A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Acts of Faith

I ran across a few pieces on evil and religion that raised the question of how to relate the two. There was a piece by a reporter who after reporting on the abuses in the church walked away from his faith and his beat.

The reporter asks a presbyterian pastor how to reconcile church abuse cases and rip off artists and the response was to "acknowledge that He (God) is in charge. He knows what I don't know." That didn't work for the reporter, nor should it. It places evil on God.

One might have asked where God was to be found in these stories of evil. Perhaps in the courage of the survivors who stood up and demanded an accounting. Perhaps in the reporter himself, as he sought to dig through and uncover injustices.

That is we locate God within the good. The problem is that God gets identified with every event, so that no event can possibly be outside the will or authorization of God. And when confronted with the evil we see in the world, the goodness of God is called into question.

When I was a kid, our church had a large stained glass window of Jesus knocking on a door (presumably the door of our heart). He can't come in of course if the door is not opened. That's an image I have when it comes to evil. There are real barriers for the good to happen.

It can be us who are the barriers. What are we doing to cooperate with those saving realities that can make a difference for good in the world? It can be in the finitude and the limits of the kind of world we live in, that we find these barriers.

So that there really are evil events outside of the intent of God but somehow God struggles with us, with conditions to create some good in this world. Sometimes with success, sometimes with failure. But an openness and cooperation with God is what is called for.

The frustration at the injustices this reporter sees is itself an indication of a kind of faith, one that says things shouldn't be this way, that the easy religious answers were no answers, that things need to be done to change our world. That's an act of faith.

2 Comments:

At 6:06 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

Actually I still wonder about this whole "attribute only good to God" thing.

I've recently come to realise that God is "as-experienced" - so if you feel loved one minute, and it makes you think of God, chalk it up as another attribute - but that leaves the door open to some kind of experience or presence in the bad encounters in life too.

As an (atheist) friend of mine once pointed out, why do people *seek* to attribute only good to God? Isn't it a bit arbitrary? Aren't you left with a surplus `o' in your "definition", such as it is?

I'm not sure how to work around that. Maybe I could see that God as "Ground of Being" might be involved in all experiences but "source of Light and Love" does guide towards the "more-Godly" experiences?

 
At 10:56 AM , Anonymous Michael S said...

I started questioning that "God is Good" back in Philosophy of Religion in University... If we're going to say that God is infinite, ineffable, how do we box him in with "Good?" Certain other traits (infinite, ineffable) are at least *limitless*, except in that that limit him from limittedness. And other traits, like "love", are verbs. But "God is Good and therefore not Evil" is a judgement that can only be made *from our perspective*. It's a limit based from *within creation.*

In my own framework, I see "evil" as simply the stresses of unbalanced forces at work, and those unbalanced forces are a necessity of creation. (In the same way that the door not being shut is a necessity of it being open.) If they didn't exist, neither would anything: it would be static and collapse back to "In the Beginning..."

So it sucks, and it hurts. But I think God suffers too... (Mind you, I'm not a patripassionist or whatever. LOL!) I don't think God "wills" that we suffer, but we do, and we're his creation, and that hurts him too. And certainly, Jesus becoming man and suffering shows that even God is not exempt.

So if we want a God the Father that will "Fix it all and make it like *I* want it", well, I don't think we'll find one. I don't think religion tells us we can. If we want a God the Father that can say to us "I've been there", and can give us strength to get through it, I think we're more on the right track.

 

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