7 January 2005

Blaming God?

We went to see Hotel Rwanda about a week ago when we were in New York.

Watching two hours on the Rwandan genocide requires much of you, as you might expect.

many people, Rwanda or the recent tsunamis invokes the theodicy
problem, that is, how can there be a God in a world where there is so
much suffering, so much tragedy, so much senseless violence, made
either by us or by the forces of nature.

Thomas Merton once pointed
out that arguing against the existence of a God by pointing to our pain
and suffering made little sense until you consider the
alternative.  Perhaps, in light of the suffering and cruelness we
create in the world, the proof of God’s existence lies in the
demonstrated love that some extraordinary people show, or even in the
morsels that we all occasionally let glimmer through.

As we left the
theater, a young woman, perhaps about 25 or 30, was doubled over in her
seat, weeping, even several minutes after the credits closed.

Voltaire grappled with the problem, in the aftermath of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Lisbon, Portugal, wrote a poem that raged against the inexplicability of the tragedy:

But how conceive a God supremely good,
Who heaps his favours on the sons he loves,
Yet scatters evil with as large a hand?
What eye can pierce the depth of his designs?
From that all-perfect Being came not ill:
And came it from no other, for he ’s lord:
Yet it exists. O stern and numbing truth!
O wondrous mingling of diversities!

A recent column in the Boston Globe
considered the issue.  The cloumn itself isn’t so interesting,
original, or eloquent, as it only seems to say that if we don’t
consider God responsible anymore for tragedies like this, our
conspicuous refusal to blame God for not forestalling the tragedy
provides the only prop for our belief.

BF found this line of reasoning faulty:

Scot Lehigh’s column “Faith meets science” (op ed, Jan. 5) raises the
theological question of human suffering that the earthquakes in Lisbon,
the recent tsunamis, and countless large and small tragedies in between
prompt: when disasters happen, where is God?

The Salvodoran theologian
Jon Sobrino, writing in response to the 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador
(quickly forgotten outside of El Salvador), maintains the depth of that
question but adds a second: where are we? This is not just a question
about our relief efforts now, but about our inattention before the
tsunamis. Why, in a world of such resources, were so many malnourished
children unable to escape the waves? Why did so many buildings collapse
in a world where our sturdy structures protect our books, our stereos,
our entertainment centers? How do the structures of international aid
and debt which support our lifestyles contribute to the vulnerability
of our world’s poor?

At its best, the Christianity which I profess
teaches the real presence of God with us in our suffering without
denying or dismissing how brutally mysterious such suffering can be.

But before we dismiss disasters only as “acts of God” beyond all
reasoning, we must ask ourselves the second question: how are these
disasters also acts of humanity, acts of ours, what we have done or
failed to do?

Brian F.

And in Rwanda.  Do you
want to see what supports and challenges my own theism?  Men and
women like Paul Rusesabagina, who have no grand designs or deliberate
moral codes, simply acting to save.  In Hotel Rwanda, Paul
offers that he places his priority of energy on his family, and that he
can’t be bothered to help others.  And yet, when asked to help
others, when it truly does matter, he does. Risking his life and
the lives of his family, he helps others.

A friend and I were
discussing this movie the other day, and we had both seen the Charlie
Rose interview on 26 November 2004, featuring the makers of the film,
Don Cheadle (who plays Rusesabagina), and Rusesabagina himself.
 Rusesabagina remains a functional and articulate man, but there
is something off in him that you can but just notice, what I can only
ascribe to a fundamental and profound weariness of incomprehension.

this movie when it comes to your neighborhood.  You saw
Schindler’s List, and this is more affecting, more real, and more

Posted in Rayleejun on 7 January 2005 at 12:20 am by Nate