Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Would You Trust This God?

Sometimes my online dating activity yields a new friend. I've been corresponding with Mark for a couple of months now. He's a minister and we've had some interesting phone conversations about faith: my lack of, and his enduring. Sometimes I feel like a lost soul that this patient minister is working to save. I don't mind the dynamic since we're total strangers otherwise (we've never met in person). We were talking last night about the tsunami disaster. I asked him where "God" was in the moment that one mother had her 8-month-old baby pulled out of her arms by the water. He said, "God was with her." I said, "No, f--k that. I want nothing to do with that kind of god." One of my complaints with U.S. religion is the contradiction between the belief that the hand of "God" is behind every single thing that happens, and the belief that "God" doesn't control our every move because we have free will. These two beliefs are in direct contradiction and cannot be resolved in a single faith system, and yet people pretend like they can be.

Was "God" behind the tsunami? Did "He" cause it to rise out of the sea and kill people? Maybe not. But if "He" was with the people as they were crushed by the water or sucked out to sea, what good is "He?" What good is a god that can't help you avoid the intolerable pain of losing your entire family, or having your child pulled from your arms, or having your entire community wiped out?

The strength that people call on to get them through those times isn't "God." It's themselves and each other. People have incredible inner resources. We are capable of building intricate support systems that help us through these kinds of disaster and that's not "God," that's us.

God, don't move my mountain,
but give me the strength to climb.

No, God, move the f--king mountain. Life hurts. To be alive is to experience all kinds of heartbreak and that's just how it is. A benevolent, all-powerful god is not consistent with a world of pain.
A benevolent, all-powerful god is not consistent with a world of pain.
A benevolent, all-powerful god is not consistent with a world of pain.

The people in mourning for their loved ones and in shock from the loss of their homes and livelihoods will get through this tragedy in different ways. Some will hold onto their spiritual beliefs. Some will abandon theirs. But even those whose faith is strengthened will have to re-think what their god is capable of and what "His" limits and failures are.

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