Word of the Week

Blame It On God

I recently heard a tv interview about former Washington Post weekly columnist, Sally Quinn about why she has now ventured into the world of religious dialogue through Post blog, On Faith.

It was noted that Quinn has no religious affiliation. Such a fact came to be, said the narrator of the show, as a result of Quinn's father's experiences in World War II liberating Nazi concentration camps. Quinn was forever shaped by her father's commentary on the evil in the world as expressed in Nazi Germany. In response, Quinn proclaimed: "There can't be a God because how can God let this happen? I stopped believing in God."

Yet, Quinn's sentiments are far from outside the norm.

I was just at a wedding reception yesterday where the topic of conversation I found myself in was about someone's friend who stopping coming to church because she was not sure she could believe in a God who let horrible things happen in the world.  When things go bad in the world, just blame it on God, right? It's an understandable answer.

And, there are countless stories like this . . . maybe even this is your story too.

You might not be interested in church or religious expressions because of the age-old question: "Why does God let bad things happen in the world?" which never seems to be answered.

While I understand and sympathize with the pain of loss, the pain of realizing that the world is not as pretty as many of us first thought it was or hoped it could be, and the pain of feeling completely out of control, I have chosen not to blame God.

I make such a statement not without much thought or reflection. I make such a statement not just because I am a minister and it sounds good if I do so. I choose not to blame God for "bad things" in the world because of the theology of sin and grace that blankets all I do.

The world, as a result of sin, is a broken place. We are beings who can't help but make choices as individuals, as systems, as nations which aren't good for us. This means that our earthly world is fallen from the purest of goodness, God, and will continue to be a fallen place until the end of time. Thus, wars will continue to break out, hurricanes will happen, oil spills will destroy lives, deaths will happen much too soon, children will go hungry and as much as we seek ultimate connection with others, we will be alone in the messes of this world and of our own making.

The brokenness of our world just is. And, it is one of the most undesirable parts of being human.

Yet, this does not change the altogether otherness of God who is lovingly sustaining, caring and loving us even as we life in this imperfect place that brings us so much pain.

Why does not use God's sovereignty to step in and make things all better again?

I don't know.

But, what I do know is that the first tear cried when we are walking through our own vallies of the shadow of death is by our Creator.

I know that there is no other person who holds us in our pain that a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine.

I do know that there can be some measure of good from even the most messed up of circumstances, good that teaches us about God's best intentions for us.

And, I do know that blaming God rarely helps me move through difficulty. Grieving does. Time does. The blessedness of community does as well.

So, while I respect the viewpoints of the Sally Quinns' of this world, I will hold fast to my theology of brokenness and goodness of God shinning forth in the darkness.

There's some hope to the Sally Quinn story, though. When asked by the television reporter if she called herself an atheist today, Quinn remarked: "I don't call myself in anything. I'm a work in progress."

And, I agree with her about being a work in progress: all people of faith are. 

My hope for her and all those I know who share with me their "blame it on God" stories (and who knows I might be tempted to write one of my own again sometime soon), is that we will come to see that the love of God is wider, and deeper and longer than all the evil of this world. It is this love that has been and will continue to sustain you and and now and forevermore.

So, maybe just for today, there might be a moment, if even just a second when we can put the blame game away.