Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where there's tragedy there's the question of God

I have no idea what to say.  Harold Kushner wrote a book that I've always wanted to read, but never have. It brings the only reconciliation I can think of that's still respectful of the pain. I may be headed to the bookstore.

Excerpts from When Bad Things Happen to Good People:

“More than that, we can recognize our anger at life's unfairness, our instinctive compassion at seeing people suffer, as coming from God who teaches us to be angry at injustice and to feel compassion for the afflicted. Instead of feeling that we are opposed to God, we can feel that our indignation is God's anger at unfairness working through us, that when we cry out, we are still on God's side, and He is still on ours."

"The world is mostly an orderly, predictable place, showing ample evidence of God's thoroughness and handiwork, but pockets of chaos remain. Most of the time, the events of the universe follow firm natural laws. But every now and then, things happen not contrary to those laws of nature but outside them. Things happen which could just as easily have happened differently."

"An engine bolt breaks on flight 205 instead of on flight 209, inflicting tragedy on one random group of families rather than another. There is no message in all of that. There is no reason for those particular people to be afflicted rather than others. These events do not reflect God's choices. They happen at random, and randomness is another name for chaos,”

"A system left to itself may evolve in the direction of randomness [as thermodynamics says]. On the other hand, our world may not be a system left to itself. There may in fact be a creative impulse acting on it, the Spirit of God hovering over the dark waters, operating over the course of millennia to bring order out of the chaos. It may yet come to pass that, as 'Friday afternoon' of the world's evolution ticks toward the Great Sabbath which is the End of Days, the impact of random evil will be diminished. Or it may be that God finished His work of creating eons ago, and left the rest to us. … In that case, we will simply have to learn to live with it, sustained and comforted by the knowledge that the earthquake and the accident, like the murder and the robbery, are not the will of God, but represent that aspect of reality which stands independent of His will, and which angers and saddens God even as it angers and saddens us."

"Nature is morally blind, without values. It churns along, following its own laws, not caring who or what gets in the way. But God is not morally blind. I could not worship Him if I thought He was. God stands for justice, for fairness, for compassion. For me, the earthquake is not an 'act of God.' The act of God is the courage of people to rebuild their lives after the earthquake, and the rush of others to help them in whatever way they can."

"I think there is more to the story [of Adam and Eve] than a simple case of disobeying God and being punished for it. My interpretation may be very different from the ones you have grown up with, but I think it makes sense and fits the biblical context. I think the story is about the differences between being human and being an animal. And the key to understanding it is the fact that the 'forbidden' tree is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."

"This, then is what happened to Adam and Eve. They became human. They had to leave the Garden of Eden, where animals eat from the Tree of Life, the tree of basic life-forces and instincts. They entered the world of the knowledge of good and evil, a more painful, more complicated world, where they would have to make difficult moral choices."

"This is what it means to be human 'in the image of God.' It means being free to make choices instead of doing whatever our instincts would tell us to do. It means knowing that some choices are good, and others are bad, and it is our job to know the difference…. But if Man is truly free to choose, if he can show himself as being virtuous by freely choosing the good when the bad is equally possible, then he has to be free to choose the bad also. If he were only free to do good, he would not really be choosing. If we are bound to do good, then we are not free tochoose it."

"Why, then, do bad things happen to good people? One reason is that our being human leaves us free to hurt each other, and God can't stop us without taking away the freedom that makes us human. Human beings can cheat each other, rob each other, hurt each other, and God can only look down in pity and compassion at how little we have learned over the ages about how human beings should behave."

"When people ask 'Where was God in Auschwitz? How could he have allowed the Nazis to kill so many innocent men, women, and children?', my response is that it was not God who caused it. It was caused by human beings choosing to be cruel to their fellow man."

"I have to believe that the Holocaust was at least as much of an offense to God's moral order as it is to mine, or how can I respect God as a source of moral guidance? … I have to believe that the tears and prayers of the victims aroused God's compassion, but having given Man freedom to choose, including the freedom to choose to hurt his neighbor, there was nothing God could do to prevent it."
Post a Comment