For God's Sake!

She was 34. She died in her sleep. She wasn't sick... she just died.

They told me that the minister said at her funeral that it was God's will. God took her.

What sort of God is this? Two traumatised little girls... a husband so grief stricken he doesn't know how to cope... families ripped apart by grief. "Sorry people, I just needed your Mum. You don't need to know why." The beloved people of God are reduced to collateral damage, for God's sake! It sounds more like the US military than a loving God.

"God took her" is one of the great blasphemous contradictions of conservative Christianity. In the face of arbitrary tragedy no one has the answer to the question WHY? So we turn to God. But all too often not seeking for comfort in the face of un-reason, nor seeking to share our grief with God in the face of another entropic storm of anti being. Instead we make up an answer to WHY... which turns God into a monster. It goes like this. In the conservative religious delusion:

  1. God is fully in control of all things. 
  2. therefore God not only knows WHY she has died,
  3. but her death can only have happened with God's approval,
  4. for God is all powerful, 
  5. and could have chosen to prevent this death. 
  6. Her dying seems a bad thing, 
  7. but God is all good, 
  8. so therefore God had good a reason for taking that person. 
  9. and it can't be bad that she died. (Not really.)

As if that justifies what was done to her family! A God who does this is a prick.

I can see why a minister would say it is Gods will. The pressure is on to explain WHY. People are crying for an answer. But it is an answer of cowardice and fear to say it is God's will. He is afraid to say, "I don't know."  He is afraid to say, "It is unjust, unfair, wrong...  why God... God help us, we don't understand!" So he says, "It must be God's will."  This answer further abuses those whom life has already assaulted.  For the minister's and the whole congregation's fear of death and of not knowing WHY, is projected onto two little girls and their father for the sake of an idol called the doctrine of omnipotence. Everyone is abused, for the whole church is told to deny the travesty of death. Instead, (it is at least implied,) they are to rejoice! For why would they grieve? Her dying must be good-- it was God's will! 

Even the conservatives don't have to believe this rubbish.  What happened to sin, that evil seeking to disrupt and disassemble the world? Might not sin have a part in all this? Does premature death have to be an outworking of God's love for us? Might not God's beloved child have been a victim of the evil that sin projects into things? The answer must be "No!" because the conservatives know God has won over sin and death in the resurrection of Christ, so sin is on the shortest of leashes. God protects his own from sin, so with their dispassionate logic, they know her death must have been God's will.  All the pieces fit neatly together.

Hendrikus Berkhoff delivered a lecture once when I was in theological college.  Some of my conservative colleagues criticised him for not taking into account some of their pet doctrines. He replied that doing theology is like doing a jigsaw where you can never get the last few pieces to fit. I understood him to mean the art of theology is in leaving out the least important pieces and including the key pieces for the time and context. The theology expressed in this poor woman's funeral has, like all funerals and all sermons, ended up with some bits left out of the picture.  But by saying it was God's will for her to die, it left out, and denied, the love and compassion of God. It seems to me that these are amongst the most important pieces! For all the prayers and calling on Christ, it can scarcely have been Christian without them.

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