Driven by a higher calling
THE last time I went to church – not counting friends’ weddings and relatives’ deaths – was when I was 17.
There were lots of girls. The church had a Sunday breakfast after the service where young and old, resplendent in their Sunday best, would relax a little, be jolly in a reverential sort of way, and eat eggs and sausages.
Unless you were 17. At 17 even the sausages in the vicar’s vestry were shiny with unslaked lust and carnal longing. Did the vicar know, I wonder, that while he beamed down on his young disciples with avuncular affection, we were mentally stripping each other and playing with the soft bits? At least, the boys were. At least, I was. I was an earnest believer in God’s power. The girls were there; I was there. If God could place just one of them within range of my smouldering passion, he was welcome to my soul.
Later, when the girl I fancied went off with a choir boy, I took it back. God was a fraud.
I still feel that way, and every year something happens to reinforce my view.
Ten thousand Japanese dead, minimum; 2000 bodies turning in the surf at the water’s edge; whole towns chewed into splinters, paper, and mangled car bodies. If the immediate horrors are not enough to deal with, they now face an uncertain future plagued by the invisible dread of atomic radiation that can contaminate the unborn children of their unborn children.
So are we dealing with an allpowerful God here? Or have we got merely an incompetent lieutenant? Should we be appealing to a higher authority? And when we find it, can we ask, ‘‘ What the hell were you thinking of?’’?
This is nature, in all its destructive indifference, shattering the future for whole dynasties of people. In Fukushima, Japan; in Christchurch, New Zealand; in Grantham, Queensland
What kind of a God would allow this? OK, an all-powerful God may want to flex his all-powerful muscles; and I suppose a caring God that wasn’t allpowerful may not have the ability to prevent it. But an all-powerful, caring God? Sorry, I don’t buy it.
Nor do I buy the idea that we need a god to help us deal with such terrible events. The people who rolled up their sleeves and got to work on the Queensland clean-up; the rescue workers pouring into Japan from all over the world . . . I doubt many of them were driven by God. I suspect they were driven by something much more honest and much more basic . . . the knowledge that there, but for chances of time and place, could go any one of us.