Monday, November 9, 2009

Ask Clarissa

It was bound to happen. I knew there would come a point in our budding relationship when John Beckett would ask the "If There's A Good God Then Why" question.

Everybody has to ask themselves that question at some point, you know? They either come up with an answer they like or they don't. If they don't, they ask other people that question - many times over - 'cause they simply have to have an answer for it. It's the question of the ages.

We got into it, like John and I usually do, at the coffee shop, on my break. Some little kid who lived in the neighborhood where he grew up was kidnapped, abused and then killed. He knows the parents. It's horribly tragic. So right now John Beckett's pretty ticked at God. I mean, if there's a good God and he can do anything, then why the heck didn't he stop it?

I told him I agree that the situation is horrendous. Tragic. The person who did this is a monster. But I asked John if he was ready to take his question all the way to its logical conclusion? Which is what? he said.

Which bad things do you want God to stop? I asked him. All bad things? Just some of them? Which ones? Where do you draw the line? On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is cataclysmic natural disaster, and 9 is mass murder, and 8 is the killing of an innocent kid, and 7 is the car accident that leaves you paralyzed, and 6 is your spouse leaving you for another person . . . well, you get my drift. Where do you draw the line? You want God to intervene all the way to 1? All the way to you getting a flat tire or breaking your ankle playing tennis? No? Then where do you want him stop? At 5? At 8? Where do you want him to intrude on the natural outworking of our moral choice? Do you realize if you want him to intervene all the way to 1 you have just eliminated the need for doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, policemen, the military, hospitals, prisons and courthouses? Where do you want him to stop, John?

There's no reason he couldn't have stopped this, John said, pointing to the article in the paper about the kid.

Well, how many reasons have you thought of? I asked. Do you really think mere mortals are capable of thinking of ALL the reasons there could be?

He started to get mad. Whose side are you on? he growled.

I laughed, but not in a funny way. I said, Who said anything about sides? This is just the way it is. It's a matter that is too big for sides. I am just telling you if you are going to stick with your argument, you need to consider how it shakes out when you take it all the way to where it stops.

John stood up. You want to tell that to this little boy's parents? he said coolly.

They didn't ask me, John. You did.

Well, what if they did ask you? What if they did ask you why God let this happen?

That's a different question, John. I don't know why. I don't think anyone has the answer to that one.

John stood up to leave. I didn't think you were such a big fan of God, he said.

I didn't think I was either, I told him. I am however a fan of keeping it real. If you're going to believe in something, believe in it all the way. If you're going to believe God should stop bad things from happening, then believe in it all the way. Keep it real, if you're going to bother to keep it at all.

John said, If this kid was your little brother, I doubt you'd feel the same way. Then he left without saying goodbye.

Everyone's convictions about what they believe are tested when they lose something - or someone - they love. Maybe John is right. Maybe I would feel differently if that little boy had been my brother.

But this isn't about how any of us feel. It's about what is and what is not. . .

I don't want to think about it anymore, it's making my head spin. And I have to get back to work. The afternoon crowd is coming in for their hits of caffeine. I'll ask Lauren about it tonight. She's a fan, as John would say. . .

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