Thursday, January 06, 2005

My first

I decided to give in and blog because of my sense about a question that's been kicked silly since the Indian Ocean tsunami: How could (a good) God have allowed this?

I've been reading the discussions and articles, but haven't seen my view represented anywhere that I could "Amen" or "Ditto" it. Since almost any foolish theory can find a few adherents, I wondered about this. Not flattering myself a subtle or deep thinker, no matter how I might wish otherwise, I decided to put my thoughts down here. Just for myself, without worry about an audience. I wanted to attempt to condense them and explain my position clearly, chiefly so I could clear the mental pantry where they're hogging the limited shelf space.

1) With our first knowledge of Good & Evil, the world remained our beautiful and abundant sustenance, but also became an incredibly dangerous place for humans.

Our marvelous, dynamic Earth runs both in gentle cycles and cataclysms of a large scale that is inherently threatening to fragile creatures like we are. But dynamism is the nature of life itself on this planet. Microorganisms replicate and transform in profusion. Tectonic plates shimmy. Mountains become valleys and oceans become deserts. Dawns and sunsets march as the seasons warm and chill while our bodies grow, replicate, and age. We were made to live in this flux of overlapping change. Most often we benefit; sometimes we're crushed. But anything powerful is potentially dangerous. This natural drama is not "evil"; it's essential to the continuance of life as we know it, and through our gifts, we are not totally defenseless. To know that God's eye is on the sparrow is to know that even against the backdrop of universe-sized events, we are not forgotten.

2) Those who choose to blame God for selective calamity are not, at least in my exposure, in the habitual practice of gratitude for the lack of same.

As I read it, the habitual blamers are not the continually prayerful types, giving heavenly credit for creation, breathable air or the atmosphere that protects from radiation, the earth that provides food and drink. These people may claim sunshine allegiance to some allegorical deity, but they take for granted their own sufficiencies and satieties, their critical faculties, beauty both natural and constructed, wonders of civilization and innovation, and examples of personal excellence. They are not in a constant state of gratitude for their ongoing survival, comforts, or joys, that might outbalance their choice finger-pointing during times of trial. If they were as generally grateful as the saints, difficult or painful times that would seem insignificant by percentage and severity with the glories of this life, and like the saints, perhaps they could say that "Still, God is good." The scapegoating reflex by people who never joined the club to give God credit in the first place is common, but I wonder how they perceive the manifold joys of each second of Creation. Do I fully appreicate them? I couldn't, but trying keeps me busy. This pervasive one-sidedness is especially curious given how many of those pondering these questions are educated, electrified types like me with extra time and historically unprecedented resources. To many, it seems no matter how miraculous modern medicine or technology might seem to our ancient parents, the good in their life simply occurs as their normal due or some person (not a child of God, of course) makes things happen, but the notion of a petty, careless God is ever-present to hold the bag for the crap.

3) The vast majority of human suffering is caused by, exacerbated by, or soluble by other humans. It's true we are flawed, and are capable of evil acts and cruelty, but we are the only game in town and the best hope for goodness.

The loss of life and extent of destruction are what are so affecting about the tsunami. But both these things, humans could have lessened for each other. Persistent poverty, lack of public education, lack of technological development, short-sightedness of knowledgeable people who could have sounded alarms, and the current food, medical, and infrastructural crises are all things that we could have and can do something to improve. In the Christian tradition, God thinks man, while imperfect, can yet be a fitting tool for His work. He proves it by making himself a man, Jesus, who after his death confers divine authority and power to the apostles to work for the good here on Earth. If we are not God's emissaries for miracles on this earth, who is? If the developments of science and civilization don't appear miraculous, what else qualifies? If we won't use the capacities of invention and industriousness we've available in abundance to take care of our brothers, we're not even doing the easy stuff. How can we expect glowing hands to split the sky every week to solve some crisis that we've helped cause and are blessed to be able to solve? As imperfect beings in an imperfect world, we are nonetheless divinely designed to ameliorate each other's suffering and are called to do so for the love of God and each other as well as our own development.

4) The suffering, through fear and pain, of innocents weighs especially heavily on us, but we must remember that for the living, those fears and pains can be relieved, and the dead are already free from them.

I believe that God can remove all memories of pain and grief from those who have died. I believe that across the span of a heavenly eternity, even years of suffering would become inconsequential nanoseconds. I avoid discomfort and emotional pain like most humans, but I do believe, in the end, pain will not matter much. Without earthly bodies and earthly time, suffering like we experience here isn't possible. Those that are dead are already comforted. For those that are alive and injured or heartbroken, humans can reach out to each other in fellowship and love. Not all bodies and spirits will be mended, but each sufferer may choose to lessen the burdens through the disposition of his mind and heart toward God. But no matter what a suffering person chooses in that regard, we have a responsibility to try to love each other in actions, thoughts, and words. The tragedy of wounded innocents is not a screaming, bottomless chasm, so infectious and immune to our actions that we should cower, helpless and paralyzed by our empathy.

For the moment- that's it. More than enough, I think, if less well-thought and expressed than the topic deserves.

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