Monday, April 2, 2012

Safe In God's Pocket

Pullman: Okay, my turn.
Tom: Pullman! Nobody gets hurt!
Pullman: Relax, boy. The vampire's as safe as if he was in God's pocket.
But then, considering what a bastard God is --
-- I guess that's not saying very much.
- The Unwritten #35 
by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

In general, Christianity doesn't have a great relationship with popular culture. Usually Christians either ignore or condemn pop culture. A big part in this lies in the fact that when pop culture delves into the issues of theology and religion, it dares to ask the questions that one can't ask in church. In pop culture there exists (sometimes) a freedom to point out criticisms with the church that those within the church refuse to address or admit. 

Really, it's an issue that creates and feeds itself. The church ignores a problem. Popular culture dares to highlight that this problem exists. The church continues to ignore the problem and further declares pop culture must also be ignored for pointing out such problems.

Calling God a bastard is rather blasphemous. Standard Christian logic would insist that we no longer read The Unwritten for being speaking such blasphemy. At best, we just ignore it from now on. At worst, we drum up some bombastic campaign to boycott the title, the publisher, and the authors. However, I have always had problems adhering to the standard church answer. Plus, you guys know how much I love The Unwritten. So instead of ignoring it, I want to engage it.

Why would someone call God a bastard?

Really, it boils down to that favorite issue of ours: theodicy. The problem of evil. The problem of suffering.

God is good, all powerful, and loving. God is love. Or so we are told. So we believe. So I believe. But the way events pan out in life can often bring this belief into question. At least, it'd be perfectly valid to bring this belief into question. Be honest, no matter how much you may believe in and follow God, sometimes life just sucks. Sometimes life just takes a crap all over you.

I'll raise my hand to that one. Yes, I can testify that it seems like life has crapped all over me. And the question inevitably arises, "Why would a good and loving God let this happen?"

I don't think it is possible to exhaust the amount of answers constantly offered for this question. But none of them are satisfactory. The answer most often suggested is that God has the big picture in mind and, in the long run, this pain is for the greater good. I'm sorry, but that answer provides very little comfort during the period of suffering. Plus, if God is so great, couldn't he find a way to accomplish the greater good without dragging me through such misery and pain? Can't God bring us to that greater good without being such a bastard about it?

Again, if we are honest, I think we can admit that it is very easy to see why someone would call God a bastard. Because, honestly, it sometimes seems that God is a bastard. Now, I'm not saying that God is a bastard, just that in my life it does on occasion feel like he is one. I'm sure you could say the very same thing.

So what's the answer? How do we solve this? How do we respond, "No, God is not a bastard. God is love"?

The book of Job is often cited as an explanation for the problem of evil, or at least a contemplation on theodicy. It doesn't really answer any questions, though. God allows Job to go through misery and pain purely due to some cosmic bet. When Job gets the chance to ask God directly why such a thing would happen, God just scolds Job for daring to ask such a question. Who is Job to question God? God has the chance to explain away this problem of evil, and he completely sidesteps it.

But we take comfort in this story because at the end, after Job has passed the test or whatever it was, God blesses the man with more family, wealth, and belongings than he ever had before his suffering began. I'm sorry, but I don't find this very comforting at all. I have never lost a child, but I imagine receiving two more instead doesn't exactly make up for the loss of that first child. The solution here seems rather materialistic and quantity is valued over quality.

It almost feels like God is buying off Job. Maybe I'm reading that wrong. I admit it is always possible.

But the more I think about it, the more I ask, "How do you read Job and not conclude that God is a bastard?"

My apologies to anyone who began reading this thinking that I would conclusively disprove that God is a bastard. Actually, I have no idea how to answer this troubling problem. And after a couple thousand years the church still hasn't found a way to satisfactorily answer this issue. That's probably why we normally ignore it.

Come on, when was the last time you went to church and heard a sermon entitled "Is God a Bastard?"

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