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March 29, 2012

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Jeff Imbach

Thanks, Chris, for your comment.  I would like to offer a wee response to it.  Our very human struggle with God and evil is, of course, not solvable here!
 
Here’s a bit of background: I wrote the poem as an honest, immediate response while praying the lectionary passage for that week.  It is not the whole of my dialogue with God, but it is a crucial part of it.  If we can’t become honest about our struggles, including our anger and mistrust of God, then God can’t move us toward healing. Neither a contrived faith because of denial or a morass of cynicism take us toward life and freedom.  Honesty leaves room for more, for ongoing relationship, and eventually for healing.  I offered the poem to encourage those who struggle with being honest either with themselves or with God. I am glad you can feel my frustration.
 
Now to respond to your comment.  First a couple of givens for me.  1.) I do indeed believe, as you tentatively propose, in the God of the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian God as one God and not two separate Gods – not one angry and judgmental and the other one loving.  The story of the snakes is not about the angry God that we have now transcended!  I often encounter that kind of thinking as a cheap way of getting rid of the problem, and it seems important to dispel it here. 2.) The people in the Scripture narratives are no less evolved than we are.  We all live with the same struggles and act about as childish as people have throughout history.  The people in the story of the Israelites do not (as you say) “need a swift type of punishment” any more than we do!
 
We are left with the struggle that this is the God we love and who loves us!  There is no way to minimize or avoid this terrible anguish.  Letting go of honesty to the pain and saying, “It’s mystery and therefore I don’t have to struggle with it.” is a cop out. Giving up on God saying, “It’s a gap too wide and therefore I can no longer believe,” doesn’t take us toward life but toward the sidelines of accommodation or eventually to despair.  The only way I know to go forward is to own the terrible reality of both simultaneously.  To maintain an honest relationship within the midst of our broken heart is to suffer crucifixion.   As we try to hold two contradictory things going in opposite directions at the same time our arms get spread and we (our constructed “we”) dies.  In that crucifixion we may just find that, as in the Good Friday to Easter Sunday drama, we also experience God in a new and surprisingly profound way.
 
Here are some recent resources I have encountered that are powerful and helpful.
1. Yesterday (Easter Sunday of all times!) Michael Enright hosted a very pointed documentary, “God I’m Angry.”  http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/.  
2. Bill Moyers hosted a recent interview with the current editor of Poetry Magazine in the U.S., Christian Wiman, (http://billmoyers.com/guest/christian-wiman/).  It is a powerful testimony of a very articulate and influential thinker who left the faith, who now has an incredibly painful terminal cancer, and has come back to faith in the midst of his suffering.  
3. Finally in the movie, Feast of Love, there is a very moving scene at the end in which the character played by Morgan Freeman says, in the midst of what he called heartbreak that is unspeakable, “God is either dead or he despises us.”  The character played by Greg Kinnear eventually responds with, “God doesn’t hate us Harry.  If he did he wouldn’t have made our hearts so brave.”

Chris

I feel your frustration- so where does that leave us? If we can believe Jesus, that He speaks for His Father, the God of Moses, the One who sent the snakes, then how are we to see this through? The only consolation that I can see is that God treated the Israelites as little children who needed a swift type of discipline, but because His nature is to always want our complete and total reconciliation, He will provide an opportunity for this (for them) in the future- but as for their chances on earth- they should've listened when they had the opportunity...

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