Is God a Heavenly Voyeur?

Helpless-Children

History is strewn with the wreckage of broken lives of those foolish enough to believe God really gives a damn.  There are those who fall to their knees in silent, unheard prayers when suffering threatens to consume them.  In the absence of reasoning, they fall back on a blind faith, a belief that there is some higher meaning behind their loss.  But their faith has never been anything more than the posture of not pulling the alarm when the fires of evil begin to spread. They relinquish their involvement or complicity, their grief, to the dark void of a silent, impassive God.

Waiting for God to intervene is both foolish and tragic. Like many people, I have been struggling to align my faith (or lack thereof) with all the insidious tragedy in the world today.  How is it, we doubters ask, that a compassionate and loving Father (God) allows an endless flow of hate, violence, death, and destruction to inundate our world?  Where is the omnipotence conveyed in the Bible?  The promises and the facts just don’t seem to come together.

How do we accept the “free will” argument of devout Christians who, in lieu of a meaningful discussion, always fall back upon stories in a Holy Book as evidence that God does not interfere in the affairs of man.  The good book is full of examples of Divine intervention.  He saved David from the Philistine Goliath, Daniel from the Lions, and Jonah from the whale. But He simply could not find the time to save 20 young first graders from the wrath of a scrawny, disturbed young killer in Newtown this past December.

Newtown victims

If intervention exists, why did the children of Aleppo, Aurora, Columbine, Iraq, Syria, Chicago, Los Angeles and Joplin, MO, and even the children of the  Holocaust, perish in such horrible deaths?

GermanyHolocaustChildrenPoland

Why the continual absence of settling answers? Not having answers certainly does not disprove the existence of God.  However, it certainly begs the conclusion that if there is a God, he is neither merciful or compassionate.  If His sole purpose is merely to sift through the wreckage of mankind and pick up the pieces,  this would seem to suggest that He serves more as a melancholy janitor and not the all-powerful deity we are urged to embrace through prayer and communion.

Faith requires that we enter into a relationship of God as Father and we as children.

God-The-Perfect-Father

I have to reject that offering.  A true Father figure allows his children to grow by painfully sitting back and letting his loved ones learn  through their mistakes, Yet he intervenes when the child is on the verge of mortal consequence. In that moment, I, as a father, would give my life to protect my children from lethal harm.  But God, it appears, sits back and watches, up to and through the bloody end of it all. Sure, He sacrificed his Son, His most precious gift, so that whoever believes in Him might one day know peace and love…just not today!

Christians are quick to point out that it all comes back to the miracle of faith.  They claim that to know is irrelevant and a false journey, and the only thing that matters is that we “believe” there is a sound celestial reasoning for the evils we encounter as we journey through this life. But it just doesn’t add up.  Believers respond that the reason I cannot find an answer to this and similar questions of Divine indifference is because of my lack of faith. I would argue that my lack of faith stems from clear evidence that God, in allowing such horrific events to shape our lives offers a  path toward reconciliation that is too great a burden for any of us to bear.

Ask the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy.  Ask the Mother of the child killed by collateral damage in a drone strike in Pakistan.  Ask the orphan who not only loses his biological parents, but is then placed in an abusive foster home.  The examples of pain are endless.   The examples of God’s alleged compassion can fit in one book.

bible

More importantly, believers argue, while we may openly seek understanding and purpose, it is only through the power of prayer that we can even begin to approximate resolution.  On bended knee, we utter our fealty to our Creator, accepting without question that He knows what’s best.  We should leave off our incessant whys. And so many, including myself,  refuse to accept tragedy through supplication and prayer, and continue to stand up and question.

no-prayer

It is somewhat patronizing to suggest that God is tolerant of our doubt and ultimately forgiving of our lack of faith.  He cannot be both the architect of this grand design of free will and demanding that we surrender it at the same time in order to achieve a more perfect union with Him. 

free will

If in fact we are flawed from the cradle due to the original sin of Adam and Eve; if we are offered salvation through the sacrifice and blood of a crucified Son, why then not completely deliver us from evil today rather than offering a rain check for peace and happiness only once we expire?  How is that compassionate or loving?  Why do we call Him Father and not the great Procrastinator?

Proverbs 21:30 offers, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” I don’t enjoy struggling with faith.  I wish I could take the easy path and just turn everything over to His “voyeuristic” style of non-intervention.  But I can’t. More than anything, except truth, I want to believe that this all means something. Yet, I would rather confront the evils of this world from a position of knowledge and sympathetic understanding than to close my eyes in prayer and call that a day.

Our Creator put us in a scientific world but left us with an instruction manual no better than the Ikea assembly sheets that serve only to baffle and confuse.

science vs religion

I do not believe, or want to believe that He is nothing but a heavenly voyeur when it comes to our pain and suffering.  Unfortunately, that does seem to be where the evidence points.

I can already anticipate a Christian response for my questioning the “wisdom” of God.  I will be counseled to seek Him in prayer.  I’ve done that, to no avail, for 40 years.  How about instead of my falling to my knees in prayer, you Believers fall to your knees and help a parent mop up the blood of his/her slain child.  And please, don’t ask why.  Just have faith that somehow He knows why.  Your job is to accept and live with the pain.

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My Problem with Social Media Evangelicals

 I get a lot of emails and Facebook postings about prayer. Most are re-posts and unoriginal, but the message is always the same: God is great, Jesus is our Lord, have you found God? Have you found Jesus? (This later one amuses me as any Christian worth his salt knows: God and Jesus are one and the same…if you found one, you’ve found the other!) They are all evangelical by nature, and I understand; if you believe the indoctrination of Christian crusade camps the world over, your only job is to carry the message forward. And it’s this messaging that prompts me to write today.
I was born, baptized, and raised in a Catholic household. I was even an altar boy for eight years (and no, I was not “touched” by God, although, with the cash settlements going out these days, a little touch and tickle might have paid for my retirement). No, even with my religious background, I am not, by way of full disclosure, a religious person. But neither am I agnostic. I believe in God…I just happen to believe that my relationship with Him is very intimate and personal. I also believe that if God wanted people to return to his flock, he wouldn’t need an army of over-zealous, pious, acne-pocked faced teenagers to do his dirty work. I sort of imagine if he wanted you, he would know how to get your attention real quick, unequivocally, and in a hurry.
As I mentioned, I believe my relationship with Him is personal. And this is where I take issue with evangelicals. Where they spend countless hours during their day “preaching the word”, those are hours that might be better spent actually going out into the world and doing “Christian” acts; I don’t know, like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, feeding the poor…you know, that kind of thing. Instead, they don’t have much time left at the end of a recruiting day for anything more than a quick re-grouping to compare notes and plan for tomorrow’s orgy of recruitment. And I also find it repugnant to use social media to sound off about how much of a Christian you are and how much I am not.

Additionally, how conveniently they skip over passages within their own bibles that speak to their ultimate rewards in Heaven; why then are they seeking to publish their every holy thought and action here on earth so that others might know how “Christ-like” they are and how much I am not?. Nothing would, in my opinion, be less Christian. Can you see Jesus going around saying, “Hey Peter, did you see how I changed that water into wine? Pretty cool, huh. Bet you can’t do that!”
Mother Teresa once said she almost never had time to stop and pray…she had too much work to do. Her work was, in essence, her prayers.  C.S. Lewis, a major Christian apologist, also said, “My relationship with God is an intensely personal one.) Yet there is nothing intensely, or even remotely, personal about 10,000 people filling up Fulton County Stadium and singing hymns all day while just outside, on the streets of Atlanta, thousands of homeless men, women, and children fight just to survive another cold night.
I guess what I’m trying to say is enough already with the emails and postings. Get off your collective cultish asses and actually do something Christ-like. Forget about me and go take care of one of God’s children. Your message is better understood in action.

Servitude

We are, from the cradle, born into servitude, and we remain in chains until death. From the first breath drawn until eternal embrace, we are shackled by circumstance; our every need dependent upon external dispensation. We are told that there exist “free will” within our every decision, but consider that those decisions are conditionally shaped by what is or is not available to us, and what is available is either predetermined by physical limitation or by appeal to the largess of another. This renders the concept of “free will” aberrant and useless. Our decisions are entirely guided by the grace of others..

Thomas Merton, the 20th century Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic, suggested that “We are all but leaves being blown about by the winds of circumstance.” In suggesting that we are hemmed into bondage by choices limited to external grace, even the winds of circumstance fail to blow in the face of reason. So who, or what, then accounts for what is available to us to choose from?

For the believer, it is none other than God. To the faithful, all things flow from and return to God. This being the very same God who in return bestows upon his children a vaporous gift of “free will” but who nonetheless precedes it with a litany of commands and admonitions beginning with “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have gods before me. “and couples this with a host of “Thou shall and Thou shall Not’s.” In this condition of being, “free will” is lost amongst the jealous threat of choosing unwisely. Could not a free man elect, without consequence, to worship another god? Or no God at all? Would not the gift of “free will” proceed without such a conditional caveat? Again, the chains rattle.

For the Atheist, and indeed, the Agnostic, the bonds of servitude are no less secure. Believing themselves free of the over handedness of a deity, their dilemma becomes all the more transparent as they show themselves entirely supplicant upon the goodwill, or lack thereof, of their fellow man. They lack even the myth of divine intervention in making not only choices, but the right choices. Theirs is the delusion of certainty, while all around them exist walls constructed of avarice and greed, and from this fervent field decisions are plucked.

Freedom from servitude, absolute freedom, requires a “free will” unencumbered by what is and isn’t possible; by what is and isn’t allowed. Without such abandon, chains are tightened and our enslavement certified. Everywhere we look, and for every corner we turn in this life, our path is laid out before we can even begin to contribute in as much as direction is concerned. What is and isn’t available to us is predetermined, less by failed aspirations and more by social and environmental contract. Freedom crumbles in the face of reality and reason.

We are, after all, little more than indentured dreamers.