Print Version November 22nd, 2003
Isn’t it the dream of religion at its most basic that we each get what we deserve … call it fate or fortune, karma or comeuppance? If we are bad, if we seize the gold and silver of Jerusalem and exterminate Judah, then our armies will be defeated and we will die in a fit of melancholy in a strange land. If we are good, well there’s milk and honey, or at least there should be. It’s that cosmic ‘should’ we all long for. If God loves me it should turn out alright. Somehow…
But the ‘should’ recognises that it isn’t so. And there’s the big question. Hopkins asks ‘why do sinners ways prosper and why must disappointment all I endeavour end? Were’t thou mine enemy, o thou my friend, how wouldst thou worse than thou dost.’
Karma answers, well it will all turn out right in your next life: mosquito or man – it’s up to you. Certain strands of Christian thought put the reward and punishment just the other side of death in heaven or hell. But I think the real message of Jesus is that God is totally pro-life. God doesn’t play economic games with human souls. There’s not a punishing bone in God’s body.
Jesus died to put the lie to the power of punishment and tell the truth about his God, the God who stayed his father even when his religion cast him out as a criminal.