My friend Leigh McCaffrey used to say “When I get to the Throne of Grace, I’m going to bring my list!”. By that, she meant her list of things she didn’t understand/list of complaints in this life.
I have friends for whom this is a real stumbling block in their faith journey. They think to themselves (and rightly so, I might add) “if this or that didn’t happen, I could believe in a loving God”. The question of “theodicy” as theologians call it — “how does a loving God allow evil”? — is one of the hardest questions, if not the hardest question to answer.
All I can say is that I believe in a loving God, and I assume that God knows something I don’t — mostly about the future, like in the old Star Trek episode where a woman must die in order for Hitler to die later in the time-line. Parenting has taught me that there are things I understand that hurt/scare my children simply because they haven’t experienced something yet and I put myself in their place when I’m thinking about the Eternal Parent.
Christians have a harder time with being mad at God than Jews do, as a whole. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) has the psalms, which include laments — the spiritual equivalent of the Blues. Christians don’t use it in quite the same way. The psalms, for them, are kind of like “filler music” in the service, much to the faithful’s emotional detriment.
It seems to me that God can handle our anger, just as I can handle it when my daughter says, “I hate you!” when I make them come in from play or something. It makes me sad, but I don’t really take offense because I know more about their limits than they do. (I know they need to sleep, they don’t).
Having said all of that, there ARE things I just don’t get. I hate them, in fact! I assume, in my calmer moments, that I don’t understand something about them, but until that takes hold, I’m seriously upset (sad, angry, hurt all at the same time) and, I think, reasonably so.
Here’s the short list of things I’m going to ask about when I get to the throne of grace.
Cancer: What’s that about? OK, death happens. I don’t like it, and maybe it should go on my list, but we’ve got to make space for the next generation on the planet. I get it. But long-lasting, painful death serves nobody’s interest. Cancer sucks for the people going through it and the people watching them go through it. It just does. There’s nothing good about it, even if people can make something out of it. (Country fans, “Live Like You Were Dying” is a great make-lemonade-out-of lemons song, but I still wish the “lemons” didn’t exist)
Alzheimer’s Disease: If cancer is bad because it lasts a long time, then you die, Alzheimer’s is worse, because it lasts a long time and you don’t. I knew a man in Bridgeport whose wife had Alzheimer’s for about 10 years. She was long dead as far as he could tell. When she died, he barely remembered who she had been. And she, at least to the outside world, had long ago forgotten it all.
Mental illness: Again, environmental factors, stress, and so on all add up to mental illness. Thomas Szasz doesn’t believe in Mental Illness. He says it’s only a reaction to an insane world. Still, schizophrenia has got to be unbearable because you can’t run away from yourself. So, why does it happen. And those people who are born crazy, depressed, anxious all the time or whatever? There’s no excuse for God creating them, as far as I can tell.
A lack of natural consequences for molesters . If it were up to me, a man or woman who touched a child inappropriately and caused long-term pain should have their fingers fall off at the time of the touching. Penises, the same thing.
In the natural world, cockroaches are at the top of the list. They are ugly, gross, and they spread illness. If theodicy is about “Why does evil survive?”, these are the ultimate version because they have been around forever.
Next up are mosquitos. They’re not ugly or gross, they just suck blood and spread disease. Malaria, anyone? As food for bats, mosquitos serve a function. Other than that, they serve no function that I can see.
In the world of stupid things human do: war, violence and their counterpart, hatred should be removed. There’s no excuse for their existence. Anger, ok, righteous indignation, yep. Those serve a function. Actual sick, twisted, let’s-go-torture-maim-or-kill somebody hatred? Sorry, I don’t see a reason for it. And I don’t want there to be a reason for it. So there.
I’m not big on stupidity, either, in case it matters. I don’t like advertisements. I’m not a big fan of earthquakes, floods, tornadoes , firestorms or other things the insurance companies call “acts of God”.
That’s the short list, for now. Frankly, though, that’s enough.