A few weeks ago a friend of mine from college wrote me.
She was having a crisis of faith. There had been a particularly horrific murder of children somewhere, and she (the mother of two small children) was having a difficult time reconciling her faith in a loving god with the indifferent god that would allow terrible evil to happen. She was finding atheism appealing.
I wrote her back at some length. “You’re wrestling with the Problem of Evil,” I began, and then I talked through some of the issues. If god loves his creations, then why does god allow them to suffer? If god is omnipotent and omniscient, then why do evil acts happen? If god allows evil and suffering, then what makes him worthy of worship? These questions lead into some uncomfortable territory. The loving, personal god of the New Testament collides with the harsh light of reality, and reality comes out on top.
In the wake of yesterday’s massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, I imagine there are many Christians today wrestling with the Problem of Evil. Twenty-six people died, twenty of them kindergärtners — and it happened on their god’s watch. He allowed it to happen.
Some, like Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer, are telling themselves and their followers a comforting lie, that the school shooting happened and the children died because we don’t allow school-sanctioned prayer, because the reality of this — and any senseless tragedy — is too horrible for them to contemplate — that if there is a god, he’s not the loving god that the faithful believe him to be, that he’s callous and indifferent to his creation, and he simply doesn’t give a damn. They have to invent a reason to excuse god’s absence in the presence of evil. They have to give themselves a reason to accept that their omniscient and omnipotent god is indifferent and impotent.
And so they invent the comforting lie, and they tell themselves it’s true. They tell themselves it’s true today. They told themselves it was true when the Nazis slaughtered the Jews or the hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers or a gunman broke into a movie theater in Colorado. They will tell themselves it’s true when the next senseless and horrific outrage happens tomorrow or next week or next month. But telling themselves that doesn’t make it true.
The comforting lie is always easier than the honest truth — that if there is a god, he just doesn’t give a fuck.