“When life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”–Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock (IN), October 23, 2012
And some folks wonder why the fastest growing demographic when it comes to religion is the group of people known as “the nones.”
Of course Mr. Mourdock is entitled to his viewpoint as well as to express it to as many people who will listen to him. At the same time, when I read quotes like these I usually wonder why people tend to play the “God card” so much when it comes to explaining the often inexplicable. For example, when my three-year old nephew died in 1978, at least one person suggested perhaps God was trying to get my attention so I would leave my sinful homosexual lifestyle. Really?!? Let’s see. It’s now 2012 and I’m just as gay as I ever was. Besides, if God wanted to get my attention to encourage some life changes, taking the life of an innocent three-year old was not the way to do so.
As a pastor I’ve heard a lot of speculation regarding God’s will. One somber example comes from 11 years ago when I visited a person in the hospital who was near death. She told me God wasn’t ready for her yet, and that obviously God had an important mission for her. Unfortunately she died two days later.
Then there are the folks whose bodies and/or minds are so debilitated with disease they have no quality of life, and they tell anyone who will listen that they are ready for “God to take them home.” Often these poor people linger on, suffering pain most of us cannot fathom. And one of the comments I’ve heard that frustrates me to no end is when well-meaning family and/or friends say God isn’t ready for those suffering people to die. And the purpose for allowing good and loving people to horribly suffer so much would be…what?
There are also the lighter examples of speculating on God’s will. For example, there is the God who finds parking places for us (God as Cosmic Parking Attendant); the God who finds jobs for us (God as Cosmic Employment Service); the God who helps us pick the winning lottery ticket; and my new favorite–the God who works through technology to find God’s match for each of us ala “Christian Mingle.” So, God is running a dating service now, huh? Oh, unless you happen to be gay, that is. Then apparently God wants you to be straight.
So what are we to do with the concept of God’s will? Or as a person once said in a bible study at the church where I serve, “If God doesn’t intentionally direct our lives, tweak weather patterns and so on, what does God really do?” I thought it was a fair question; and I couldn’t answer it. I still can’t; but at least now I’m ready to offer a few thoughts on the subject.
From Isaiah 55:8-9: The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Now, to be intellectually honest–and I’ve said this before–we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. At the same time, I think this passage can teach us something about speculating on God’s will–whether or not we believe God actually exists.
You see, explaining everything away as somehow being God’s will–while convenient–tends to absolve us of the need to use our intellect and reason; it absolves us from taking responsibility for our actions, and it absolves us from facing some of the more difficult realities of life. I believe the case of Mr. Mourdock attributing “the horrible situation of rape” as somehow God’s way of bringing life into the world speaks to at least some of these points.
At the end of the day, rather than chalking up everything we can’t explain to God’s will, perhaps creation would be better served if we used the intellect and reason with which we’ve been blessed, and started taking responsibility for our actions–and inactions. Besides, if Isaiah is correct, we can’t really know God’s will, anyway. So why not focus on what we can do; that is, align our own wills–our ways and our thoughts–with the ways of peace, justice and love.
Blessings on your journeys!