Saturday, October 7, 2017

God and Las Vegas

Out of the whirlwind:

Some people have been asking how, in a world they say is governed wholly by me, Stephen Paddock was able to shoot hundreds of people this week, killing dozens. They seem to think I was AWOL. Some accused me of actual dereliction of duty, saying that yes, I was present, but simply didn't bother to intervene. I saw everything that happened as it happened, they say. In fact, I knew what would happen even before it happened. When Paddock bought the first rifle of dozens, I already knew what he would do with them.

And yet I did nothing but watch, uninterested.

This is far from the first time such accusations have been made against me. You sing in praise of me that I sit on the throne of heaven, yet you seem to call me to the dock more often than you approach me on the throne. I get indicted every day. I have known church people who accused me in their hearts of unfaithfulness to them because I didn't fix the Powerball lottery so they'd win tens of millions of dollars. I have had high school seniors accuse me of uncaring dereliction when they didn't get accepted to their first college choice. Or grown men when they get fired from their job or even when they don't get a coveted promotion.

Let me get something straight with you: I am not your fixer. Yes, I want to have a personal relationship with you but I want it to go both ways. I already have such a relationship with you on my end, but believe me, I know what being kept at arm's length is like. 

You need to understand something: I am not your buddy, I am not your pal. I am your God, your Creator, your redeemer, your savior and your judge. As I have said before, my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts.

Let me put this bluntly: I operate on a different level than you do. I have a longer view of the horizon than you. I have been around a lot longer than you. So: what have I done to you? How exactly, have I wearied you? I would like an answer.

I don't recall that you were around when I big-banged the universe into existence. Nor were you there to advise me when I set the earth on its course, set the limits of the sea and the moon in your sky. I gave the hawks and eagles their flight. I gave the lion his power and invented how nature renews and reproduces itself. The seasons come, the seasons go because that is the way I set it up. Where were you when I did that? Your world supports your life and the lives of innumerable creatures. Do you think I had nothing to do with that? I set up life itself. It is in me that you live and breathe and have your very being.

But you tell me that I do not know what I am doing.

Very well, let us reason together. Get a backbone and listen. You want to know why I did not intervene in Las Vegas. And my answer is: I did. I did intervene, countless times and in countless years.

I have told you, O mortal, what is good and what I require of you. It is very simple: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with me. You seem to scoff at my moral commandments. You think you can order your lives and societies better than I can. You acknowledge me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me. You worship me on your holy days and the next day treat your workers, or customers, or partners, or family members - the list is endless - with scorn or dishonesty. You divide yourselves into tribes or identity groups or political parties, all of them at war with one another. You reject my rules but you cannot live rule-free, so you make up your own.

How has that worked out for you?

Listen closely. Memorize this. Take it to heart, make it your daily ethic. An expert in my commandments once asked my Son what the greatest of all my commandments is. And my Son, being my begotten one, of course knew the answer. He didn't make it up on the spot. I had revealed it centuries before. My Son said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself."

Is that complicated? No. Is it obscure? No. It is simple. It is direct. Why is it so difficult for you? I know the answer of course. It is because to obey me you must disobey yourselves, and it is in disobeying yourselves that you think obeying me is hard. But believe me, it's not hard to obey me. My yoke is easy. My burden is light. I liberate, not confine. I bring peace, not turmoil.

My teachings have been in your hands for millennia. Millennia! And yet today you ask why I was not on the job in Las Vegas. Where have you been for the last few thousand years?

Oh, believe me, I was at Las Vegas. It was a bitter night for me. But I was there.

There were a man and a woman listening to the concert when the shooting started. They did not know one another. They dived under a table. He was hit, yet he lay across the woman, shielding her with his wounded body.

A young man led 30 people to safety. He was shot doing so. There are many, many other examples. And thousands of people waited for hours on end to give blood.

Oh, you say, that's just human nature. We do not know whether those heroes and heroines even believe in a God. So? Where do you think human nature comes from? Why do you think my grace cannot operate preveniently even in the hearts of those who know me not? I am always leading every event of the world toward the good. But there are many other influences, too, such as the hardness of your hearts and the will to evil, the imperfection of your understanding, the finitude of possibilities in a world of limited resources and capabilities. Yet my will wins through more often than you know.

But why does Las Vegas prove my dereliction? Funny how no one accuses me of indifference over the murder toll in Chicago. But even that is not necessary. Just one child dying of hunger in any remote corner of the world serves just as well. (Although I might argue that it proves your dereliction more than mine.)

So before you interrogate me in the dock for not managing the world the way you think I should, I will suggest you are not actually thinking about it at all.

Shall I answer affirmatively to every prayer? Should everyone who ask me to give them the lottery win? Should every person who prays for me to heal a loved one of auto-accident injuries be granted?

Shall I prevent every illness? Every injury? Why stop there? So much of the harm you suffer comes from your own vanity, your own injustices, your own incapabilities and frankly, your own stupidities. Where do you want me to intervene?

Not long ago a young man atop a tourist center in the Alps was walking and texting. He walked right off the side of the mountain, fell 250 meters and of course did not survive. Could I have intervened? I suppose so; I could have suspended gravity and floated him gently through the air back to the platform. Or I could have made him just bounce at the bottom with no ill effect. Or I could have made it impossible for human beings to walk while texting. One or the other, never both. Or I could have just made sure that smart phones were never invented to begin with.

Here's the thing: You do not get to choose. You are not God. You have no power for miracles so you don't get to tell me how to work them or when or how.

Imagine, really try to imagine, a world in which no one ever makes a bad decision, no one ever gets a cold, no one ever suffers want or need, no relationships are ever broken or even unhappy, no woman ever turns down a marriage proposal, or no man as the case may be, no employee is ever denied a raise or promotion, no business ever fails, no inventions with potential harmful effects are ever conceived, no student ever fails, no one ever suffers harm, injury or for that matter death - or if they do die, no one mourns or grieves or feels devastated by the loss. So there are no hospitals, doctors, no medical science, no funeral homes. There are no criminals, no aggressions, no evil. But there are no doers of good deeds, either, and no charity, no compassion, no kindnesses. There is no despair but no triumph. There are no losers so there are no winners. No one has too little money in retirement because I compel everyone to invest in retirement funds from the first dollar they earn - and the market never falls, unemployment never rises, wages never fall, and I decide what everyone's occupation is, not you. After all, I am the only actually-capable central planner that there ever can be. And that means there are no dictators, no monarchs, no oligarchies, and no democracy, no elections and no politicians to elect anyway because you have no self government. I make all your decisions because I know you cannot possibly decide anything - Any. Thing. - better than I can.

What kind of world is that? That world is Hell, all of humanity living in The Truman Show. If you sometimes don't see the point of this present world, you would never see the point of that one. And neither would I, because the fundamental reality of the universe is love, and love is an act of free will and decision, not robot programming.

More than anything right now, I urge you to understand this: You and all your have constructed is under my judgment. But that has always been so. Two thousand years ago I begot the Second Person of my Trinity as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. Sure, celebrate it with parties and cantatas and gifts, fine. But remember that his birth was an act of judgment upon the world. Why would a Savior be born if the world did not need saving?

Here is my judgment: that I so loved the world that I gave my only Son, and that anyone who accepts and follows him as the guarantor of life now and for eternity, will never perish. That is my judgment, that my Light has come into your world of darkness, but you love the darkness rather than the Light.

Even so, I will never stop loving you, never stop reaching to you, never stop being who I am. I am your Creator, your Sustainer, your Redeemer, your Savior. And all of these things are my judgment upon you, for I adjudge you in love to be in my image, I adjudge you in love to be adopted as my sons and daughters, I adjudge you to be able to spend eternity in my company, I adjudge you to be able to love me and one another both in this life and the next, I adjudge that you can do all things good and holy through my strength. I adjudge that you are both loved and love-worthy, and I adjudge that you can live with a peace that you will always enjoy even if never fully understand.

I will never redact this, never revoke it, never turn my back on you, never change my mind. And remember, I have a fuller knowledge of what "never" means than you do.

But when necessary to drive a point home, remember this, too: The severest judgment I ever lay upon you is simply to let you have what you want. That never works out well for you.

I have told you, O mortal, what is good and what I require of you: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with me. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.

The triumph of human life is that it really is so simple as that. The tragedy of human life is that even the simple things can be very difficult.

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