09 September 2010

Irreligious, but Spiritual when Making Sense of Things, Pt 2

Bringing God in to the conversation is usually a good thing. There are times when His name is used in pain, vain or anger. Some would say there are no atheists in foxholes*, that when times get desperate, people seek faith and find God.

However all of that works, I was pleased that, of late, it
wasn't always and only me who was mentioning God. A common comment tying God to the 4:34 AM Christchurch earthquake was, "Thank God it didn't happen 5 hours earlier or 5 hours later. There would have been a tremendous loss of life!"

Does that comment imply that God controlled the earthquake?
He could not have timed it better?
Some would suggest He could have stopped it.
Either way, it brings to the surface the question of the will of God, the sovereignty or authority of God. Does God cause or allow natural disasters? After the 2004 tsunami caused by a tremendous earthquake in the Indian Ocean, a woman rang a talk radio programme and suggested that God had caused the tsunami as judgment on the sex industry of Thailand.
  • How does that explanation account for the boys playing football on the wide public beach of Chennai, India who were swept out to sea?
  • How does it account for missionaries on holiday in Thailand getting caught up in it and drowned?
  • What of all the innocent grandmas, grandpas, mamas, babies & labourers just going about their business on that day?
It doesn't. It makes them pawns and it impinges on the character and nature of God. That's what I said when I called in to clarify that the previous woman's god was not the one I knew and worshipped!

Making sense of tragedy is important for many of us.
Simplistic and half-baked theology doesn't make sense.

Oh, I know, most people mean well and they often do have a sense of a higher power. The recent commenters are grateful for perceived mercies shown when the Christchurch death toll could have been high, very high. Good on 'em for acknowledging that we as humans have little control over much. It's often when disaster strikes that we strip off our public costumes and are shown to have a deeper layer of substance beneath.

But when the urgency has passed, the aftershocks have stopped and people are safely housed with clean running water, I'd like to have the conversation with some as to the theological framework for "Thank God . . .". It's a good comment, but it only scratches the surface.

But then, I'm not supposed to talk religion, politics or money.

*the aphorism about foxholes is often adapted to other perilous situations such as "there are no atheists on a sinking ship".

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