I have just finished a book by Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes away (What is God up to in a world of such tragedy and pain). In this book Yancey grapples with acts of unspeakable evil, and shares his thoughts about where God is, in places like Sandy Hook, the Twin Towers (911) and many other places where disaster has struck wither through human hands. Nothing quite prepares you for facing death, either your own or others,I have experienced near death myself, electrocuted under the house, pushed into a power pole in a van by a truck, choking on a marble in my mouth as I lay in my bed, no one would have heard me.
As I wrote in another blog I experienced my neighbors death, https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/broken-somethings-just-are/. I remember it like yesterday, her daughter coming over saying mum can’t breathe, my then wife called the ambulance as I rushed next door, I witnessed her last breath. I remember the desperation as I started cpr, my wife joined me and we worked on her, even after the ambulance arrived we continued. 1,2,3,4,5 breath, again and again. I prayed silently, just let her live God. In the end after 45 minutes of effort we had to acknowledge our loss, Ruth was gone. Her children wailed, the others there began to sob the house was full a small gathering was on at the time. I remember thinking where is God in this, not because Ruth was a believer, not because she was a good person, no just because it seemed manifestly wrong. She had been in hospital with chest pain earlier in the week with chest pain and discharged, she died from an aortic embolism, it should have been picked up, however none of that matters she was dead.
Now Ruth’s death was a singular event, the ripples where not large compared to some of the huge disasters that have happened in the world, the Nepal earthquake, 10,000 people killed, where is God in that? I was brought up Catholic and in the Catholic faith it was taught that unless you were baptised you would got to hell, or perhaps to limbo, purgatory where you stayed until enough masses were said for you. I know this is a simplistic view however that was what we were taught as children. I had my first disagreement with the church over this view, I asked the Priest how could this be justified, what kind of a God would condemn babies, I wanted no part of a religion that taught that. Over the years it has been a subject that I have battled with. The sheer ignorance of people and their beliefs continues, a woman told me that the Christchurch Earthquake was the punishment of God for the passing of the civil union bill allowing gay people effectively to marry.
Bullshit to that I say, I don’t intend to take a theological examination of that, premise, however to extend that line of thinking it means that death occurs because God decrees it should happen and it is punishment for ill doing. If for now we take natural occurrences out of the story and talk about acts of evil such as murder, terrorism and the like how do we explain these given the belief that it is punishment from God given that these acts are often non discriminating in their victims killing innocents as well as targets. You see evil is not confined to death, there are many evil things that are done that leave people alive as well, where is God in that?
Yancey says that evil occurs because people have free choice. Desmond Tutu wrote following his time on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation commission, “this universe has been constructed in such a way that unless we live in accordance with its moral laws, we will pay the price for it”. The interesting thing for me is that whilst I struggle to find God in these situations it does not rock my belief, the institutions that represent him well that is another matter. I only need to get out into the country and look at the absolute majesty of creation to discount any big bang theory. Where does that leave me?
Well all I can do is to confront evil where I can, not accept the behaviour and advocate for change. I have tried the la la la I can’t hear you approach, stopped watching the news but I cannot magic it away, nor can I change the whole world, but I can do what I can where I am with what I have, most often for me it is through writing and advocacy for people, but presenting a different way of thinking and acting is also part of it for me, and not being afraid to ask the big questions