Saturday, June 06, 2009

Frail Grasp On The Big Picture*

There was a story related to me, this week. I do not mean to diminish anyone’s faith. This has been bothering me, though. I did not comment on it where it was published; I felt that by doing so, I would incite side-taking and the inevitable hurt that religious discussion causes on the internet. This is different, those reading here should have a grasp of why I’m bringing it forward, why I’m saying what I’m saying, and hopefully possess the grace to forgive me if I don’t meet their expectations – a fundamental requirement for an ongoing relationship with me, anyway. So, with that ominous introduction:

The story is of a head-on collision between a wrong way driver on the interstate; a small vehicle and a van with “differently-abled adults” inside. Both drivers and three of the adults in the van died. The poster goes on to describe their pastor speaking about the accident the following Sunday. One of the surviving adults from the van is a close childhood friend of his. By the pastor’s account, this man’s customary seat was behind the bus driver. He did so on this day, on the way to the destination. On the fatal return trip, he stated that he “was a big boy” and from now on he was sitting in the back. This, of course, saved his life. The pastor used this as an illustration that “he believed that the Holy Spirit was alive and well.”

I know that this pastor is a human being. I know that his good friend has just been spared. He’s reacting to a powerful event with powerful emotions. I think, however, that this is the sort of thing that is quite irresponsible from the pulpit. I have become wary of those who see God’s will when things turn out the way they’d like them to.

Five people were killed, but God spared the pastor’s friend? Why? Was he the only Christian? Were the other 3 adults “not-abled” enough, spiritually? Maybe that was the reason, God was taking them home early to spare them further pain here on Earth. And why was this the event to be celebrated, why assign The Holy Spirit credit for sparing one life over another? Should we do no more than be grateful for what we have, rather than claim Divine Providence? Perhaps that in itself is what Divine Providence is; the rest is what it is. God only knows.

The more I turn the little I know of this event over and around, in my mind, all I come up with are the same things I always come up with: This was either a set of random events, a very small event in a highly choreographed dance that we are deigned to play out, or something in-between. One can place one’s faith at any point along this continuum, balancing the unlimited, omniscient power of God against Man’s free will to choose. The danger, to me, comes in where we assign responsibility for another’s choices – God’s and yours, more specifically. I’ll take responsibility for mine, although there was lead in the paint in that house in Globe, and Mom put Karo syrup in my formula, and. . .

We see through a glass, darkly. The life of Christ, for me, comes to a point of full maturity and near complete purpose when, on the Cross, after submitting to the Father’s will, still cries out “Why have you forsaken me?” God incarnate asking, "Why?" If they are “three in one”, the experience had to have shaken even God’s all-knowing, timeless heart. I cannot and will not, of course, say that the Holy Spirit did none of this. I just have a really hard time understanding how it would be so selective. That a Minister of the Gospel could be so sure, gives me pause. There is a greater message, and I’m not so sure that he was sending the right one.

And no, I don’t feel any better having written this. Thanks for asking.

*credit to Glenn Frey and Don Henley