Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reconsidering that Arc of the Moral Universe

In the last post to this blog, Rev. Brian Baker of Trinity Cathedral wrote “I believe that God is the gravitational pull that is bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice. I believe that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is the just and loving thing to do and I believe that it will provide the context for more loving couples to thrive.”

A problem for me, that I failed to notice at the time, is this: Why should God be bending any arc? IF He formulated morality, He should have gotten matters absolutely right in the first place. Covenant Number One should have been cool with gay people marrying and fully disapproving of stoning women to death for any reason.

I mean, He gave us stone tablets, right? The fact that the Ten Commandments are carved into stone is a flagrant message that the words in stone are (1) to be taken seriously; (2) permanent; and (3) God ain’t messing around.

Now, I don’t believe in the Christian God. I think it is possible that there once was a Sky God, but He died. The best we are left with today is some sort of impotent God; someone who can’t do anything about the massive number of deaths of children under the age of five in the United States and around the world.

According to the World Health Organization, 6.3 million children under age five died in 2013, nearly 17 000 every day.

You can look at the death rate for under-age-five children over the decades and see an improving trend. Roughly twice today’s percentage of children under age five died in 1990. That’s a good thing: A glass half full kind of happy thing. The trend is one toward matters getting better. But there is no way for me to comprehend how a God with any oomph would not aim all his powers at protecting children first. God should be saying, “Gay people? Sorry. You’re going to have to wait. Not long; but for a little while. I have something else that I MUST do first! Save All the Children!”

The stone tablets tell us “Do Not Kill.” But, the Christian God, if he exists with his powers intact, allows innocent small tikes to die by the thousands every day. He’s a killer.

I can think of a few small children and infants that died in Sacramento over recent years. There’s the mother who punished her infant for crying by putting her in the microwave for a spin. There’s a father in Natomas who had a disagreement with his son so he beat him to death. There’s a grandmother who left a small boy with her nephew while she went shopping. The small boy cried, so the nephew kicked the little boy savagely and without let up in the boy’s groin area. The boy lives, but the joy he can have had in life has been lessened, dramatically.

The idea that there is something amiss about believing in God and noticing the suffering of children and coming to the conclusion that This Does Not Compute isn’t new, of course. In Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamazov, Brother Ivan relates to his sainted brother Aliosha instances of savagery visited upon children.

In one story, it’s winter when an eight-year-old boy throws a small rock that hits the paw of a dog belonging to the powerful general who owns an estate. The general hears about this, has the boy stripped of his clothes and has him spend the freezing night in an outdoor cage. The next morning, the general and the men in his family are on horses and have a dozen dogs with them. The servants, including the boy’s mother, are outside, too, assembled to see what is about to happen.

The general brings out the naked little boy and tells him to run. The boy doesn’t understand. The general yells at the boy, “Run!” The boy begins to run and the dogs quickly jump on him and tear him to pieces.

After telling this story, Ivan is distraught. He tells Aliosha, "I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. ... I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven't suffered simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the lamb lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That's a question I can't answer."

Where’s God? Nowhere to be found.

The Brothers Karamazov is a work of fiction, but some of the stories that Ivan relates to Aliosha are believed to be true events that Dostoyevski utilized.
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I wrote this post quickly at night and, likely, made some factual errors of no great importance. -- T,A,

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