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Nearly all of us have at some point asked: "Does anybody Up There really care what happens to me?" There are fortunate ones among us who can definitely answer in the affirmative. We are, after all, among those who have a boss whose office is Up There at least one floor above our desk, caring very much about what happens to us, because what happens to us may impact his/her quarterly reports, which impacts his/her chances of eventually being two floors above us, at which point he/she can stop caring about what happens to us and start caring about other matters of import, like the estate tax and scheduling golf games with heart surgeons.
Or maybe you've asked another question, such as: "Is there anyone who will always care about how I feel?" Again, the answer is yes; they're called pollsters, and how you and I feel is immensely important to their ongoing efforts to ask you questions that keep you engaged in the process by which you cast a vote for someone who has purposefully promised more than he/she can deliver and who will, when you point this out, blame you for having unrealistic expectations.
So then, to eliminate the vagaries, the real question we all face is: "Is there a god, and does that god have a plan for me?" It's a question that deserves a serious answer, and will receive one because a) many sincere people have asked it, and b) I suspect I met my sarcasm quota in the first three paragraphs.
Ask most Christians this question, and they'll answer with a definite yes. "God has a plan for our lives," they will say. "He placed each of us here for a reason that only He really knows, and if you trust in Him you will be rewarded."
For every one person you can find who sincerely believes this, you can fine at least one who doubts. There's a central objection to this idea, and one that has been expressed in many ways. One of the more up-to-date methods of doing so would probably be to ask what purpose, what plan there was for all the victims of the Haiti earthquake, at least some of whom probably had that same sincere belief.
So what are our alternatives? On the other end of the spectrum, there's the view that there is no plan. Sure, there's somebody on the floor above us who has a plan to transfer his membership to a more affluent branch of the Kiwanis Club, but go higher and there's nobody. Or, maybe there is somebody who got all this started, but that someone was too impressed with that job they did then to get involved in Haiti.
It's not like this viewpoint is without its advantages; people who don't believe that an all-powerful force will ever intervene in their lives never feel obliged to spend long periods of time reading about how another believer thousands of years ago begat Shelah, then lived 103 years, after which Shelah begat Eber and lived another 403 years, and then Eber begat Peleg, and so on. Agnostics have also never, to my knowledge, stoned someone to death because he converted to deist.
In the end, though, the many good-hearted non-believers live knowing that they will go to the same place as Bernie Madoff. True, he's making a stop at the Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina along the way that they probably won't share, but they're still ending up in the same state. From a purely rational viewpoint, one way ends up the same as the other, and that doesn't seem fair.
And the fact that we know it isn't fair suggests we were given rules to follow, and not by other people. Just because the Bernie Madoffs of the world choose to ignore them doesn't mean they're not there.
It's enough for me to know that the rules are there, and that following them gives me a better chance of success. I don't know the reason why statistical anomalies like good Haitians who die young are permitted to exist, or why some people get away with breaking the rules longer than others. And I don't think I'm supposed to know; but maybe the One who made those rules can explain it for me later.
In the meantime, I have other tasks to attend to, such as taking care of the son I wasn't planning to have with the wife I met by chance when I was transferred to a South Korean city I had never heard through the job I had happened to see advertised when I was feeling the most desperate to find a new employer.
It's a tough task, but just the fact that I have it makes me believe that there's a Rule-giver who can help.
Re: Asking the Right Questions
On January 18th, 2011 thekryz says:
You ask questions without even trying to give an answer. I read your entry for answers, it only disappointed me.
Re: Asking the Right Questions
On January 18th, 2011 Elaine Nelson says:
"It's enough for me to know that the rules are there, and that following them gives me a better chance of success."
Speaking of a "rule-giver" is less than a flattering label. Did Jesus come to this earth to be a rule-giver? Or, did He come to give us life and give it more abundantly? It all depends on one's viewpoint.
Did you think of your parents as simply "rule-givers"? That was a minor part of their duties. A good parent will demonstrate her love consistently, not just when you are a "good boy."
This is a poor analogy and why many have left the church because they see God only as a rule-giver. How can one love and honor a rule-giver? Do you love the Law that warns you not to steal or speed? That is only grudging respect for the consequences. If that is the way God is viewed, my sympathies.
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