Roots of our anger at God: 1-8/9-11
January 08, 2011
If anger at someone is a sign that you care what that person thinks -- and surely it is that -- then anger at God is an indication that you care what God thinks.
In some ways such anger is a sign of hope, a sign that you expect God to be God and not to be absent or silent when you need God.
Which is why I found a new study about anger toward God intriguing. Done by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Exline, the study seeks to understand who is angry at God and what that anger looks like.
One interesting highlight (but far from the central point) of Exline's study is that she found some people angry at God even when they don't believe there is a God. Certainly not all non-believers are in this category, but some. Hmmmm. It reminds me of a friend who told me he tried hard to be an atheist but kept having lapses of disbelief.
There's almost no doubt that some of our anger at God grows out of our simplistic understanding of who God is, and it's impossible for our understanding not to be simplistic because our minds are finite and God is infinite. So some of us somehow imagine God to be what has been called a cosmic bellboy -- that indentured servant whom we can call when we need something but who should leave us alone otherwise.
And no doubt some of our anger at God grows out of the very love we have for God, just as our occasional anger at a spouse or a child is rooted in love. When God or a family member disappoints us, the result can be anger. As in: "Come on, God, I prayed faithfully for healing and yet she died."
Our anger at God no doubt is also a product of whether we see God as profoundly involved in every decision we make in life -- that is, sort of a divine puppeteer -- or whether we imagine God as a disinterested clockmaker who set the world on go and now is on permanent vacation. (There are lots of options between those two, also.)
All this is fascinating to ponder, but what I sometimes wonder more about is God's anger at us. And what I marvel at is God's patience with us. I'm afraid that if I were God I might have ended this messed-up world long ago. Not that I'm angry at God for not doing so. I'm just sayin'.
(By the way, if you'd like to participate in some of Exline's on-going research on people who may be angry at God, click here.)
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A NOD TO THE CREATOR
Whether we're angry at God or don't even believe God exists, Pope Benedict XVI says that God was the cause of the creation of the universe, whether it was through the Big Bang or some other method. The church's history of understanding science is pretty shaky, but in more recent times popes have sought to celebrate what science has been discovering about the cosmos. I like that approach, as long as everyone recognizes that there are questions that science will never be able to answer.