Michael Abrahams: God, where are you?
Imagine that you are a member of a group led by an extraordinarily wise and powerful leader. You and some fellow group members go to the leader's house for a meeting and, while there, you find yourself in a situation where all your lives are in grave and imminent danger.
Your leader's exploits are legendary, and he has displayed the ability to save as well as take lives. So you look to him for protection, but he does nothing, while nine of your colleagues are brutally slaughtered, their blood spilt on his floor. How much confidence would you have in your leader after an incident like that?
The massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston got me thinking about our perceptions and expectations of God. Following the tragedy I wrote a poem entitled 'God Is Truly Amazing'. In it I try to reconcile God's omnipotence with His impotent behaviour in the face of disasters, especially those adversely affecting believers. Some Christians came across the piece on my Facebook page and scolded me for mocking God, failing to understand that the intention was not mockery, but rather a genuine enquiry regarding His actions.
We are raised in a culture of religiosity where we are told to have faith in an omnipotent God, and that if we have faith He will protect us. We are told that even if we "walk through the shadow of the valley of death" we should "fear no evil". But are our expectations of God realistic?
I am a deist, which places me in an unenviable position, to be dismissed by both atheists and Christians. Atheists find me gullible for believing in the existence of a supreme being, and Christians think that I am misguided for not believing that the only pathway to salvation is through accepting Jesus Christ as my Saviour. On the other hand, I share common ground with Christians by believing in the existence of God and with atheists by my distaste for organized religion.
It is my belief that a supreme being was responsible for the genesis of life and the Universe as we know it. And that is it. I believe that this being set up the Universe as one would wind up a clock, and let it run.
In my half a century of existence I have never seen any convincing evidence of divine intervention. I have never seen any occurrence that could not be explained scientifically. Good stuff happens, and bad stuff happens. I have witnessed near-misses and remarkable recoveries, and I have also observed awful collisions and horrible deaths. Natural and man-made disasters will kill people, including the faithful, by the hundreds or thousands, with no intervention by God. Many will suffer and die gruesome deaths despite their belief that God is looking out for them.
It is said that the Bible was written by men inspired by God. But, if we are to be honest, we do not know much about some of its authors or their agendas or motives. Similarly, we do not know what may have been lost or altered during the translations of the many books of the Bible, or of the integrity or competence of its translators.
So I do not share the belief, held by many persons of faith, that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. As a matter of fact, I find many parts of that book to be highly offensive, ironically, because of my reverence for the Creator. In my opinion, the Bible makes God look bad. Personally I believe that the God of the Christian Bible was created by man in his own image. A being possessing some of the worst human traits; arrogance, narcissism, vindictiveness and jealousy. A cruel, cold, sadistic, misogynistic, homicidal, genocidal and infanticidal being. An entity with a violent and unstable personality, who drowns and incinerates people (including children) and kills them with diseases, tells humans to murder others, and condones slavery. If we heard about a human being with these characteristics, we would not say that he is "love". We would call him a monster, and would not welcome him into our homes or expose our children to him.
I have Christian friends who have admitted to being angry with God when they have faced difficult and painful periods in their lives, and felt abandoned by him. I have never experienced any of these emotions toward God, because I have absolutely no expectations of Him. In my opinion, God owes me nothing. So I do not bog Him down with requests. Rather, I live my life with an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for what I have. If I were to learn that I will die tomorrow, rather than being angry with God, I would give thanks for my life.
In the meantime, I grieve for the victims of the Charleston massacre and their families. The thought of being slaughtered in what you consider to be your sanctuary, God's house, the place you go to for comfort and solace, disturbs me greatly. May their souls rest in peace.