Feb 16, 2009

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Free People?

Last fall, for Brite Divinity School's Jewish Studies Program, we hosted Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. Although I was unable to go to the Gates of Chai Lecture, I managed to go to a special session where he freely opened himself up to students and their questions. I will be honest from the outset; I believe that the basic presupposition of the question behind his well known work, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?,is quite presumptuous. For one, whose definition of good are we going by to define the goodness of humanity? Also, what does Kushner's answers mean in the reverse situation, that is: why do good things happen to bad people? My understanding of Jesus the Messiah's message is that God alone is good (Luke 18:19), and I know this is not going to be a popular statement, but I believe that all human beings are born into a sinful reality in which God has provided Jesus the Messiah (in his death and resurrection)as the only means of liberation (i.e., the doctrine of original sin/bodily resurrection stated in post postmodern terms).

I usually do not address questions of theodicy which start with "Why, LORD, why?" because they usually wind up with answers that make God Almighty our scapegoat (that means I am opposed to both the determinist end of Christianity as well as the idea of unlimited free will of humans advocated by process theologians). Instead, I ask, WHO would God have me to be in this time of tragedy? As a Christian, I can look no further than the Cross of Jesus the Messiah, 2000 years ago, where God Godself died between two thieves. Whenever tragedy happens, we should not be quick to judge (Jesus said judge not to be judged, right?) and blame the Other, those we disagree with and can make an easy case to serve as our scapegoats. Rather, the first position of Christians who follow a Suffering God should be a position of solidarity, to join in the plight of the victims, and to pray for the Truth to be revealed in due time.

I write this in light of the tragic plane crash of Flight 3407, at a time when, only after a couple of days, the media is all too eager to blame the pilots for this disaster. I hope that one day the Truth will be reveal in all of His glory. To that end, I offer this prayer:

One True God,
We humbly come before you,
asking for forgiveness of our sins, both known and unknown,
We thank You for your Truth and goodness that You revealed to us in the form of the Light of Life, Jesus the Messiah.
Shine light into the darkness,and send your Spirit of Truth to remain in us, Your Children, and transform us to become a shining city on a hill to those who are suffering from the darkness of tragedy and death, for we approach the throne of grace through Your Son Jesus the Messiah, and it is in His name that we pray,

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