God’s Will, the R word, and Electoral Winners


The GOP candidate from Indiana came right and said it: he fumbled a bit but if one listened he had actually called rape God’s will. Akin, Ryan, and the others who used modifiers for rape implied as much. Did they actually mean what they said? Who knows? I think they made a common categorization error. They have heard church leaders state (correctly I believe) that the wrong of rape should not be compounded by the death of an innocent child. They have heard testimony after testimony of people who went through with the birth, now love the child, and see that child as a blessing. The error occurred because people inappropriately surmise that the first act could not be so bad, if a ‘good’ result came from it. Hence the guy from Indiana stating that since the second part was God; then the first must be also.

The problem at play here is a long standing one. Christians and others have a tradition of referring to events they like as God’s will (even to the point of referring to small acts like finding a parking space at a crowded mall in such terms); while on the other hand referring to any event which they don’t like as God’s punishment. Christians have been referring to “wrong” presidential winners as a punishment since at least Jefferson’s election. Some of the prophecies concerning that election would make even the commentators on Fox blush. If Romney had won FB would have been full of praise for God’s will being done. Alas, he did not so FB is full of people talking about the election as God’s punishment.

This schizophrenic tendency to categorize all of life as God’s will / God’s punishment is all very good and religious, but it is not biblical. Remember the blind man brought before Jesus. “Who sinned, this man or his father,” the crowd asked. Jesus’ answer was neither. Instead He replied that the man was born blind so that his life might reveal the glory of God. Rather than continue a false dichotomy based on our feelings, I would rather us talk about the omnipresence and providence of God. I believe that God in Christ is with the rape victim. I believe that He has already been working, will continue to work, and will exchange that which was meant as evil for good. This is the expressedly biblical way to put it.

Likewise scripture says fairly equivocally that God is with the leaders of the world. He is working through and with them to bring about his purposes. Some of the best verses within the prophets talk of God’s ability to use even those that might appear beyond his reach for his purposes (i.e. Pharaoh, the Babylonians, etc.). In this way it can be said that the election of a president is always a providential act, in many of the same ways that God’s superintending care for the victims of tragedy are. God in his providence can bring glory out of both. Does this mean we have to like or believe the event was good, by all means, no. But we would all be better off if we stopped pretending to understand the ways of the God who created the heavens and the earth. I think the Jobs of the world would rather us be like Christ, than be like his friends.

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  1. The Old Testament/”Jewish” view of God’s providence is that all things work as God sees fit. There was no boogy man, no Anti-Christ, and no big bad Devil to blame for bad things, just God. He has given & He has taken away, may His name be praised. That simple. Its just the way an imperfect world works. God should be praised, regardless.
    Anyway, I appreciate you willing to take flack and stand in an awkward spot (mostly made so because so few dare to tread there) and consider how others view the extreme Christian adherence to Republicanism. I’ve had so many friends insulted by overzealous pastors this election season, its crazy. Appreciate your willingness to address the insensitivity going on.

  2. Unsanitary Jesus 11/11/2012 — 3:27 pm

    Two such OT verses that I do love but stick in the throat: “though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him” from Job; and the passage in Daniel that I mentioned in a previous post: “you may kill us, but we will believe God is still able to save us.” This biblical black coffee is often sweetened with so-called sugar of the NT (whether the NT is actually different is a matter of debate). For instance I have always struggled with the line “lead me not into temptation” from the Lord’s Prayer; as well as, Jesus’ comments about Peter’s sifting.

    That said the previouly mentioned passage does mention an enemy figure prominent also in the temptation passage of Christ as well. There is also discussion of an “enemy” in the OT. Job, the oldest book in the OT, definitely includes a mischief maker in the Loki vein. Genesis, depending on how you interpret the first 11 chapters, also includes a tempter.

    I find it interesting that unlike many religions, the Christian scriptures (including the Jewish Torah- I cannot speak for the Talmud) never explain the existence or character of evil in the world. Evil is simply, as you put it accepted as normative. That previously mentioned tempter appears in Genesis 3 with no back story and none of the flashbacks that any good Hollywood writer would know to include. Yet despite this God’s character is always upheld at the same time that humanity’s responsibility is also reinforced.

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