The God Squad: Catholic girls ask a rabbi about God
I am taking some time from my summer Psalms study book to go back to another God Squad book in formation. The teacher of the theology class for juniors at Mercy High School in Middletown, Connecticut, loves the God Squad and every year she asks her class of Catholic girls to write me a question about God that is important to them. Here, and in the next couple of weeks, are this year's questions. I apologize for being a bit late, but I was into the Psalms. I love the depth and variety of the questions and I believe that if high school kids are still deeply and personally interested in God and with the questions produced by faith, then certainly the world is safe. (Warning: I am a very easy grader)
Q: From M: Is God listening to me every time I pray? Or only sometimes. Thank you!
A: God is always listening to us. The problem is that we are not always listening to God. The way you know that God is listening is that after you pray you do not feel alone. Some people only pray so that God will do what they want. The point of prayer is to prepare our lives to do what God wants.
Q: From E and C and J and others: Why does God allow the innocent ones of this world to suffer?
A: There are only two reasons why good people suffer: 1. Bad luck and 2. Bad behavior. Bad luck makes everyone suffer who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A hurricane does not blow down only the houses of bad people. It blows down all the houses of all the people who had the bad luck to live in the path of hurricanes. That is suffering caused by bad luck. Suffering caused by bad behavior is when we do something wrong, usually something we know is wrong before we do it, and then we suffer the consequences that always follow bad moral choices. If we smoke or do drugs; if we eat too much or exercise too little; if we lie or steal or fight or bully people and then we get sick or we get in trouble, none of that is God's fault. All of that is our fault. All of it! Bad luck or bad behavior -- those are the causes of suffering.
Q: From A: If God is all powerful, why doesn't he make it so that the world isn't full of evil, hunger, and poverty? He puts us here, yet he knows what decisions we will make and what will happen. Why does he let us think we are in charge, when he knows he is the one above?
A: OK, let's take your idea seriously for a moment. God makes a perfect world and drops us into it. We then have the power of free will which gives us the opportunity to mess up this perfect world by our sinful behaviors. God knows this, so to protect the perfect world God takes away our free will. We have no power to decide to do anything, good or bad. Do you want to live in such a world? Do you want to be like bees or ants who work for the hive or ant hill without any freedom to decide their life's course or content? Free will is essential to make us human. Without free will we cannot love or choose our way in the world or help those in need. However, free will also allows us to fracture God's perfect world with our bad choices. All things considered, God made a perfect world with the gift of free will for human beings. We, not God, are the cause of the world's wounds. Go read Leibnitz.
Q: From S and also from C: Have you ever come to a point in your life where you second guessed your faith or felt like you couldn't lean on God for where to go next?
A: Yes. There is a famous story from some anonymous writer about a person who had come to the exact point in life that you describe. The person cried out to God, "I have often dreamed a dream that I was walking on a beach with you. You were invisible but I saw two sets of footprints in the sand. Now in my darkest hour I dreamed the dream again but there was only one set of footprints in the sand. Why have you abandoned me? Then God answered the person, "In your most difficult times, there was only one set of footprints because then I was carrying you." Lean on God and you will never fall.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)
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