Hurricane Katrina, like the Christmas Tsunami, has had us all interpreting and excusing or blaming God in one way or another. I’ve mentioned several opinions in my recent posts but wanted to add a few more.
- Edward Rothstein in the New York Times raises the subject of disaster and theodicy.
- Today’s Guardian has a piece by Karen Armstrong about religion and our relationship with the natural world.
- From a very different perspective Simon at Thinking Deeply has been grappling with God’s Wrath / God’s Love. I unwisely chanced a comment there.
- More to my theological taste is this post from WaiterRant.
What strikes me is how little theodicy 9/11 prompted beyond ‘Allah bad, Jesus good’. There we had plenty of blame to allot and pursue and God didn’t appear to need justifying. We’ll be reading plenty in the next day or two comparing these two disasters, one largely ‘natural’ the other all too ‘human’, but there’s something nagging me I can’t quite put a finger on.
I think it’s to do with fear. I think theodicy comes from fear, the fear that God might not be who we thought God was. God might be as bad as our worst nightmares. God might be as ineffectual as we suspect. God might not even be. We set about justifying God’s ways as if God needed protecting. What is being protected in all this convoluted disputation? Only our settled lives. We don’t want to change. We don’t want to see ourselves as bad as we know we could be. And we don’t want to discover how little power we might have to make a difference.
I guess theodicy gives us a relatively harmless way to work all that out for ourselves where only God’s good name is at stake. But when the evil is man-made we get to play out our fears in human loss. We wage wars. We take the battle off our own soil. We curtail freedoms. We kill people. We kill people.
We seem no more able than God to be both powerful and good.