God is good.

I rehearse this, in my mind, trying different readings. None of them are believable.

God is sometimes good.

Like a traffic light is sometimes green? How automatic, even arbitrary.

God can be good.

This seems better; after all, if you undercase the first letter and add an “o” in the middle, God can be good.

I have a conflict of interest. I have accepted gifts from God my whole life…an otter keychain (with real fake fur – I found it on the ground somewhere when I was a kid. I put it on my key ring – which at the time was all keychains and no keys – for a long while, at least as long as I refused to wear jeans because they weren’t comfortable), and parents to rejoice in my adoption of this miniature mammal, and enough food to feed him, and a bedside table to put him on, and a bed to fall asleep in as I stared at him, deciding the next day’s adventures.

What about the other ones. The ones who only see the back of God’s head as He’s watching a movie. A movie about their struggle. They try to tap him on the shoulder, but they can’t reach, they try to scream, but their voice is snuffed out. The prisoner who races in pale terror to tell a guard an inmate is trying to rape him, only to hear the vacant response: “just let him. Get it over with.” The young woman held captive by her father, physically, emotionally, sexually abused into believing that he is a godly man.

This is not “the problem of evil,” which makes it sound like something that can be calmed by calculators, or rational conversation. This is just incomprehensible. How can He watch this movie? How could He allow this movie to be made?

I don’t know. So I ask Mindy, a friend who’s done everything, and had everything done to her, and still came to the God conclusion.

“What do you think about God and evil?”

“God and evil?”

“Why does he allow it? How can they co-exist?”

She pauses, then mumbles thoughtfully, “God and evil. All right, let’s get to it.” She looks out the window. “If God…if God stopped people from killing and raping and stealing, then…we’d all be mechanics.”

I look at her. “Mechanical?” I ask.

“Yeah, right. And if he stopped people from killing one another, there’d be overpopulation.”


“But it’s wicked,” she says, and her remaining teeth put aside their differences and work together to form a smile.

6 thoughts on “Theodicy

  1. such a valid question that i’ve often asked myself so hard that i’ve cried. i have yet to find the answer.

    and you removed your profile. i had a feeling you’d do that.

  2. God may have provided us with the capacity to do good, but I suspect his power ends there. I’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s capable of making good people, only people capable of being good. Perhaps he thought that was enough. Perhaps he underestimated us.

  3. Another possibility is that God is ultimate goodness, but there are things in the way, in our hearts and in our habits, that obscure our ability to perceive that.

    It is much trickier to see God when trying to make sense of things from a macro perspective: you know, that’s the kind of thinking that says why does God allow for starving kids in Africa. It’s really hard to know about all the particulars in a place far away that has led to the lamented condition. But if you look at your own life, can you see little moments of grace, of synchronicity, where things worked out just so, where you were led by events and circumstances toward significant choices? I can.

    With a personal perspective in regards to the question of God, it also much easier to see things that you do that get in the way of Providence trying to act. A lot of things in my life haven’t worked out the way I want them to and some of those things hurt quite a bit. Looking back, though, I can see that there was often a lot of anger and lust and pettiness and spinelessness in my heart in those times. I’m not saying that everything bad that happens is a result of our own shortcomings, but sometimes that is the case.

    Besides, life doesn’t seem to be about having a suffering-free existence but about being able to react to suffering and cruelty with graceful elegance.

    Love makes that possible, and that’s the force that ancient thinkers believed held the world together. (I agree.) Love could not exist if we weren’t free to choose our actions and to face the consequences that come from those actions. So, I would argue, that the beautiful potential for the expansion of love in the universe necessitates the existence of cruelty as well … at least for a while. I do believe that there will come a time when our tears are wiped away. Be strong until then.

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