Monday, January 03, 2005

Where was God?

Whenever disaster strikes, there will always be some folks who will either blame God, or blame the victims. Personally, I blame the shifting plates under the ocean, but that's not a very satisfactory response for those who are troubled by the divine allowing (or even causing) such disasters.

The natural laws, the laws of physics, make this created realm spin; and so we could say that the creator is responsible when things go wrong. That's a bit of a stretch though, it seems to me. If a child steps off a second story roof and dies from the fall, I don't think that was "God's will," since God did not temporarily suspend the law of gravity to save the child. Some folks expect God to alter the natural laws in special cases. From such beliefs comes the tradition of "miracles." What troubles me about such thinking is that the one who proclaims the miracle has no explanation for all those who did not experience such a miracle in the same situation. You might recall Pat Robertson boasting some years ago that because of their prayers God spared Virginia from a hurricane. The storm hit Florida instead. Are we to assume that Floridians have inferior faith in comparison with Virginians? You see the problem.

We can't see the big picture. What kind of new catastrophes might be caused by gravity suddenly being suspended when the child falls? Accidents happen. Bad things happen to good people. And we don't really understand why. But I do feel rather certain that when disaster strikes, God grieves with us. As a believer in the Incarnation, I think God has experienced some of the pain and suffering of humanity.

I'm rambling because I don't want to try and offer any answers. I'm not sure how helpful it is to try to make sense out of such tragedy. At this point, for me, there's too much emotion for any clear thought.

I did come across an excellent article, however, if you'd like to pursue such questions. It is by Rabbi Michael Learner, and appears in the current issue of the Tikkun Magazine. It is entitled "Where Was God in The Tsunami? And where has humanity been?". Here's a few excerpts;

...So when I was asked last night, during a guest appearance on an ABC radio call-in show, "Where was God During the Tsunami?", my first response was to say, as I've said about God during the Holocaust, "Isn't this an attempt to avoid the more pressing question of 'Where was humanity?' Why have we been so unwilling to take serious responsibility for the well-being of others on the planet"...

...It's quite amazing to behold, actually, how many people responded to the question on last night's a.m. radio by calling in to give messages that were roughly of the following sort: I am really angry at God, and this is precisely why I don't believe in Him.

I don't know any other non-existing being who gets such a bad rap. It's as if people need to invent God in order to blame Him for something about which they are justifiably in despair.

But of course, I do believe in God, so how can I think about this God and His/Her/Its role in the Tsunami?

I don't know. I think that whatever else I say below, I want to start with the fact that I do not know, that there is a limitation of knowledge and understanding built into being a human being at this stage in the development of the consciousness of the universe. I was not there when the foundations of the universe were being put together-and that is a point that was made too in the Book of Job long ago when he similarly questioned the lack of justice in the world God had designed...

...I have no answers - where answers dissolve the question. I have responses, where a response is understood to be a way of staying in connection with the validity of the question and the questioner. Actually, I want to consider two possible Responses...

1. Global Judaism and a New Conception of God;
...To put it bluntly (for the radio talk show audience): stop thinking of God as some big man up in heaven sitting there and making individual judgments about who shall live and who shall die, where he should put a tsunami and where he should put a beautiful sunset.

Instead, understand God as THE FORCE OF HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION IN THE UNIVERSE, the aspect of the universe that is the source of love, kindness, generosity, social justice, peace and evolving consciousness, and that this aspect of the universe permeates every ounce of being, every cell, and unifies all being as it moves the being of the universe toward greater and greater levels of love and connection and consciousness, and makes possible the transcending of that which is toward that which ought to be. Seen this way, God is not the all-powerful being that determines every moment of creation, but rather the part of creation aspiring toward love, kindness, generosity, peace,and social justice which is evolving toward greater power to shape our common destiny to the extent that we choose to embody it more fully. Or in more traditional theological language, God is a Creator, and the creation is still taking place as the God energy of the universe develops and manifests more and more through the universe, shaping it to be more fully in accord with God's aspiration for a world of love, compassion, justice, peace and generosity.

Heresy, you say? Only if your conception of God derives from a Greek notion of the All-Knowing, All Powerful Unmoved Mover-a conception which at times has seeped into and shaped medieval theologies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but which isn't the only possible way to understand God...

2. The Ethical Biosphere. This is a second approach, not continuous with the first, which I think deserves some attention; the view that the natural disasters of the universe are connected in ways that we cannot know yet with the ethical and spiritual distortions of life and consciousness at its current stage of development. The living planet, the gaia energy of our planet, cannot reach a state of being settled and calm until the moral and spiritual realms are more centered and connected with the universe's ultimate moral design...

...So on this view, the earth is a biological/ethical/spiritual unity, and its functioning is in accord with its aspirations toward consciousness, love, environmental sensitivity, generosity, and social justice. But when there are contradictions or constraints in the development of love, consciousness, environmental sensitivity, social justice, and generosity then there is a malfunction which eventually manifests in physical disorders, whether they be disease or whether they be earthquakes or tornadoes or floods or other disruptions of nature...
It sounds to me like he is going in the same direction as Walter Wink in his Powers trilogy; encountering a disruption, or an evil, if you will, on the physical plane should alert us that there is also something going on in the spiritual realm.

Or, maybe the plates just shifted.

UNICEF, an organization with a good track record, is gathering donations for Tsunami relief. Somehow I left them off my earlier lists.

Pray for those who have died, those who mourn, and those who continue to suffer.


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