Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why ask why?

To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible -- and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence -- a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?
---Pope Benedict XVI, upon his visit to Auschwitz

Why do the babies starve
When there's enough food to feed the world?
Why when there're so many of us
Are there people still alone ?
Why are the missiles called peace keepers
When they're aimed to kill?
Why is a woman still not safe
When she's in her home?
---Tracy Chapman, "Why"

I wrote an interesting blog post last year after Hurricane Katrina hit, entitled "What Would Jesus Flood?" In this post I dared to ask the question "Why?" in the face of the unexplainable.

If you believe that what we need to do now is pray for those flooded out of their homes, I have one word for ya- why? God doesn't know already that whole cities are washed away and under water? Couldn't he have kept this from happening?... At times like this the best answer may be no answer at all. It is likely better to just hang our head and say "I don't know" than to try and jam a response into our predetermined theological structure.

It's a legitimate question, to ask why. It isn't a childish response at all. If by asking why we are admitting that we don't know the answer to a question, then we are at the beginning of faith which is "the evidence of things unseen" (Hebrews 11:1). The Psalmist asked "why?" and put his trust in God.

The responses to this post ranged from constructive criticism to theological arrogance. Triablogue had this to say:

Now, one can make allowance for dumb, intemperate comments from those who are actually suffering. What one cannot excuse are those who use tragedy as a pretext to take cheap theological shots.Those who wait until disaster strikes to discover the problem of evil merit our contempt. Those whose theology is so paper-thin that it cannot cope with the problem of evil merit our contempt.

And those whose arrogant theology attempts to answer unanswerable questions merit our contempt as well. "Cheap theological shots." A man who doesn't even know me all of a sudden knows my motivation for asking God why something happened.

I have no problems with people who believe. I'm a believer myself. My problem is with the people who have it all figured out, be it fundamental Baptists, Catholic apologists, right-wing conservatives, left-wing liberals, or bloggers. Good God, bloggers seem to be the worst at it. Give a guy a keyboard and a blog and suddenly he's Aquinas, Barth and Carl F.H. Henry all rolled into one, with a dash of Jon Stewart and Jesus Christ.

Triablogue seemed to think that if the people were suffering down there, it was their own fault for living in an area where a flood was destined to happen. They should just pick up and head for higher ground. Once again, a simplistic response to a complex issue. Some people can't just pick up and leave when they want to. Maybe they can't afford it, maybe they are infirm, maybe they have a family member who is. It's pretty easy to stand on the outside and tell people what they should think and do. A whole lot harder when you're actually going through something.


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