Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Was God in This Disaster?

I cried when I read this article -- which is an unusual reaction for me, really. Here's part of it:

I don't believe that a mass disaster, in and of itself, tells us anything about God. I don't believe in a God who punishes through disaster. The disaster is. That is exactly the way I would understand it, without adding my own interpretation, without supplying a meaning or completing the sentence. The disaster is. The tragedy is. And I need to abide with it, and feel it, instead of seeking an answer, because the answers just make me complacent and take me away from the children on the beach, and the father with the dead child in his arms.

There is no God in the disaster.

I think there is God in the response, in the human hearts of those who are feeling and responding to this, the families and neighbors of the victims, and the rest of us, the bystanders, and us, too. The whole world is feeling it.

I've talked about this issue many times with Grandma -- she long ago rejected the notion of a personal God for precisely this reason. It drives her up a wall for survivors of some accident or disaster to say "God saved me"; her question is "Didn't God think those other people worth saving?" There really is no answer that works when you ask "Why is there such terrible suffering?" or "Why did God allow this terrible thing to happen?" All the conventional answers seem either trite or heartless in the face of terrible suffering. I decided a long time ago that "Why?" is the wrong question to ask -- I'm not sure that suffering people really want an answer to that question; what they want is for the pain to go away. And those of us that watch the suffering don't need to be asking "Why?"; we need to ask "What can I do?"

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