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January 16, 2005 - What is God Up To These Days?













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Knight Ridder reports on Christian evangelical groups who see the recent Pacific tsunami as "a phenomenal opportunity" and the answer to prayer, with one group actively planning to "to build 'Christian communities' to replace destroyed seashore villages."

 

Ah, God’s plan.  Wipe out a few hundred thousand heathens to show them God wants them to be evangelical Christians.  It was a set up!  Cool.

 

And Media Matters documents Catholic League president William A. Donohue as having called the tsunami "these poor Asian people['s] ... gift to the world."

 

Huh?  Ah, God’s plan.  He’s showing his power and humbling us all, so we’ll worship him more.  Cool.

 

Heather MacDonald in SLATE.COM has a different view.  She thinks it's time for believers to take a more proactive role in world events. She’s calling for a boycott.

 

Send a Message to God: He has gone too far this time.

Heather MacDonald, Monday, Jan. 10, 2005, SLATE.COM


The argument?

 

Centuries of uncritical worship have clearly produced a monster. God knows that he can sit passively by while human life is wantonly mowed down, and the next day, churches, synagogues, and mosques will be filled with believers thanking him for allowing the survivors to survive. The faithful will ask him to heal the wounded, while ignoring his failure to prevent the disaster in the first place. They will excuse his unwillingness to stave off destruction with alibis ("God wasn't there when the tsunami hit"—Suketu Mehta) and relativising ("for each victim tens of thousands yet live"—Russell Seitz), even if those excuses contradict God's other attributes, such as omnipresence or love for each individual life.

 

Where is God's incentive to behave? He gets credit for the good things and no blame for the bad. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is fond of thanking God for keeping America safe since 9/11; Ashcroft never asks why, if God has fended off terrorist strikes since 9/11, he let the hijackers on the planes on the day itself. Was God caught off guard the first time around, like the U.S. government? But he is omniscient and omnipotent.

 

Good questions.  You know when a steroid-pumped, overpaid, speed-addled NFL running back scores a touchdown he points to the sky and publicly pantomimes his thanks to God.  But when he is rudely slammed to the ground four yards short, does he raise his fist and curse God?  No.  Quite odd.

 

So what is God responsible for?  Successes are His and failures are ours?  That seems to be the general idea.  That makes no sense.

 

MacDonald is puzzled too:

 

So slavishly do his worshipers flatter God that they give him credit for things he didn't even do. Let a man rape and murder a child, and it's the man's offense; but if someone tends to the sick or shares his wealth, it's God's hand at work. The Most Rev. Gabino Zavala from the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese rejects any suggestion that God forsook the tsunami victims, according to the Los Angeles Times, but he credits God with the subsequent charity: "You can see God in the people's response—how they're reaching out."

 

Huh?  God had nothing to do with the massive death and destruction, but everything to do with the subsequent relief efforts?  One could argue he had everything to do with the former, and man, not God, had everything to do with the latter.

 

That is logical, but cynical.  And if it is so, then why is it so?

 

The answer?  MacDonald thinks the problem is God is spoiled.  And it’s time to let him know there are limits.  Thus a boycott.

 

It is a sad fact of human relations that unqualified adulation often produces from the adored one contempt and a kick in the chops, rather than gratitude and kindness. Apparently, the same applies to human-divine relations.

 

So, let the human race play hard to get. Imagine God's discombobulation if, after the next mass slaughter of human life, the hymns of praise and incense do not rise up. He checks the Sunday census; the pews are empty. Week after week, the churches and mosques are unattended; the usual gratitude for his not wiping out even more innocent children does not pour forth.

 

He starts to worry. Has he gone too far this time? Maybe he should've exercised his much heralded powers of intervention, the same powers that his erstwhile worshipers presupposed every time they prayed for him to cure a cancer victim, or get them into law school.

 

And so, no longer guaranteed an adoring public, he starts to make nice. He calls back avalanches poised to wipe out whole villages; he brings rain to drought-stricken communities; he cures fatally handicapped babies in the womb, or prevents such flawed conceptions before they happen. He presents tokens of his love to malaria victims and children paralyzed by auto accidents. Africa blooms with peace and prosperity.

 

It might not work. But the "I'm rotten-You're divine" syndrome isn't too functional, either. It's worth a try; there is nothing to lose.

 

Worth a try?  No one will try.  Too dangerous.  He might wipe out more innocent folks.  Why risk it?  Don’t tick Him off.

 

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Also in these pages see April 4, 2004: The GOD Franchise - Who Owns the Trademark?  In it you will find a reference to Randy Newman’s “God’s Song” -

 

Man means nothing he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest yucca tree
He chases round this desert
Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
That’s why I love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor, and the filth, and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayer you offer me
That’s why I love mankind ... 

I burn down your cities – how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why I love mankind
You really need me
That’s why I love mankind

 

He’s laughing.  God is - not Randy.

 

And note that here you can buy this bumper sticker.

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And I’ll burn in hell for this column.

 































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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