If we are willing to cut God (by the way, does anyone know what his last name is?) some slack, we could say that he just wasn’t paying attention when the earthquake struck Haiti last week, taking the lives, by latest estimates, of some 100,000 souls in that island paradise. Proof that he does pay attention, at least part of the time, came in the form of his intervention in 2008’s election, when, according to Sarah Palin, her selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate was “God’s will.”
The fact that God smiled on Sarah Palin, but not on the 100,000 Haitians, raises some troubling questions about God’s basic competence. Even if we do cut him some slack, and allow that he was distracted by other things—after all, he is a very busy fellow—he just doesn’t come off all that well.
There are those who will perhaps take a harsher view of God’s culpability in the Haitian matter. Rather than taking a tolerant view of the situation and attribute God’s negligence to him being understandably asleep at the wheel, these sticklers will jump all over our overworked deity and accuse him of being a cruel and vicious sadist. They will point to the long history of catastrophe, suffering and misery endured by his children here on planet Earth.
These ungrateful critics of the Creator of the Universe will accuse him of being, at minimum, a nasty piece of work. They are an overly earnest bunch. They should adopt the carefree and somewhat bemused attitude of the late Randolph Churchill, begot by Winston, who didn’t have occasion to think deeply on the mysterious ways of our Lord until he picked up the Bible during a slow period during the North African campaign of World War II. After thumbing through the Old Testament, with its amusing tales of wanton destruction and random punishment, Randolph famously remarked, “I say, this God chap is a bit of shit.”
Randolph the son of Winston chalked it all up to old stories in an old book and took the rational position that the angry and bloodthirsty God of the Old Testament was merely a fictional character, a scary personage whose usefulness in keeping people in their humble place had long since outlived its primitive function.
Poor Randolph just didn’t get it. Those of us fortunate to be living in our enlightened age know that God continues to work his will in mysterious ways. Much as we might like to, we cannot simply dismiss him as a mean old man, or as a mean old lady, for that matter. (It would be interesting to see what would happen if we imagined God as a lady instead of a gentleman. Would we be as accepting of Her fickle ways as we are of His?)
For, like it or not, God is still in the thick of things, though, as we know from the thousands of rotting bodies in Haiti, he seems occasionally to screw up. But we have to take a wider view of things and look at the big picture. From pulpits across the land, our godly superiors will be assuring us in the coming days that the appalling catastrophe in Haiti is part of God’s plan. I first learned about God’s plan when John Kennedy was assassinated. The Sunday after the assassination, a kindly and dimwitted ecclesiastical authority took to the pulpit to bring us the comforting news that the killing of Kennedy was part of God’s plan.
I must admit that, at the time, I was tempted to stand up and scream, “You gotta be kidding!” Then, as now, I was reluctant to entertain the proposition that nobody was in charge. That would seem to be the rational conclusion. Who, after all, would want to believe that someone called God, residing who knows where (Paradise? Kolob?), was inflicting awful suffering on the least of his creatures? Why would he want to do that? Does he get bored with the tedium of eternity, and on a whim decide to divert himself with the sport of suffering and the spectacle of death?
No, brothers and sisters, it is part of God’s Plan.
Someday we will know why the thousands of children are crushed by concrete, and why some are mercifully dispatched at one fell blow and why others are left screaming in the rubble to die of starvation or succumb to the pleasures of sepsis. Their slow and agonizing suffering will surely make sense to us one shining day.