It has been exactly a month since I've last been here. Two things brought me back this morning. The first was a desperate attempt to wrestle my life back from the tyranny of the urgent. The only thing that brings me balance in times of desperation is balance...if that makes any sense. Balance, for me, begins with some of my own time in my own place with my own coffee listening to my own music and writing on my own iPad...although it seems as if, once again I'm already outdated. The second thing, and the inspiration of some additional writing, is the felt need to process some, in my opinion, misguided and destructive thoughts on faith and disaster that have appeared to the masses this past week. These originated from someone whom I will choose not to identify because the thoughts expressed, unfortunately, are not unique to him. He just happened to be the mouth piece for these thoughts and, again unfortunately, he happens to have a huge forum for delivering them.
These thoughts dealt with the destruction of the tornadoes that devastated so many lives and communities throughout the mid west. I will not elaborate on these other than to say that the summation of them is that this destruction and loss of life can be directly attributed to the intent and will of God. The idea was put forth that these were the "fingers of God" and that Jesus killed those people, with the basic purpose for all of this being to draw others to Him and also that this was justified because, long before he killed these people, he himself died on a cross for them. I know this theology all too well. Let me just say this about the people, and there are many, who ascribe to this theology; they are just wrong. I do not believe that they are bad, they are just wrong, in my humble opinion.
For those who don't understand this thought process...the one that attributes these occurrences to being caused by God, I will tell you that it is consistent with their picture of God. It's an idea known as "sovereignty" and it deals with, in their line of thinking, the idea that God, being all powerful and capable, holds and directs all things good and bad. Let me just say, before I am labeled, that I too believe in the sovereignty of God. However, myself and many of my tribe believe that God doesn't cause them, but allows all things good and bad. Do you see the difference? Those of the other camp would say that this makes my version weak or anemic. They would tell you that the bible supports their version. There are some areas of the book of books that would indeed seem to support them. However, there are also areas, just as many or more, that would support my theology. When this happens, and it happens in many areas of theology, I yield to the only really clear picture that we've ever been given of God, that being the life of Jesus. I see a different version and different methods of drawing all people to him than mayhem, intimidation, and destruction.
Within the life of Jesus, as it is within the character of God, since they are one and the same, it has always, since the time of "The Great Garden Experiment", been about this idea of free will. That should be good news for a good segment of our culture...the idea that God is a pro-choice deity. I believe that you make choices, and whether they are good or bad, God can work through them and despite them...and sometimes He may choose not to. Our trajectory in life is often determined when we make a choice.
God is frequently portrayed as father and I see this as parental type of theology. There are sometimes in being a parent that I will choose, out of love, to step in and save my children from choices. There are also the times that, again out of love, I have chosen not to so that they will learn from their choice. I really think that part of being created in His image means that I have some of His tendencies within me.
When it comes to explaining natural disaster and death and innocence and other such subjects, it sometimes can be attributed to choices that mankind makes or has made. Sometimes, unknowingly the choice was made for them...but make no mistake, somewhere along the line a choice was made. It just sucks when it wasn't made by you and you have to live with it. Some see this as not "being fair"....whatever...it's just reality.
The only time in the grand history of the world, if you attribute anything to Gods act in its creation, that the seas didn't rage and the winds didn't howl and the ground didn't shake and the rivers didn't flood was in the days of "The Garden". From the point that man/woman exercised their "free will" and the garden became a memory, the earth began to change. In our lifetime we have a reality which includes tornadoes and hurricanes and floods and earthquakes. None are desirable and all are potentially lethal and destructive. The choice, either ours or made for us by our culture, is where we live and how we are prepared to deal with them. If you live in the Midwest, the question is never "if", it is a question of "when" a tornado will occur. If you live along the east or gulf coasts, the question is not "if" but when and where a hurricane will hit. God does not cause them...they were a reality from the beginning. How many times does a family need to loose their possessions from flood waters before they move to higher ground?
People want to know where God is when these things happen...I know where he wasn't....he wasn't standing back looking at his handiwork. I have a difficult time fathoming a God who values his creation so much that he would provide his son as a sacrifice for it, and then wreak havoc upon it in order to get their attention...just because He could. Where I see the influence of a loving God and the presence of Jesus is how he works through his people to respond to the sufferings and loss of life. I see Him in the miraculous stories of survival and sacrifice. I see Him in a new recognition that returns value to humanity and relationships. I see Him in the hope that prevails for those who are desperate and hurting.
See the difference? For every cause, there is also an effect. Now don't get me wrong... I do acknowledge that God could cause such things if He desired...He is capable. I just don't see it as a part of His character. My idea of sovereignty lies in his ability to work through the effects. Obviously others do not believe this. They think it is weak. I don't think they are bad. I just think that they are wrong.