Saturday, October 29, 2011

suffering and god

Thursday in my systematic theology class we talked about evil in the world and what it means (or meant) to folks developing an understanding of the divine. Some say that evil is the work of another (Satan) and not god's fault or business, some say it comes from an abuse of the freedoms that god has granted us humans, some say it has educational value (I suggested that nuns might fit this model and got a nice round of laughs) and there were a couple other ways to explain the existence of evil and suffering in a world supposedly created and ruled (to some extent) by god.

There's a thing called theodocy that is the name for the dilemma created when three "truths" are offered:
1. God is omnipotent.
2. God is benevolent.
3. Evil (suffering) exists.

This is where people get tangled.

If the divine is omnipotent, then it seems to reason that god could eradicate evil. The fact that evil exists seems to indicate that god allows it to happen and therefore is not benevolent.

If the divine is benevolent, that would mean that god does not want us to suffer. The fact that we do suffer would indicate that maybe god cannot stop suffering and therefore is not omnipotent.

This is all very nice if one has a god that is a person, or has a personality, or is a being of some sort that can be prayed to and communicated with like we communicate with one another. That's not really how I understand god, so I can look at it all from a safely detached and curious stance.

Until last night.

About an hour into my afternoon class, I began to feel uncomfortable. Like maybe I'd eaten something that did not agree with me. I'd had a cheeseburger and a salad for lunch, so that didn't seem right, but by the time class was over, I was alternately sweating and shivering and my stomach felt like it was going to explode. I came back to my place, got into some sweat pants and curled up on the couch for a while. For the next eight hours I alternately felt like I would throw up, pass out or explode from the lower regions of my intestines. I was miserable. And I am not sure but it might have been worse that I did none of those things, because I have a hunch that any of them might have offered relief once I got to the other side.

So, when one is lying on the bathroom floor -- deliciously cool! -- one has some time to make some observations about life. First, there are a lot of cobwebs under the radiator. Second, where is god in this? What purpose does this level of pain serve in my world? On a scale of 1 to 10, I would have put my pain level at probably a 6. It was really pretty bad. Not so bad that I was convulsing or violently throwing up, but bad enough that I could barely walk around my little apartment and when the pain came in waves, I took lots of little shallow breaths to get myself through them. I've never had a broken bone or had a baby, so I don't have those to compare it with. This was an ache that got acute and sharp in waves. It was miserable, though.

Perhaps the most difficult thing I faced yesterday was the desire to pray to a god who could and would relieve my suffering but realizing that I did not believe in that kind of entity/personality-god. Well, hell. That's gonna screw up my step work. Hmmm. I may have to re-think this.

I finally climbed into bed at around 11 p.m., when I had confidence that laying horizontal would not make me need/want to vomit, and slept until 10 this morning. My stomach still feels like hell, but not as bad as it did last night. I'm not hungry, so I'm sipping my orange juice and taking my vitamins and wondering what has happened to me and what this means for how I understand the divine.

Today I hope to get some work done on an exam that was handed out yesterday. It's due next Friday. I don't see myself moving far or fast today, so a day of books and writing sounds just about right. Be well.

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