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June 13, 2011


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On Sunday June 5 the Rev. Dr. Roger Ray and I shared the pulpit at Community Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri in what he calls a “dialogue sermon.” Our “dialogue” addressed the question “does God control the wind?” The sermon consists of three exchanges between us. One part of the exchange will be published on this blog over the next six weeks.

Roger Ray’s 1st response:

One of my daughter’s friends recently posted on FaceBook page that she was “not lucky” but rather, she is “blessed.” This fairly common and seemingly benign religious sentiment prompted me to try to exploit it as a teachable moment. I asked her why God loved her so much that He made her smart and beautiful, healthy and relatively wealthy and why then God hates most of the other young people in the world in our cities’ crumbling ghettoes, in Africa and South America and most of Asia.

She took the question as being a huge insult and insisted that she was only wanting to give credit where credit is due but she totally rejected the other side of that coin, which is what, I believe, you are asking us to come clean on…. That if God blesses some with good fortune, doesn’t God similarly curse many others? How can we applaud God for the healing of one cancer patient and not decry the death of another? Or, in our own neighboring community’s recent disaster, how do we pray in thanksgiving for those who were spared without demanding an explanation for those who were killed?

This is, as you know Dr. Hedrick, the central question in the book of Job. If God is good, why is there so much suffering? The question is asked through 48 chapters but never really answered. I hope you are more satisfied by my responses today!

As one who has now twice toured the destruction in Joplin and as one who has seen, up close, the disastrous consequences of Hurricane Katrina in the USA and Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua, and I have seen the violent poverty of Palestine, Africa, Central and South America and our own American urban blight and in Appalachia, I can only conclude that God is not in charge of either nature or human history.

I would be remiss in this exchange not to recount the story Elie Wiesel recorded of a rabbinic trial held in Auschwitz. Three rabbis formed the judiciary and they brought charges against God for not showing up to end the holocaust against the Jews. The trial went on for several days and everyone was allowed to speak to the charges. Wiesel noted that not a single prisoner spoke in defense of God and, in the end; the presiding rabbi pronounced that God was guilty of crimes against nature and against humanity. Following the pronouncement there was a long silence and then the same rabbi called everyone to join him in evening prayers.

I will not defend the classic monotheistic paradox of thanking God for good fortune and exonerating God for calamities of nature and of human will. And yet, like the rabbis at Auschwitz, I am still compelled to worship and to seek out a relationship with God. Not so much because I believe that speaking to God will change any specific aspect of human history but because drawing near to the God to whom we ascribe goodness, compassion, life and generosity changes me, and us, and we change the world.

Rev. Dr. Roger Ray
Pastor Community Christian church
Springfield, Missouri

Posted by Charles Hedrick at 6:00am