Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Michael Abrahams | Does God intervene?

Published:Monday | June 26, 2017 | 12:05 AM

The mere title above will provoke dismissive responses from persons of faith. However, the purpose of this question is not to provide fodder for some pseudo-philosophical discourse aimed at causing Christians discomfort. It addresses a core belief in Christianity and other religions: that God is alive and will actively intervene.

There are Biblical stories of God intervening in many situations. According to the scriptures, He told people to kill others who were sinful, sent a flood to wipe out most of humanity, destroyed entire cities, sent bears to maul children who mocked a prophet, killed a man who refused his command to impregnate his brother's widow, and converted a woman to a column of sodium chloride. So, the Bible clearly illustrates an intervening God. Jesus also said that if we ask, we will receive. But is that really true, or are these stories mythological?

A popular expression in Jamaica is "God nah sleep", as many of us believe that if people do bad things, God will catch up with them and give them their comeuppance big time, resulting in weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But, if God is not sleeping, why does He allow the infractions to occur in the first place? If He is wide awake, why does He allow them to happen, only to return at a later date and give the perpetrators a "bitch lick" with His mighty hand? If people believe that God will act, intervene and protect them, and they keep those thoughts to themselves, I would not have a problem. But they do not. They express their beliefs with others and present them as facts. The belief that God intervenes can actually cause physical and emotional harm.

For example, I know a woman who had a premature baby that lived for a few days and then died. She was absolutely devastated. There were people in her church who told her that it was because she did not have enough faith why the child passed away. They believe that if she had more faith, God would have intervened and saved the life of the child. These pronouncements significantly compounded her grief and misery. I was informed of someone else, a pastor, whose daughter died from cancer. The grieving father was told that the child died because of his weak faith, and he was even shunned by some of his fellow clergymen.

Another example involves the environment. Climate change is real. The Arctic ice cap is melting and ocean levels are rising. Entire islands have disappeared, and some coastlines are vanishing. Some people deny that climate change is taking place, and believe that God will do what He has to do to protect the planet anyway. When people in positions of authority, such as lawmakers, believe this, they are less likely to enact legislation regarding measures, such as adaptation, to protect populations and their future generations who are likely to be affected by the effects of climate change. This attitude places people’s lives at risk.

Many will pray earnestly for certain outcomes, genuinely expecting them to occur. They will confidently declare that God will protect us if we have faith. Then, when questions are asked about God allowing children to be raped and sodomized, for example, you hear varying explanations, including comments such as "read the Bible", "seek God", “you have to look at the context", "God gave man free will", "God works in mysterious ways", “you need to have spiritual discernment to understand” and others.

The point is that God is either active or inactive. In my opinion, there is way more evidence of God being inactive than being active. In the good old days of the Bible, there are stories of God actively doing stuff. Today, it appears that God is just chilling out. It makes no sense to me to keep praying, for children for example, when millions of children are continually being mercilessly abused and slaughtered. The success rate for prayer, at least for the purpose of changing outcomes, appears to be very low. God is omnipresent, which means that He is there when the violations occur. He is also omnipotent, meaning that He can do anything, but does nothing while these violent acts are being perpetrated. Yet, we are told to trust Him to protect us.

Should we really expect God to intervene at all? Good and bad things happen to good and bad people, so where is the evidence that God really cares about what happens to us? Do some of us have unrealistic expectations of God? I believe that more of us should get up off our asses and act, and take responsibility for our actions, instead of praying to God than fix the chaos that we ourselves have created, and blaming “the enemy” for the mess.

As for me, I expect nothing from God. I believe that there is a supreme being, and I am grateful for my existence and for the planet that I live on. I accept the fact that I will have beautiful and horrific experiences, and express gratitude for the pleasure experienced from the good episodes, and the opportunity to learn and grow from the bad ones.

- Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.