June 29th, 2011

planet

part of God's plan

Lately I've been listening to a Christian radio station. I think my presets got deleted and it found its way on there, seriously aside from NPR those other five are a complete toss-up, I just find random stations that aren't playing commercials.

A lot of people call in about problems in their lives, then quickly say "but I know it's all part of God's plan!" which really rubs me the wrong way because I don't think God does things to us, like He's not this invisible puppet master. Sure He can intervene, but He spent a lot of work setting up the rules of the universe, the physics of how gravity and cellular generation and consciousness work, and I think we get to make most of our own decisions within that. I didn't pick up my khaki slacks instead of my black ones this morning because the hand of God was guiding me.

It's a topic where I find myself at odds with a lot of Christians. Saying that God controls everything just sounds weird to me, and leaves too many things that make no sense. Like you hear stories about the family of a man who gets drunk and runs his car into a phone pole and dies, and they're at the funeral asking "Why did God take our friend?" Huh? Can't we just say that he died because he made a bad decision, and the human body isn't meant to withstand the force of a phone pole at 80 mph? How is this God's fault?

We ask "why do bad things happen to good people" a lot, trying to reconcile our image of God-as-Santa-Claus with the realities of life. At the church I used to go to, Pastor Adam Hamilton had really good ways of talking about this. For one thing, there's a lot of evidence in the Bible that God has a very different opinion of what good and bad things are. Whenever an angel appeared to someone and said God was finding special favor with them and they were truly blessed, it wasn't because that person was about to win the lottery. Things were about to get really weird.

And even if God was apt to swoop in and help us live wonderful lives, what would we be escaping? Maybe He'd keep you out of car accidents, maybe He'd keep you from being rained on, keep your shoelace from breaking, keep the crunchy bits out of your Lucky Charms so it's all marshmallows. But is that the kind of life that gives you a real, unique, human experience?

The Christian in me truly believes we're in this universe for a purpose, that we're supposed to gain from experiences here and when we die whatever we've done becomes part of something. C.S. Lewis says Christianity and life's journey are here to teach us how to live forever... it'd be no party if you're a miserable scheming regretful person who can't find love in the world.

But there's no part of that involving a balance sheet of "good things" and "bad things", blessings and curses, searching for sins to blame on the punishments of God. I really don't think it's about that.