Sometimes the ideas people have about how God works astound me -- and often not in a good way. I found another example this week.
Sarah Collins Rudolph was the one survivor among five little girls 50 years ago when Ku Klux Klan members bombed her church in Birmingham, Ala. There was an event there the other day to recall the horror of that day on its 50th anniversary, and the Associated Press story about that event quoted Collins Rudolph this way:
"God spared me to live and tell just what happened on that day."
Her statement contains both truth and off-putting implications. Yes, she survived. Yes, she's been talking about what happened that day. Good to both.
But did God spare her? And if God did so, what does that say about the four other little girls who died? Did God decide they needed to die? If, as some theology suggests, God is in charge of every aspect of everything that happens in the world, why did God kill (or allow the death of) four girls while sparing the life of a fifth?
With this kind of theology, we end up with a whimsical, manipulative, cold-hearted, calculating God, not a God of love, care and compassion. We end up with a God who is the source of all or most evil in the world.
In my understanding of God, God was not responsible for the death of the four girls nor for the survival of the fifth. The Klan bombers killed those children and it was evil. The fifth girl survived because the explosion happened not to be fatal for her, though she ended up with a lost eye and other injuries. If God wanted her to survive, why did she have to sustain those injuries?
And because she survived she is able to speak out about what happened that day. I just wish she would blame the evil on the evil perpetrators and not implicate God in randomly picking one of the girls to live to tell the story.
Having said all that, I want to acknowledge that it's arrogant to say much of anything about God and that I could be as wrong about my ideas of God as I think Collins Randolph was wrong about hers.
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A FRESH LOOK AT BUDDHIST INFLUENCES
What role, if any, did the religion of Aaron Alexis, which turns out to be Buddhism, have anything to do with his murderous rampage in Washington, D.C., earlier this week? It's a touchy question, but this thoughtful piece says that whatever role his spiritual path played was much less important than evidence of his mental instability. In fact, we always need to be cautious when attributing any religious motive to someone who breaks the law, though we all know there are, of course, examples of violent extremists who point to their religions as a reason for what they did. Perhaps the Ku Klux Klan perpetrators of the Birmingham bombing 50 years ago thought they were just being good Christians. Perhaps.
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