Friday, December 14, 2012

God Had Nothing To Do With It

Today, many of my friends have taken time to remember the death of a good friend of theirs who lost his life two years ago today.  In the interconnected world we live in I could feel the mix of sadness and sweet memories as they spoke about the joy he brought to them and how much he is still missed.  I didn’t know him well, but what I did know of him was that he made sure he always had his friends’ backs and that he would reach into any sadness they might encounter and try to take away the sting.  The memory of the pain I saw in people’s faces reminded me of a few weeks ago when a woman in her 50s was taken from this world have succumb to cancer.  A woman who brought great joy to all she encountered, who raised two beautiful and caring daughters and was married to a man who I am proud to call a friend. 
In both cases there were people who asked me about fairness and what God’s place in the loss is.  How can a truly loving God simply take these and so many other young lives?  People who were lights to the world and had so much to live for are gone.  Where is the justice in that?  Ironically, when someone dies in Jewish tradition one thing that is said is, Baruch Dayen Emet Blessed by the true judge.  It is designed as a way to push aside the question of fairness and understand we may not fully understand God’s ways, but somehow they are right.  When I hear the word Judge however I do long for justice and in some deaths I can’t find it and do not want to worship a God who is so cryptic.  I had enough of that 25 years ago. 

When Linda was murdered there are a few moments that stick out for me in relation to trying to understand why God would allow someone to take her life.  One was the medical examiner, who trying to comfort Linda’s father, a minister, said “This is God’s will”.  To wish the good reverend replied, “God had nothing to do with this”.  Later a man, trying to explain away the murder suggested that God was trying to get my attention to live right.  In both cases there was a well intentioned approach to the unexplained but the default position was to “give it up to God”.  As Joni Mitchell writes in her take on the Book of Job as Job suffers he calls out to God:
Tell me why do you starve the faithful?
Why do you crucify the saints?
And you let the wicked prosper
You let their children frisk like deer
And my loves are dead or dying, or they don't come near

([Antagonists:] We don't despise your chastening
God is correcting you)

But is that the God we want is that truly the God of Torah?  It is not what I want.  I don't see God as the Greeks saw Zeus.  God does not play with our lives this way and if God did, is that God truly worthy of worship?

We are once again tested in these thoughts on a less personal but more profound way.   Today a disturbed man walked into an elementary school and shot and killed 20 children and 6 adults.  Five year olds had their life ended by bullets from a person who we now learn had mental health issues.  While we may never know why he felt the need to kill those children and then himself, what I do know is God had nothing to do with.  Don’t look for some master convoluted plan to make it part of some Rube Goldberg machine to a good end.  It isn’t.  Children are dead, dead because a man decided they were going to be and had the means and opportunity.  In the coming weeks we will debate why it was easy to do and trust me I will be on that, but tonight I want to address the fact that we have to stop blaming God for these things. 

An aside of sorts:  Mike Huckabee, a man who was once rational enough to be consider a viable candidate for the Presidency of the United States, came out with a statement while some of the bodies of small children still lay in the school suggesting that the violence was the result of taking God out of the school.  Gov. Huckabee, I would give you due respect if you hadn’t lost all of it for me, Shut the Hell UP.  God is not a vindictive jerk who is going to kill small children for us to turn the diverse public schools into your kind of church.  I am sorry attacks in schools date back to the 1700s and I pretty damn sure that kids were reading Bibles in those schools.  Take your religio-political show somewhere else.  You make me sick.

What these deaths do teach us is that maybe in the world we live sometimes things happen and that is just the way things are.  Perhaps the universe was created by the God we believe in but with the dynamic that God can’t simply change the rules Willy nilly.  That freedom will sometimes mean that we have to encounter someone choosing to do something horrible.  That a world that gives us the beauty of a rose or the wonders of the Grand Canyon, will also give us diseases that end our lives sooner.  Perhaps we are not meant to look to Job to find answers to the pain in the world but to Isaiah who challenges us to act to fix the social ills of the world, to focus on helping others.  It won’t stop everything but it I truly believe if we spend more time looking to help out neighbors than wringing our hands to God in a tragedy we will all make for a better world.  We might find that  when doctors are not looking to find ways to patch up the victims of violence they may be able to better understand disease, that when we have the courage to reach out to a neighbor they may not be quite so angry and that when we see someone in mental distress we won’t look the other way and get him or her the help that is needed. 

God had nothing to do with what happened today in Newtown Connecticut.  God was an innocent bystander.  If you believe in God or not,  you know that we have the ability to show compassion, the intelligence to figure out how to stop this in the future and the capacity to learn from this and not let it keep us in darkness.  It is up to us, we have the tools, now let’s get to work.  If God can do anything about this tragedy it is through the work we do moving forward.  Don’t be a Job or a Huckabee.  

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