Nick over at nickhereandnow is a very good blogger. An intelligent writer who produces concise posts that are often thought-provoking. He recently covered the case of a woman who'd had a liposuction operation that had gone terribly wrong with the final result that she died, aged 42. Nick covered the topic well and included this sentence: This dreadful saga of incompetence and misfortune certainly undermines belief in some benign creator watching over us and keeping us from harm.
In my comment I asked Nick which religion he was talking about. In his reply he said: Certainly that's the understanding of most common folk, who consequently ask why so many disasters are allowed to happen....
If a blogger less moderate or wise had said that it wouldn't have worried me but the fact that Nick, who is clearly of an independent and liberal mind, was under the impression that God keeps us from harm, is of concern.
Jesus himself said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross.' (Matthew 16:24) The cross of Christ led to torture and death; for us to take up our cross doesn't sound like a promise of good times ahead.
I have often thought that God made a big mistake with his PR campaign. 'Follow me and you might get persecuted or killed' isn't the sort of slogan to attract followers. On the other hand, 'follow me and nothing bad will ever happen to you again' is a definite winner in my book.
But then again he is a god of justice so surely it would only be fair, if he promised us a good life, for him to expect something in return? Like, 'I'll look after you as long as you never do, think or say anything bad ever again.'
If those were his words I'd be screwed from the moment I got out of bed in the morning. Or even before that. My name would have been taken off the heavenly roll call before the ink had time to dry.
Thankfully, that's not what he says. He says, 'come as you are.' It's as simple as that. Shit happens and it happens to everyone. What Jesus did promise was to be with us always, to help us through the trials we all have to face in life.
Nick, in response to my comments, also wrote: I'm not sure that someone in a refugee camp or being tortured would get that much reassurance from the knowledge that Jesus is with them, but maybe they would see it differently....
I think the answer to that is that, yes, they would see it differently. I've never been tortured (unless you count having to watch Wales being crushed by England in rugby - you see, my tutor on my writing course told me off for doing that - she said 'you can't resist putting in a joke, can you? You build up the tension and then wallop, it's ruined!) but I've been through trials in my life and I've known the love and support of God through the bad times. It's not something that can be explained but it's real.
Corrie ten boom, a Dutch Christian who was in a concentration camp during the war, and saw her sister die there, has written books about her experiences. One of the stories she tells that I like best is about being a child anticipating a train journey. Her father wouldn't give her the money until the very last moment even though she asked him for it in advance. But he always gave it to her at just the right time. I'm hoping that if I ever face torture for my faith that God will give me the courage and strength I need. If I consider it now I suspect I would only have to have my feet tickled and I'd renounce everything but I truly hope that having God with me would make the difference if ever it came to that.
Which is slightly off the point that I started from. And I'm sure there was more I wanted to say about God being benign, yes, but also an angry God who hates injustice and evil. Jesus demonstrated the righteous anger of God when he overturned the traders' tables in the temple as they were obstructing the way of ordinary people who just wanted to get in to the temple to worship God.
Now George is nagging for a walkie so I'll think about this post while in the woods and see if I need to amend or add anything.