Where Was God

Peter Steinfels writes a weekly "Beliefs" column on religious themes in the Saturday New York Times. His article of 31 August 2002 begins by asking "Where was God on Sept. 11?" For a person of faith, Steinfels argues, this is "... an inevitable, a necessary and a valuable question. It is also an odd one." After all, where was God on any number of other days, "... when tens of thousands of parents, as on every day, watched their malnourished infants expire, when drunken drivers, as on every day, smashed their cars into innocents, when in Africa, as on every day, more people died of AIDS than were killed in the twin towers, and when traitorous arteries and rebellious brain cells, as on every day, stifled vibrant personalities into silence and stupor."

Part of the story, Steinfels postulates, is in Rowan Williams's book Writing in the Dust. It discusses some of the last words of victims trapped in the towers, sent via cellphones to loved ones. Those final messages show, Archbishop Williams says, "... the triumph of pointless, gratuitous love, the affirming of faithfulness even when there is nothing to be done or salvaged." And as Steinfels observes, "Men and women facing anguishing deaths used these instants to reassure and to console those they loved, to anticipate grief and to try to ease it. ... They did not ask where God was. Having other things to do, they may have offered one hint of an answer."

Maybe so. My limitless state of ignorance and confusion about religion leaves me without any glib comments. I empathize with suggestions that human choice is central to the meaning of the universe, and that love is central to choice. But how can that be reconciled with my belief in physical determinism, at least at the level of fundamental particles and fields? I don't know.

And God, as far as the evidence goes, doesn't seem to take sides in our affairs ... in spite of countless attempts that people make to claim Him for their team.

(see also FreeWill (11 Apr 1999), MeanMeaners (3 Jul 1999), FreeAction (3 Apr 2000), My Religion (6 Nov 2000), ReligionAndReverence (8 Jul 2001), Tolerance and Pacifism (8 Oct 2001), BearingWitness (17 Jan 2002), MostImportant (16 May 2002), ...)

TopicFaith - 2002-09-14

(correlates: StrangeLoops, ExceptionsRule, DiffuseConsciousness, ...)