There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. But to begin.
That’s how I ask the question, but professional theologians use the term theodicy. It comes from two Greek words: theo, which means “God,” and dike, which means “justice.” Theodicy asks, “If God is good and just, then why is there so much evil in the world?” There are many answers to this question. Some claim that God causes evil. In which case, my question becomes relevant – Is God a Cosmic Jerk?
Let’s first examine the word “evil.” Theologian Joe Jones succinctly defines evil in his book A Grammar of Christian Faith “as the harm to some creature’s good” (280). Jones distinguishes between two categories of evil that harms a creatures good. First, there is moral evil – the harm humans inflict upon one another through violence, injustice, and oppression. The second category is natural evil – the harm caused by cancer, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events…
The older I get the more unsatisfactory the theologians seem to me, and the more “fundamentalist” they are then even less satisfactory are they likely to be – unless you are better at believing a thousand impossible things before breakfast, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, than I am these days.
"Alice laughed: "There’s no use trying," she said; "one can’t believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven’t had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Unfortunately the impression one is left with after much fundamentalist apologetics/theology is that God indeed could very well be a Cosmic Jerk!
This especially plagues the bibliolatrists who constitute the more conservative wings of Judaism and Christianity and, alas, far too much of Islam. The unfortunate tradition of Divine Mouthpieces and Pens is as much a curse as a blessing, indeed I suspect more a curse than a blessing. Infallibility and certainty are among the most dangerous and foolish human constructs.
For insulting the Quran, "’Thousands of people
dragged a Pakistani man … from a police station …
(and) beat him to death,’ police said Wednesday."
Is it even possible
to insult a book?
Has it a soul within its leaves
a heart that beats
an eye that winks
a cord running through its spine
descending from a thing that thinks?
Is a book of inky lines
(of characters not themselves sublime)
capable of being hurt or ridiculed
or cheapened by critiques
either of the wise, or fools?
Has it veins between its covers
salty with the blood of lovers?
Is there something in its pages
(even if put there by sages)
that warrants death to critics?
Is it a thing so lame that priestly brothers
(arrogant, imperious, parasitic)
who worship sheaves of ink on paper
must, for its sake, snuff the holy breath
by Jim Culleny
Go and read the comments that follow it. An excellent series, those daily poems from Three Quarks Daily. Jim is the editor of this feature and most wide-ranging in his selection and very knowledgeable. Even Aussie poets score there at times.
I am reading Rich’s Code of Conduct at the moment.
In Code of Conduct, former U.S. Marine Rich Merritt, explores the secret double lives of Don, Eddie, Karl and Patrick, all currently serving as closeted military men. Agent Jay of the Naval Investigative Service struggles with his past as he follows his own personal vendetta against homosexuality. As hope of President Bill Clinton’s promise to relieve the ban on gays in the military flourishes, Jay attempts to ruin the careers of our heroes. Action-packed, this novel kept me on the edge of my seat, while at the same time beautifully illustrating the passion and love that gay servicemen and women can have for each other.
A fast read, Merritt’s novel explores a fascinating section of the LGBTI community through his and others’ experiences in the military. Although the dialogue reads rather unrealistically, the novel was thoroughly enjoyable…
That last criticism is true at times; it is not the world’s greatest novel. Also, I would that it began differently, without quite so much military-speak and boys’ own adventure stuff so early. That aside, this is a passionate novel on several levels. It could have been even better if it had been written for outsiders rather more than it is. It would, I think, make an excellent movie though, so long as it was a movie-maker with the right political as well as artistic nous.
Rich Merritt was unfortunate enough to go to Bob Jones University from which he was expelled. His latest blog post is about his new novel Spiritual Probation.
What is it about?
Nate O’Connor wants to do right. His senior year of college, though, gets off to a rocky start. He’s a student at Bob Johnson University, the flagship institution of higher learning in American fundamentalism, where he and his best friend are placed on spiritual probation after being accused of disloyalty to the school. Their attempt to repair their reputation backfires and when Nate meets two women–one beautiful and smart, the other wise and charming–his entire belief system is uprooted. Nate’s world is further rocked by tragedy and his life will never be the same.
What are people saying about it?
“Setting his tale inside the closed society of a fundamentalist university, Rich Merritt tells a fascinating story that is alternately disturbing and inspiring. Spiritual Probation opened my eyes and touched my heart.
–Joe DiPietro, Tony-Award winning playwright of Memphis
“In every decade, a true classic emerges, which demonstrates the strength of the human will to conquer and survive the ills of its society. Merritt has written such a work in this coming-of-age story of courage and conviction in a world that is perceptively lacking in empathy and compassion for the individual spirit and soul. A poignant ‘must read’ for such present times, which is so heavily burdened with the painful effects of emotional bullying and spiritual abuse, so currently at the forefront of daily life.”
–Lynda Mandell, M.D., Ph.D., Board Certified Psychiatrist
Over on Goodreads another Bob Jones survivor says:
As an apologetic alumna of Bob Jones University, I truly enjoyed this book. I sympathized with the protagonist and his exit from fundamentalism as he realized how nonsensical most of it was. I cried with Danny’s family as they dealt with his tragedy. I was frustrated, but not surprised, by the reactions of the university. Even though the events of this book occurred before my time at BJ and some of the rules had changed by the time I arrived, much of the culture of the university has stayed the same, and the reactions to those who are outside the university or who disagree with the university are exactly the same. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s dealt with the IFB and wants to dwell in the big questions rather than accepting all words spoken from a pulpit as truth.
See also Dr Camille Lewis.