My roommate went home to Oregon for the weekend and most of my housemates were out and about doing life elsewhere for the weekend, so I had a lot of time to myself to catch up on some reading and watch a couple good movies. One book I was able to finish up was by a Jewish Rabbi about the problem of suffering and evil in the world. The first chapter is spent crushing the typical responses to evil and suffering under the weight of real life examples of senseless suffering that had no benefit at all and left its victims emotionally, physically, or spiritually crippled for the rest of their lives. “Why does God will these things to happen?” is the question he poses to his reader. His response is that God doesn’t. He proposes that perhaps God doesn’t have the ability to make bad things happen or not happen, but instead he encourages us and gives us the strength to overcome them. The portion of my soul where my inner Calvinist resides flared up in rage at this. He took the three propositions of an all-powerful God, a good God, and the human experience of evil in the world and came to the crossroad that every philosopher and theologian comes to where they must choose two. He made the sacrifice of God’s power. I disagree with him on this point but I deeply respect the honesty that he attempts to maintain throughout his book. He asks a real question and in the pursuit of an answer he does not try to tear religion apart nor does he try to bend the facts to protect a religious idea that he has, he simply moves forward from the knowledge and experience he has. He does not put on a superficial religious front. He is a human being who has suffered and is trying to make sense of the world in light of who God is. This honesty is what I admire that most about his book.
Perhaps I’m too much of an arrogant, inexperienced youngster living in hipster Seattle to make an accurate assessment, but I feel that there is a degree of religious superficiality in the Church that does her a disservice. I perceive there being a fear of asking honest questions because it may unravel the neat bow we have spent our lives trying to keep together. The Church as the body of Christ is something that I am passionate about, it is my community. It is my community that helps me walk the line between honesty and rudeness, between introversion and isolation, between analysis and application.
I don’t have a well-formed response to the author of the book, but I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the life of Jesus. Being a Jew, his recognition of Jesus is different from mine. I also believe the life of Jesus is where the solution to the Churches problems may be. Jesus, the one who relied on the Old Testament for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Jesus, the one who joined in the pain of those close to him. Jesus, the one who challenged the synagogue when it’s leaders bent the laws of Torah to fit their own desires. Jesus, the one who was patient with those who were slow to understand. Jesus, the physical embodiment of the grace God pours out in the Old Testament. Jesus, the one loving the social outcast when the people commanded to would not. Jesus, the one a Hindu man named Mahatma Gandhi could love (I am sure to return to this topic later). I think this Jesus could offer some honest answers.