I’m having another fit of insomnia, and my slight headache is still annoying me.  One of my tasks tomorrow: get some Tylenol!

I’ve been thinking about Rachel Held Evans’ post, We already failed Haiti , which deals with theodicy and the Christian obligation to help the poor.  Polycarp also discusses the recent earthquake in Hundreds of thousands dead in Haiti quake and Organizations where you can help the people of Haiti.  Here are some thoughts about Haiti:

1.  I don’t know how to pray for large-scale events.  I can pray for an individual who needs healing or money for food, but I don’t know what I should pray when it comes to an entire nation.  Should I pray that God will keep people from dying?  What makes me think he’ll answer that prayer?  He hasn’t kept people from dying so far. 

One thing I hope about Haiti is that it will become more just, that people will become convicted to love their neighbors as themselves.  At a meeting yesterday, a friend was talking about how the wedding of Baby Doc (a former leader in Haiti) cost millions of dollars.  This is tragic, when there are so many who are dirt poor in that country.  So I pray for conviction.

2.  Polycarp posted Don Miller Pities Pat Robertson; Rush Limbaugh weighs in.  To be honest, I have a hard time hating Pat Robertson for his comments.  They are problematic theologically, but his voice was shaking when he made them.  It was like he was discussing a solemn, serious, saddening issue rather than just shooting from the hip, which is what he did when he said we should take out Chavez.  Rush Limbaugh’s comments, however, disgust me.  Why’s he have to take a tragic situation and use it to bash President Obama as having a sinister motivation?

Rush would probably say that the liberals did that with 9/11.  Personally, contrary to the views of some on the right, I don’t think that 9/11 should have insulated the Bush Administration from criticism.  And, if Obama does something wrong when he helps Haiti, or if there are better ways to assist the nation than he proposes, then that should be pointed out.  But, please, don’t bash the President as having a sinister political motivation, when we can’t even read the man’s mind!  Maybe he sincerely wants to help.

3.  There are people in my family who are skeptical about charities, and appropriately so.  Money was misappropriated after 9/11 and the tsunamis, and that’s tragic.  People would respond, however, that we shouldn’t allow cynicism to keep us from donating to charities, since what’t important is that we’re giving, regardless of what the charities do with our money.

I wonder if there’s a middle ground or a third way to look at the situation.  Sure, I don’t think cynicism should paralyze me from giving, but I also think it’s mistaken to say I shouldn’t care how charities spend my money.  Money is scarce for me, so, when I give it to charity, I hope it’s accomplishing something positive.

4.  I’m not sure if I’ll donate money to help Haiti.  I already give some to my local Food Bank, which helps the hungry in Cincinnati.  There are all sorts of causes out there, and I can’t help all of them. 

5.  One point Rachel made is that many in America live in luxury, and she’s convicted that she does so when there are so many people who lack the basic necessities.  I said on her blog that I don’t have much money, but that’s not a good excuse, for I spend some of what I do have on such luxuries as cable, Internet, going out to eat every now and then, etc.  And I’m extremely hesitant to part with that.

I don’t plan to part with my luxuries, since life would be pretty miserable if I had to live a Spartan existence.  Does part of me feel guilty about that?  Yes.  But my mind’s made up.

6.  Rachel linked to World Vision, and it only costs $38 a month to help a child.  That’s not too much.  Granted, if I gave to World Vision, I’d stop donating to my local Food Pantry.  But it’s still not that much.

7.  When I attended Harvard, a prominent liberal evangelical was promoting a sponsor-a-child-in-a-foreign-country charity.  I vaguely remember him saying that, if I don’t donate, then I’m not a true Christian.  I’m going with my memory here, and it’s flawed.  But I resent manipulation.  Evangelicals do well to point out that we should think of others besides ourselves.  But some evangelicals’ method of doing this makes me recoil from evangelicalism.  Part of it is that I don’t like being told what to do.  My gut response when I hear something like that is “I’ll do what I want with my own money, thank you very much, and I won’t let you guilt-trip me with your intimidation and your power-trip, prominent evangelical whom people would recognize if I named him, so I’ll keep him anonymous so I’m not sued for libel!”  I like how Paul handled charity in I-II Corinthians (which Rachel quotes): he focused on the positive.  He encouraged.  He presented God as someone who wants to bless.  He talked about how donations could accomplish good.  He tried to bring out the best in people.

8.  On the theodicy issue, I don’t know what to say.  Rachel dislikes the notion that the earthquake was God’s punishment because innocent people (e.g., children) have suffered, but there are plenty of times in the Bible when children die as a result of God’s wrath.  Another problem Rachel has identified with blaming natural disasters on human sin is that we really don’t know what sin God would be punishing if that were the case.  John Piper blamed a natural disaster on homosexuality, but who’s to say that God wasn’t punishing Christians who hate homosexuals?  If God is chastening us with natural disasters, it’s basically our guess what his lesson is.  What kind of pedagogy is that?

I don’t worry about theodicy because I don’t have any answers as to why bad things happen.  I am commanded to love people, however—to at least be concerned with their pain, and, if I can, to help them out.  In addition, at least the doctrine of Christ’s second coming gives me the hope that things will be made right some day.  That’s why I don’t understand atheists who refuse to believe in God on account of the problems in the world.  If there’s no God, what hope is there that things will be made right?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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