Tag Archives: theodicy

god with a small “g”

Like millions of people, I’ve been trying to get my head around the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This tragic event defies explanation; and the fact that so many of the shooting victims were small children makes this tragedy even harder for many of us to process. The fact is we will never know what caused Adam Lanza to first kill his mother, then 20 school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and then finally take his own life–never. And that reality is hard for many of us to handle because, well, we’re human beings, and not knowing why things happen makes us feel insecure, powerless and not in control.

And we do love being in control, don’t we?

Of course not knowing why things happen doesn’t prevent us from speculating and offering our opinions, and doing so in healthy ways can be therapeutic. Talking through inexplicable events like the Sandy Hook shootings can help us process our grief, confusion, and anger. Such processing can help us move toward our eventual healing. Healthy speculation can also lead to needed changes in the laws intended to protect and care for the most vulnerable members of our communities.

There has been religious commentary, however, that is nothing short of hateful, callous and ignorant–like some of the comments recently offered by people like Mike Huckabee, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and James Dobson. Friday–the day of the shootings–Huckabee said, “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.  Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?” On the same day, Fischer commented that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer. Dobson added today that God has “allowed judgment to fall upon us” because the nation has turned its back on him by accepting things like abortion and gay marriage.

Then we have the folks from Westboro Baptist Church who, as of this writing, plan to picket the funerals of the murdered children and adults, and–according to Shirley Phelps-Roper–“sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.”

For people who see God as an external being who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, events like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary are especially challenging; and comments and actions from people like Huckabee, Fischer, Dobson and Phelps-Roper do nothing to help anyone process their feelings and begin healing. If anything, these comments and actions have the potential to encourage people to walk away from anything that even remotely smells of faith, religion and God. To me, the god described by Huckabee, Fischer, Dobson and Phelps-Roper is a petty, spoiled child god with a small “g” and is not worthy of my attention–much less my worship and devotion.

To me, assigning blame–or giving credit–to any deity for everything that happens in life which we can’t explain not only downplays our inherent beauty and giftedness, it also absolves us from our responsibility to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly in this life. At the same time, events like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary are challenging for people like me who, while not believing in an external Supreme Being who tweaks events at his/her/it’s/their discretion, also deeply feel there is a mystery about creation and the universe which is a cause for reverence and respect (a stance referred to by William Murry as humanistic religious naturalism). What folks like me are left to ponder is the very real possibility that, in the end, life is mysterious, beautiful and yes, sometimes tragic. We can’t explain it–period.  And that possibility really bothers people like me who want to help–people who want to “make it better” for folks who are hurting and who are looking for answers.

Perhaps in the end healing and hope in the face of life’s tragedies eventually comes–not by reinstating prayer in schools or by sacrificing intelligence and reason to appease an angry god–but by relying on the inherent worth, dignity, love  and giftedness of one another. These are the gifts of a mysterious awe-inspiring Universe…

A Universe some choose to call “God”–with a capital “G.”

So It’s Our Fault…Again

A Huffington Post blog “Hurricane Sandy Blamed On Gays, Obama And Romney By Preacher John McTernan,” dated October 29th might be funny if McTernan was a stand up comic. Unfortunately, he is serious; and I am sure there are many people who agree with his opinions.

At the same time, the vast majority of faithful Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith I know do not share McTernan’s particular view of God–at least not as it relates to weather-related catastrophes. After all, if his view is correct, you have to wonder what people who live in manufactured housing–like my conservative fundamentalist parents–have done to make God so mad. Who knows? Maybe God is mad because my parents didn’t stone me when I came out 35 years ago and God’s wrath on manufactured homes through tornadoes is a warning to them.

When blaming New Orleans hurricanes on the gay-themed “Southern Decadence,” what McTernan fails to mention is that the French Quarter (the primary site of this event) was one of the least-impacted areas, while the poorest sections of the city bore the brunt of these storms. Also, if we’re going to assign blame to groups for hurricanes and other weather-related catastrophes, what about Hurricane Rita (2005), which devastated a large area of east Texas that is quite conservative in both its religion and politics?

When it comes to the issue of gay marriage, consider this: Richard and I are considered married or “unionized” in a handful of states, while we are legal strangers in the vast majority of the United States. Depending on where we live, we are subject to discrimination in employment, housing, hospital visitation, end of life decision-making for one another, and the list goes on and on. Yet our relationship (and others like it) upset God so much that God tweaks the weather in such a way that punishes millions of people–most of whom are not gay? How Old Testament!

Now, I do NOT, in any way shape or form, agree McTernan’s viewpoints. Still, I’ll play along. Let’s say God does tweak weather patterns out of anger over certain behaviors. Think about this: it is estimated that only 10% of the US military
budget—10%–reinvested in foreign aid and development, could care for the basic
needs of the ENTIRE world’s poor, and  ½ of 1% of our military budget could cut hunger in Africa in half by 2015; not to mention the fact that the United States alone has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet several times over (because obviously once is not enough), and that we spend $100 million a DAY to maintain that arsenal.

And when economic times get tough–like now–where do some of our leaders propose making cuts? Social programs like SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), making Medicare a voucher system, and defunding Planned Parenthood. If my concept of God agreed with that of McTernan’s–and again it doesn’t–then my bet would be God is more angry at our refusal to take care of another than it is providing equitable treatment for LGBT folks.

Then again, maybe we’ve abused the environment and atmosphere so much it is simply rebelling…

Whatever your concept of God–or if you do not believe God exists–let’s do what we can to care for one another and for all of creation. Who knows? Maybe the weather will actually improve–politically, spiritually and literally.