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Who is to Blame?

When I began listening to praise music five years ago, my most powerful reactions were to two types of songs: those that express gratitude for the cross, and those that describe the patient suffering of a parent confronted with the loss of a child.

There is no experience in life that more powerfully contradicts the premise of a loving God than to watch an innocent child succumb to cancer. The experience of the Amish families that lost five daughters to a gunman in 2006 is far more shocking, but the faithful can rationalize it as the work of an external evil working through fallen humanity. The silent killer that consumes from within is a horrifically intimate violation.

The pain of that struggle is captured powerfully by Mark Schultz in “He’s My Son”. It takes real strength to face this loss without anger.

So why does it happen? Why does God allow this, and so many other bad things, to happen to good people?

The depth of our outrage is sharpened in the West, where so many religious traditions teach us that we have only one life to get it right. I’ve touched on this before in On Dying. When the nature of the soul is revealed, it will be obvious that reincarnation occurs, and that – as our Eastern siblings have been telling us for so long – we have many chances to free ourselves to spend an eternity in the divine embrace.

But even so, why should good people have to suffer?

It might help to back away and look at a case that is not so terrible. I have a friend, a great strong man, that cross-dresses. He has married and had children, but is overcome with the need to wear women’s clothing. He shared with me one particular experience: he served in the navy on an aircraft carrier. They were at port, and on this occasion all men had been called to their quarters in preparation to return to sea. My friend grabbed a dress, changed, and went out on the flight deck. When he was spotted, an all hands was issued. Changing back into his uniform, he participated in an exhaustive search of the vessel for a female stow-away.

When I heard this story, I had an apprehension of a father holding his daughter while their ocean liner sank. He had promised to keep her safe, and had failed her. She was afraid to go out into the world again, and so was journeying with him in this life to overcome her fear. That was, in part, why he had joined the Navy.

When I listen to Mark’s song, I have similar visions. In the child is a spirit that has never received love, and suffered terribly in a past life as an adult. They need some strength to face that journey again, some reason to hope. So they come into the world to have some time with parents that love them. They push all their pain into the disease that consumes them, and leave it behind when they die, filled with the love that their parents have poured into them.

Yes, it is a heart-breaking work for parents to perform, but so beautiful and full of purpose.

The story of the Amish children has a similar sense to it. The girls were trapped in the schoolroom with a deeply disturbed man. When he determined to kill them, the eldest girl stepped forward to say (I paraphrase) “I am oldest. Leave these others alone and kill me.” In that moment, she conquered his evil. And during the preparation of the bodies for burial, the elder watched the women at work and counseled “We must not think evil of this man.” In fact, the community gathered resources to sustain his family.

In The Soul Comes First, I interpret the Bible from the perspective that good people are medicine used by God to heal the wound of selfishness. What these experiences have given me to believe is this: bad things happen to good people because their light is needed in the darkness. While Jesus confronted the greatest darkness – the evil of systems of justice that destroy the people that come to bring healing to the world – all good people carry that cross to a greater or lesser degree. We bring light, and the world that suffers in darkness attempts to steal it from us.

So, please, if you can: when confronted with evil, or pain, don’t collapse into resentment against God. Just open your heart wider, and let his love brush back the pain of the world around you. Maybe you won’t change the people that prey upon you, or heal the diseases of those that you love. But you will give hope to others that suffer as you do, and leave them with the strength to do better next time.

2 thoughts on “Who is to Blame?

  1. “good people are medicine used by God to heal the wound of selfishness.” “bad things happen to good people because their light is needed in the darkness.”
    This doesn’t explain my life, because I come in contact with those who pretend to be good, but turn out evil and hurt my deeply. Those who cannot be helped impair my ability to shine my light out into the world and grow it. My experience has taught me that the “wound of selfishness” can only be healed through the intention of the wounded to allow the healing. Where is that intention supposed to come from? Either circumstances that create force, or devastating events that truly change them. Happens extremely rarely.
    I can either continue to burn myself up in futile pursuits that even strengthen selfishness, or become a meaningless zombie myself. The third alternative, relying only on myself, has been blocked thoroughly by past events.

    • Dowlphin:

      I feel your pain my friend. All that I can offer is that my experience has also been that self-reliance is insufficient.

      In knowledge worker industries, the reliance upon fear as a mechanism of control destroys the creative capacities by destroying the cortex. Conversely, refusal to submit to the paradigm of selfishness has allowed me access to enormous creative resources. In fact, I have found again and again that my participation is essential to rescuing my employers from the consequences of their methods.

      But even so, my survival depends upon recognition by my peers that I have upended the paradigm of fear. What I have discovered, again and again, is that they invariably stand up with me.

      Of course, that leads to wider political embroilment. Again, I have found that reliance upon the self is insufficient. Only upon a complete surrender of control, in which I choose to act merely as a source of intelligence for a higher power, have I been able to resist such pressure. The greater the pain, the wider I must open my heart. In the end, I have found this to be true: it doesn’t really take a lot of money to be kept alive if there are people willing to stand up with you, and what doesn’t kill indeed makes us stronger.

      There is always that recourse in those that completely descend to evil. But in most cases, that is a recourse that our society requires be exercised through a proxy. The exercise of will to accomplish that end is a spiritual projection that, to those that love themselves, is easy to suborn: I merely seize the energy and offer it to the divine source to which it wants to return.

      Of course, none of this leads to my material reward. In effect, I am saying that service to the light is the only way to preserve my light, and the light is the only reward for that service.

      Brian

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