Friday, August 26, 2011

God of Physics and Chemistry

Yesterday, my atheist friend told me about a colleague who said that she had prayed to God that the hurricane would miss us--and lo and behold, the hurricane had missed us.  Now, did our colleague really say that, or did my atheist friend misinterpret what she had said?

Either is likely.

Any way you look at it though, it's crummy theology.  Because if I pray that the hurricane misses my coast, am I not praying that someone else get hit?

And do I really believe that our God of free will, our God who set the world up with certain laws of geology and physics and chemistry, do I really believe that God would intervene to curve the hurricane away from me?

If my house gets hurt by a hurricane, does that mean that I didn't pray hard enough?  Or that I'm spirituallly lacking, so that God pays no attention to me?  Or that other people prayed better?

Those questions also show us the crumminess of a theology that says that if we just pray hard enough and believe enough and behave in certain ways, then we can control the world around us and control God.

We can't.  That's the hard truth of the world we live in.  No matter how good we are, hard times visit us all.

The Good News of the Bible is that we have a God who loves us so much that our God would come to our difficult planet to hang out with us.  The Good News of the New Testament is one of grace:  God will love us no matter our behavior.

Hurricanes are not punishment.  On some level, hurricanes are the way the planet deals with extra heat and energy.  Yet even those who would blame hurricanes on global warming (and thus see them as a fitting punishment for errant humans) would do well to look back to remind themselves of how hurricanes have always swept across the planet, even before we warmed it up so dramatically.

On this day when most of the East Coast faces an extraordinary threat from Hurricane Irene, I'm not suggesting that we abandon prayer as a response.  In fact, on a day where most of us can't do much more than watch and hope, prayer seems like a perfectly appropriate response.

Prayer for the Day before the Hurricane Makes Landfall

Creator God, who fashioned this astonishing planet of atmospheric swirls, help us remember the abundance that our habitat usually offers us.  Be with those who work to protect their homes.  Be with those who suffer from fear and anxiety.  Remind us that you are with us, and help calm our fears.

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