from grace (or, at least, from the realistic hope of ever becoming President of the United States).  I was shocked at myself.

It is a fairly well known and documented feature of mankind that we like to see people in high places cast down.  I think that, actually, it is in large part the animus behind the Occupy Wall Street movement:  The 99% have a fierce desire for the 1% to be cast down, if not from the pinnacle of the temple, then at least from their penthouse balconies.

I got to thinking about folks in high places getting cast down, and I came round to thinking about Satan:

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
I remember that back in my old LCMS days, Pastor Paul Terhune commented on this passage that the falling of Satan like lightning from heaven was not merely a one-time event, but that the sense of the passage was that "Satan is a falling-from-heaven kind of guy."

Of course, everyone likes to watch creatures like Satan or Kim Kardashian fall from heaven; it's just pure fun.  But what can explain the glee felt by one relatively decent Christian man at the fall of another.  It should bring only sadness.

So, I was pondering this during yesterday's sermon (Sorry, Father!), and I came up with an analogy based on Physics.  For the civilians out there, what I mean to say is that watching someone fall from a height is, basically, like a roller coaster.  It is exciting to see (or feel) the velocity build up.

In Physics terms, any object that has physical mass (I will introduce the concept of spiritual mass later) and proximity to another physical object with mass ... has what is called Gravitational Potential Energy.  Because of the gravitational attraction (given by Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation) between the two bodies, the less massive body "falls" toward the more massive body, or "wants" to, if nothing holds it up in its lofty position.

When people are in positions of fame, notoriety, earthly or spiritual power, authority, honor, etc., there is a certain Spiritual Potential Energy that they possess based upon the height at which they sit suspended, and their "Spiritual Mass", their gravitas, so to speak, or their "largeness".  When the restraining force is taken away, whether in the case of the roller coaster or in the case of a falling creature, Potential Energy is converted into Kinetic Energy, which is proportional to mass, but also to the square of the velocity of the fall.  And I guess in the end it is just exciting to see Potential Energy converted to Kinetic Energy.

One can even ponder whether, for certain types of adventurous (though less kind terms could be used) persons, the experience of one's own fall can give this kind of excitement.  It is possible that this type of person will go about, to all appearances, sabatoging himself.  When all the while he may be engaged in an intentional spiritual skydive.  I'm not saying that Herman Cain is this sort of person, nor that he entered the Republican Primary to see whether he could "get away with it."  But it is worth pondering the reasons for self-destructive behavior in all persons:  Herman Cain, Kim Kardashian, Satan, and me.