No doubt many of you in the Kansas City area took note earlier this week of the story about the Kansas City Rescue Mission turning away atheists as volunteers.
Well, so did I, but perhaps not for the reason you might expect. I frankly thought the main issue was a bit of a tempest in a teapot. But I was especially intrigued by this paragraph in Matt Campbell's story:
J.T. Eberhard, a former volunteer with the Atheist Coalition, wrote Sunday on the website patheos.com that “including messages of god’s love with a meal to the poor is ironic in the extreme. If god cared about them at least as much as the (Atheist Coalition) volunteers, there would be no need for dispensing meals to the needy — god would’ve taken care of it."
Once again we find that the God some atheists describe and don't believe in is one many Christians and adherents of other religions don't believe in, either.
Eberhard's assumption that God fixes all hunger and poverty before any human intervention flies in the face of common experience. Oh, for sure there are theists who have an image of God that is something like Eberhard's, but that is not a biblical image and it surely is not the image drawn from our observation of life itself.
The kind of God Eberhard postulates would allow a bullet to speed from a gun but would never allow that bullet to wound or kill someone. Eberhard's kind of God might have allowed the vicious hatred that led to the Holocaust but would have protected each Jew from death. Eberhard's kind of God would prevent fatal plane crashes, diseases and natural disasters. Eberhard's kind of God, for instance, would have huffed and puffed and caused the typhoon that just devastated the Philippines to be airlifted over land harmlessly.
Who believes in a God like that?
That surely is not the God of Christianity, of Judaism, of Islam or, in fact, of any of the world's great religions. It is, rather, a figment of Eberhard's imagination.
The God of the great religions is a God of love and comfort for those who must live in a fallen world full of evil and happenstance. That God is the one who inspires people to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless because such people recognize that God chooses to work through them as partners, to inspire them, to act out of gratitude for the gift of life God has given them.
Eberhard's God? Maybe you can find such a deity in the comic books, but not in the Bible.
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EASY COME, EASY GO
Speaking of God, rarely does the creator of the universe let rabbis keep tens of thousands of dollars they find in second-hand desks they buy. God moves the consciences of such rabbis, who then return the dough. Don't believe me? Check it out here.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.
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ANOTHER P.S.: Don't forget Kansas City's interfaith Thanksgiving dinner this Sunday that I'll emcee. For details and to make reservations, click here.