A Note to Jen

January 6, 2005 — Leave a comment

Jen Lemen, goddess of D.C. area cool, wrote today…

(disclaimer: i’m not saying that what i’m about to say is what jay is saying AT ALL because i know jay and he rocks and would never be content to stay in the shallow end of the pool) but i must say it occurs to me that this road is a little slippery because my mind immediately slides to wondering what god’s perspective might be. and i hate the explanations that lean on some perspective that says it might not be so bad to god, in his infinite wisdom, and that therefore we wouldn’t feel so crappy either if we could just see what he sees. my immediate thought then, simplistic as it may sound is that i’d rather think there is no god at all than to think that we have a god who can actually lounge around drinking cocktails by the pool while the world is burning (oh so prettily, really it’s not as bad as you think) from a distance. it just smacks of some kind of divine dysfunction at worst and exceptionally bad manners at best. the next step in this kind of thing if for god’s humans (who are very quick to adopt god-like stances on things per the theology/marketing flavor of the month) is for someone to get the blender going, so we can have drinks by the pool, basking in the glow of our new divine perspective.

Yep, you’re right in that I am not trying to suggest that we should put our chin up and write off the degree of tragedynor justify the horror “because it will all work out in the end.” I absolutely believe that God is mourning with us, that God knows our pain, that God regrets the degree of suffering. That is, after all, a part (just a part) of what the incarnation was about, wasn’t it?

I think what I am trying to say is that the theological problem that we are dealing with is less of God’s problem, and more about us. We don’t understand, and probably never will in this lifetime. We don’t deal with this well — after all, since the beginning of time we’ve wanted to believe that we could be in control of our destiny. In a sense, life is all about us, and when something comes along that we can’t dominate, then we want to find a scapegoat, and God seems like a logical choice. Hauerwas calls this the problem of anthropodicy, that is, the problem that there are forces that we can’t control, be they overwhelming waves, runaway cells that feed on the body, or any phenomonon that lives outside our control. Human mortality is the ultimate challenge to our controlling ways for no matter how hard we work, we have never been able to conquer death.

That is, of course, part of the Christian story — that God came into the world not to end death, but to take away it’s rule on our lives. That doesn’t minimize the loss and pain that we feel in the wake of a disaster like the one on December 26. Yet, it gives a sense of perspective, a sense of our place in the world, and a recognition that death may not be the ultimate loss after all. We should neither go around minimizing the grief and suffering, nor sit by in our front porches drinking Mint Juleps (I DO live in the south, after all) for that isn’t our call. Our call is to offer love, to bring forth God’s kingdom, to offer cool water, to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. We are to be a living hope in the face of tragedy and death.

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