Thursday, July 14, 2016

Where was God in Dallas and at other shootings?

Where was God in Dallas and at other recent shootings by police officers and of police officers in the US?
That question usually presumes God both being present and able to intervene to prevent evil from happening. Only the first of those presumptions feels right.
If God were able to intervene directly to prevent evil from occurring in the world, then why is does so much evil occur? Why would a good and loving God allow evil on a grand scale (e.g., the Holocaust or the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina) and on a personal scale (e.g., the shooting of unarmed young black men by police officers and the recent capricious slaughter of police officers in Dallas)?
The traditional Christian answer to those questions is that God, in creating the world, chose to allow individual freedom and voluntarily refrains from acting. I find that answer disturbing and unsatisfying. The idea of God choosing to refrain from direct action to prevent millions of deaths and untold sufferings paints God as a sadist and not a loving creator. Trying to imagine good outcomes possible only if God allows evil of that magnitude boggles my mind.
A basic biblical metaphor for God is that of the loving parent. My musing about evil reminds me of Jesus' parable about the child who relentlessly importunes a parent until the parent consents to the child's request. If God is a loving parent, then why is God so often silent when God's children implore God to save a loved one, end gun violence, or otherwise diminish evil's power in our broken world?
Alternatively, perhaps process theologians and others are correct when they assert that in the act of creation God surrendered some of God's power to act. God does not intervene directly to stop or to diminish evil because God in the process of creating the cosmos lost the ability to directly intervene.

God remains present. God knows our pain, which is one important meaning of Jesus dying on the cross. And God calls us to act, guiding us forward to care compassionately for the wounded and grieving, strengthening us to dare to put our trust in God and in one another instead of firearms, and holding us in an unfailing embrace of love. We, with the help of God who is always present, can end violence.

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