The New York Times has been running a series of meditations on faith and contemporary life through this Christmas season, and yesterday offered this piece by Maureen Dowd, on the problem of explaining God's seeming refusal to intervene in and stop occurrences of evil. In theological terms this is called theodicy, and a wise clergy friend of mine once told me that it was a mug's game, best avoided. Dowd quotes another clergyman, the Catholic priest Father Kevin O'Neil, who answered her question, "Why, God?" with much wisdom. Here's a taste:
"I believe differently now than 30 years ago. First, I do not expect to have all the answers, nor do I believe that people are really looking for them. Second, I don’t look for the hand of God to stop evil. I don’t expect comfort to come from afar. I really do believe that God enters the world through us. And even though I still have the “Why?” questions, they are not so much “Why, God?” questions. We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not."
On a related note, National Public Radio's Tom Ashbrook did a great show on 21 Dec on Spiritual Responses to the Sandyhook School shootings in Newtown, CT. The panel included theologican Miroslav Volf, of Yale Divinity School, who lived through the Yugoslav War in the 1990s and has long reflected on the Christian response to evil. Highly recommended.