Thursday, January 28, 2010

Celestial Myopia

From James Wood, in the NYTimes:
Terrible catastrophes inevitably encourage appeals to God. We who are, at present, unfairly luckier, whether believers or not, might reflect on the almost invariably uncharitable history of theodicy (the justification of God's good government of the world in the face of evil and pain), and on the reality that in this context no invocation of God beyond a desperate appeal for help makes much theological sense. For either God is punitive and interventionist (the Pat Robertson view), or is as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God's power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and history of humanity's lonely suffering decisively suggests the second.

Melville's Moby Dick, Captain Ahab:
All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be hte white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then I could do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealously presiding over all creations. ...Truth has no confines.

If on one hand, we cannot know or fathom the whims and plans of god, why do so many leaders and believers so quickly turn to rationale that are so patently human- and earth-based? Why would the most powerful, all-beyond-knowing-supreme deity need to rest on Sunday? That sounds like the words and actions of man projected and stretched upon the theater (or pulpit) wall.

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