Suffer the Little Children

Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10.14

…the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not: you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12.7

Jesus+kid

Recently, I attended the funeral of a little boy who died of the cancer he’d suffered from the time he was nine months old. His young parents are friends of mine. They showed their son such incredible love during his illness, ensuring he received the best medical care possible.

But where was God through it all? The God that Christians say has a special affinity for children, who loves them and cares for them? The God who looks after ‘the little people‘?

That God was nowhere. He showed no interest in this particular ‘little person.’ No concern and no compassion for him or his parents. Of course, that’s because he doesn’t exist, though this didn’t stop Christians telling the family how marvellous and caring and loving he is.

Really? If I had any vestige of faith left, what has happened to this innocent during his short life would have cured me of it entirely. And make no mistake, he was innocent, not a sinner (as if that would let God off the hook.) A deity who allows a baby to have cancer and to die after fourteen months of prolonged, invasive treatment would be a callous, worthless bastard. But we knew that already.

Had there been a God who cared, this little boy would’ve been two today, Easter Sunday.

All in the mind

Disaster

A new minister at the church near where I live has announced his plans to bring ‘God’s love’ to people in the parish. This sounds laudable enough, I suppose – it’s better than delivering God’s condemnation and judgement as many holy rollers are prone to do – but it begs the question why God doesn’t deliver his own love in person. Why is it he feels he can only channel his love through flawed and fallible human beings? Why doesn’t he engage intimately with his creation and let his love be known and felt directly? Why doesn’t he show his love by eradicating cancer, say, or preventing natural disasters, or exterminating the mosquitoes that cause the deaths of up to 2.7 million people every year? Why, in anything that would count as a tangible expression of God’s love for the world, as declared in John 3.16, is there a singular lack of evidence for both his love and his very presence?

‘Ah, but wait!’ say any Christians reading this. ‘God’s love is made manifest through his people, just as the new minister suggests.’ But this is my point; if I only ever expressed my affection for my loved ones through intermediaries – or even strangers, as this minister is to me – or only through a succession of Valentine’s cards, what sort of impression of my love would they have? They would, I think, be unconvinced of it, because love is not just a distant expression of feeling; it’s what we do for others. Love is action.

‘Ah, but wait again!’ say the Christians. ‘What about the second part of John 3.16 that tells us that God showed his love for the world by sending Jesus to die for us?’ You’ll pardon me, won’t you, if I find that a paltry and pathetic expression of love? If I had somehow expressed my love for others millennia ago, no-one at this distance would be impressed by a largely symbolic ‘gift’ proffered only after its original intended recipients declined it (Matthew 22. 8-10).

God didn’t really do this, of course; he didn’t send Jesus, didn’t instruct Paul to extend to all and sundry the offer of salvation Jesus made only to Jews, didn’t transmit any sort of time-travelling compassion to reach us in the present; doesn’t express his love through other flawed human beings today. How do we know this? Because there is no God to show us love nor to judge or condemn us. Any judgement, condemnation or love is expressed by other human beings, frequently in the name of one god or another but humanly derived even when drawn from a holy book. Gods don’t write books; they’re human creations too.

Everything to do with God, from his very existence and all of his supposed attributes – his aversion to sin, his revelations about himself, his miraculous and mysterious ways, his answers to prayer, his non-answers to prayer, his supposed offer of eternal life, his holy books and his hatred and love – derive from human hopes and fears and our need for explanation. We know this because God’s love and all his other supposed characteristics are made manifest through human agency and in no other way; they have no existence outside the human imagination. So the new minister’s love can’t really be from God. At best, it will be a level of interest and concern for a limited number of people, because that is all that is humanly possible. Even so, it’s more than a God with no direct dealings with his creation can manage. Every expression of who he is, how he thinks and how he behaves is a projection of how human beings think and behave. That is why he is so maddeningly inconsistent across cultures and even within them depending on which cult (and they’re all cults) denomination or church claims to be representing him. The Christian God is, like all the others, a human creation and all manifestations of him – including his much vaunted love and the relationship believers claim to have with him – are entirely human too.

For God So Loves The World

NepalFor God so loves the world he let an earthquake and its many aftershocks kill up to 10,000 people in Nepal.

For God so loves the world he stood by while up 100,000 more people lost everything, including their homes, because of the same earthquake.

For God so loves the world he drowned 900 refugees fleeing the terrors of war in their own countries.

For God so loves the world he allowed 250 individuals to be killed by a rogue pilot who flew the plane they were on into the side of a mountain.

But wait! One particular Christian preacher knows why this kind of thing happens. He can explain how these catastrophes, particularly the devastation caused by the earthquake, are compatible with a God of love. Here’s what it’s really all about:
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That’s right. God only allowed these terrible things to happen so that more people – excluding the ones he murdered, obviously – would have the chance to turn to Christ. Isn’t that marvellous? And Tony Miano, who is the same lunatic street preacher arrested in London in 2013 for sharing God’s ‘love’ for LGBT people, is not alone. German pastor Wolfgang Wegert said much the same thing of those who died on Germanwings Flight 9525: ‘A plane crash is a reminder of our own mortality. By that, God wants to make people repent, so that we (can) be saved by Jesus.’

And, do you know, they’re right. No, really, they are. There is no other response available to the Christian who wants to explain events that involve the terrible loss of life. That’s because the Christian God, the one who purports to love us so much, as well as all the other versions, is conspicuous by his absence. He’s always absent, always powerless to prevent such disasters, too remote to want to. Which might just suggest he doesn’t exist (which of course he doesn’t) leaving those who feel the need to cling to belief in him to explain his actions or, rather, the lack of them. So they supply him with an ulterior motive. And why not? A fabricated being needs a fabricated excuse. But this being the real world, the options are limited. So what we get is this; God is only trying to draw people to him. How truly loving. The equivalent of a human father murdering several of his children so that those he spares might love him more. A monstrous and preposterous idea for a monstrous and preposterous God.

And so it falls to human beings of all persuasions to show compassion and to help the survivors of earthquakes, the relatives of plane crashes, the misplaced and grieving refugees. We might be flawed, fallible and – according to the self-righteous – ‘sinful’, but we can at our best, demonstrate the love so lacking in their absent deities. And unlike the many meaningless gods, from Yahweh and Jesus to Allah and Vishnu, we can be present too, because we are real.

 

You can donate to the Nepal earthquake appeal here.