As Christians move through this season of Lent, Jews approach Passover (starting at sundown a week from now) and people of other faith traditions mark milestones on their annual liturgical calendars, life inevitably intrudes, requiring us all to face difficult questions of faith.
Not to engage with those questions would be evidence that we don't take our faith traditions seriously.
If you need a little encouragement to do that from people actually doing that, look now to Nebraska. There, as this RNS story reports, people of different faith traditions are trying to explain this spring's massive, destructive flooding and their response to it in theological terms. (The floods, of course, also affected Iowa and Missouri in serious ways, but the story focuses on the Cornhusker state.)
"In the days following major Midwestern floods this spring," writes Emily McFarlan Miller, "people of faith prayed for their neighbors and got busy lending a hand.
"They also turned to their beliefs to make sense of a disaster that washed away homes and roads, leaving more than a billion dollars of damage in its wake."
In some ways, this is another instance of the old theodicy question raising its fuzzy head -- the question that asks why there is evil and suffering in the world if God is good and all-powerful. There is, it turns out, no satisfying answer to that question. There just isn't.
Miller quotes someone from a Berean church in Lincoln, Neb., this way: “We can speculate all we want, but then in the end we simply have to trust that God’s ways are the best ways. He knows what he’s doing, even when we don’t understand why.” The RNS story continues: "Barring direct revelation from God as to why things like devastating floods happen, he said, some Christians would say 'we simply don’t know.'”
That's one helpful way of putting it, though not the only way.
What the theodicy question demands, in the end, is some humility. It requires us to acknowledge that we are finite beings trying to grasp the infinite. And, in the end, we have to decide whether to spend our time on such mysteries or whether, instead (or along with), we should do what we can to alleviate the damage and problems at hand.
(The image here today, taken by Officer Mike Bossman of the Omaha Police Department, shows f It came from this TV news site.)
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THOSE BURNED CHURCHES IN LOUISIANA
A man -- apparently the son of a law enforcement officer -- has been arrested in the case of arson at three historically black Louisiana churches. If he's found guilty, how about as part of his sentence he be required to attend worship at each of those churches? I bet those congregations could teach him a thing or two.