The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Some days, I can't stand it...

Or as a friend says to me - some days are not worth chewing through the restraints.

So here are two pictures that are dwelling in my mind simultaneously:

-My brother-in-law’s church - (Stan - he’s the pastor) - needed $450,000 to fix the roof of their sanctuary; they are forbidden by City ordinance to use the church until the roof is repaired. So he shares that information with the congregation (250 souls) on a Sunday, hoping to get at least enough to start the job, and by the next Sunday, he has the entire amount. God’s blessing, no doubt.
-News stories about Hamas using women and children for human shields. Bastards.

In my mind I see the 450 thousandth dollar entering a collection plate, with the attendant feelings of thankfulness and awe, and then, simultaneously, bodies of children exploding.

Some days, I cannot deal with the dissonance. I can wrap myself in a pious, self-contained theological system, but only for so long, and then ‘reality’ sets in - real reality, not a mental construal of reality. Not a theory about ‘reality’.
Some days, I’d just as soon let it all fade to black. Just accept that we are like the ‘grass of the field’.
There are more eloquent ways of saying it -

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Well that is perhaps over-dramatic. I do know that love is not an illusion, nor is joy, nor is light. But the rest of that poem feels damned real to me.

I completely get that…it’s so hard to understand, and sometimes wonder if there maybe isn’t anything to understand.

i guess everyone has their own story. I can’t judge reality by someone else’s story, though i can affect it in a good way or a bad way.
i can only look to my story and see God working in strange and wondrous ways, but i have often raged at Him about situations happening to other people that seem to me to be unfair because of how blessed i am…

maybe one day we’ll get it?

Thanks James. I appreciate that.

Something about that story doesn’t make sense. $450,000 for a roof? This isn’t a mega church if only 250 people attend. I could see $100,000, maybe 200,000, but definitely not much more… Anyhow, I don’t see how these are related? Would you rather people drop out of church and have it fold? Buildings need maintenance, whether it is all up front or has a payment plan, the money is required and pretty much universal for all buildings.

He’s asking why it appears God provides for things like that, which TBH are not the end of the world…
but why not provide safety and help for those dying children.

i guess in the case of the church, people made the difference…maybe they were inspired by God.
in the case of the children, there are people working to try to bring peace there, or to rescue and save innocent people. maybe the ones that could really make the difference are not listening to the same God trying to inspire them to embrace peace rather than war…
i wonder though why God doesn’t sometimes shout a little louder.

Gabe - a couple of things.
Of course I am glad of the blessing of the roof money. And since you doubt the story, I guess? - the church is a ‘converted’ school building, the general assembly takes place in what was once a large gymnasium - and was bought on the cheap. At 250 members, hardly a mega-church.
So I hope that ‘adds up’ for you. If not, please contact the church:

James understood what I was trying to say. It’s the extreme dissonance. The whole world is a village now; at any given moment, it seems, there is a great good fortune befalling some, and great suffering and loss for others. Hardly a great insight, but upon occasion it gets on top of me.

So get this, Gabe - I’m not making a theological statement. Dig?

I see I seemed to strike a nerve and it wasn’t intentional. I misunderstood your post, I thought you were complaining how the money just ‘magically’ appeared for a new roof and how that kind of money doesn’t seem to get to other hands… Anyhow, I apologize for misunderstanding you.

I hear you, Dave. It’s so, so sad to think of things like this. I’m currently reading a book about modern slavery (Not For Sale), and if children being blown up bothers you, believe me, those are lucky kids comparatively. For them, it’s over quickly. This world is a hell if ever there was one – if not for us, then certainly for others.

And it’s not that people don’t care. But it’s easier to shell out for an expensive roof job than to figure out how to stop people from killing one another and from using one another and from devaluing one another . . . . Easier for us; easier for God, too. He’s been trying to get us to play nice with one another for, oh, who knows how long? Persuading the already committed to part with a few greenbacks (and $450K might buy the whole building here, but of course ya’ll are on the West Coast) is a far simpler matter than persuading crazed crazies that women and children are more important than their jihad, which they KNOW is going to bring in a golden age for Islam. To do THAT, I do think He would have to completely abrogate any freedom of choice that people like that might have yet developed. Even blowing a few missiles off course is pushing it, IMO. Why does Father intervene here and not there? We can only speculate, and sometimes it’s honestly very, very hard to come up with a believable scenario. I do trust Him though. I know our suffering (and theirs) here is nothing to an eternity of joy, and I BELIEVE that this is precisely what those dead have now entered into. Believing that, I can almost feel more sorry for the murderers, who undoubtedly have a MUCH longer road ahead.

Love you, Bro

Ah, Gabe, no problem. It’s pretty obvious I’m in a ditch right now and no doubt I took you wrong. My bad, and I apologize as well. I’m sorry.
Onward and upward…

Thanks Cindy - a timely word, much appreciated.

It’s hard for me right now to see the ‘long game’, but that’s the only way out the ditch, other than the horrible thought that G-D wills each act of evil for his own Glory. But I have put that thought away forever.
But what other answer, than the long game, is there? We could say that God is unable to stop atrocities (is that really an option? I don’t think so), or that free will (not that there is such a thing, really) as a (misused) gift, has to be honored, to which it can be replied that God should not have given that gift if he foreknew the trouble it would bring; and then we can ask - maybe He cannot foresee, or chose not to, or chose to limit his power - in which case we can ask - did He really gamble with the possibility of misery? And if He did, why not intervene now?

And so it goes - the age-old questions. The problem of Evil. It’s good, but hard, to remember that the questions come because of the way things ARE, not as a metaphysical exercise.

We confess and believe that God is Love, that He is good and wise, and all-powerful; I reckon we can use that belief as the boundary conditions of existence, and somehow fit all the supposedly ‘contrary’ facts into a comprehensive world-view. In fact, for sanity’s sake (I) we almost MUST do that. I think hope is a major component of faith. And, I don’t think we will be disappointed.

I agree, Dave, that it’s the long game we need to think on. But maybe the game just now SEEMS so very long because we think of it as a matter of tens of thousands of years of suffering. In a sense it is that, but on the other hand, for the six year old, if he suffers as some do, it’s six years of suffering. For his 28 year old mother who dies with him in her arms, it’s 28 years of suffering. For me, 54 years and counting, though certainly not as intense, and well-sprinkled with joy in the midst. But even if I lived a hundred years and suffered horribly every single day, what is that against an eternity of bliss? And if my character is improved so that I can be more of a blessing to others, by the suffering I’ve endured – if I can impart that to those who had only a few short months of “real world” experience somehow, so they don’t have to personally experience it – I think it’s worth it.

What if, in the ages to come, we’ll all share one another’s experiences? (I don’t think that’s far-fetched.) With one another’s memories open to us, we collectively have the experiences of all the children of our Father (up to and including Jesus Himself) to draw on and to KNOW, and to improve our own characters and our own love toward one another, how great and beautiful and glorious will we, all of us, be? How we will reveal the love of God in each of us to one another!

Love, Cindy

I like your far-fetched idea, and actually think it is a real very interesting possibility. :smiley:

It’s kind of an extension of Buber’s concept of ‘between’ - true humanity takes place ‘between human and human’ - not wholly in you or in me, but between us. He is of course talking in a specific way about Dialogue.

Extrapolating heavenward - I’m very proud of that phrase :smiley: - perhaps we have in store for us - a Universal Dialogue, maybe of ALL sentient beings? Dave has to think about that, but he is somewhat excited about it, and also is talking in the third person for some reason.

Thanks Cindy. :smiley:

Cindy sends you blessings and prayers to feel better and edified, and all things good, dear brother! :slight_smile:

Brother Dave,

I resonate with your perception. I’ve often said that the only real obstacle for theism is the problem of evil. But man is it a whopper! I like Eric Reitan’s view that healthy religion (and universalism) is seeking to explain the amazing existence of goodness in a sea of awfulness. It thus beomes a bet that the Ultimate Reality is Love which will triumph in the end. But it’s a gamble of faith precisely because life can appear so contrary to such a belief. Maybe it is a bet that I’m stubbornly willing to base my life on, partly because I share your recoiling reaction concerning the mysterious flourishing of evil and suffering, and because it so offends a sense of love’s nature deep within me, I find it is just too horrible to accept as any ultimate or final reality.

Thank you Bob. I hate to say it, but I agree with everything you said.
I hate to say it because, though I have left Calvinism behind me, there is still a systematic ‘bent’ in my way of approaching things. I like foundations - open to examination, on which to build a towering, non-assailable edifice, full of joy and hope.
Instead, the POE often makes it all seem like a house of cards built, to my GREAT chagrin, on belief. My belief. Risk. Leap of faith.

GMac’s dad told him that all a man can do is to choose to believe. I think that’s correct - though I’ve read a ton of apologetics, some of it very good - and I see and appreciate the internal consistency and mind/soul-satisfying concepts that make up the edifice - on a purely existential level (where we all live) we have to be able to ‘see’, by means of scripture, mainly, AND ‘taste’ the Love and Wisdom of God. Mainly, through other people.

I do try to understand the ‘whole’ through the biggest, kindest, most generous thoughts of which I am able. Good people such as yourself (and many others here) reinforce me in that ability.

Dave your a man with a deep heart where love dwells. In today’s overloaded news sick world it can be a real source of pain which I find makes me hardend to it all until someone like you chucks in a bit of reality to help me see. Bless you! Chris

Thanks Chris, blessings to you as well brother. :smiley:



I know I really don’t have much to offer here because I am only 19 and know nothing in life aside from what I believe is accurate from what I have read and been told. Little I have learned is true for Truth’s sake. But I will impart what I believe may be comforting.

“We are born in a condition of mortality.”, said Nick with indignation, “Thus sin is our strongest inclination and down we fall into the grave.”
“The grave where all humanity piles up reeks of corruption from sin.”, said Nick solemnly, “Thus sin bludgeons hope.”
“Christ came and conquered the grave.”, said Nick triumphantly, “Thus sin and death for all is defeated. Hope stands tall and Love begets love.”

Never forget that sin leads to death everywhere. You may not see the cemetery inside a church but you know of the faithful in Africa, a virus-prone cemetery (Satan’s geographic playground, dare I say.) Religion bellows in America but the Spirit convicts quietly in Africa where a man barely speaks. True faith is a heart-matter not a persuasion. What saves us all from our ungodly decay is trust in Jesus to save us from…us. God takes glory in saving His creatures from long-term harm and restoring all to Edenic beauty.

“Why doesn’t He save sooner?”, many philosophers ask angrily “What delays God’s grace? Tell us: Why does God gain glory from our suffering?”
“Is there redemption?”, asks the skeptical Christian. “Of course there is.”, the Atheist’s heart cries out, “There has to be for a poor lad like me.”
“Where is your faith, Christian?”, Jesus queries sardonically, “and where is your wisdom, Atheist, do you not have any?”.

Why do we question God when we should question ourselves? Yes, God is responsible for our mortal condition. He did let the raging devil loose. But we have a responsibility to use our ‘free-will’ for good in spite of sin. When you feel the urge to question God’s work, question your own.

The philosopher drowns for he unwittingly engages with the Infinite. Yet, the humble Christians knows redemption is as near as the Son.

(I, too, fall into splurges of 3rd person communication. I’m with you on that, Dave. :slight_smile:)

A couple of things that might encourage, Dave…the first has a language warning, as it’s from the Onion, the often hilarious and edgy satire news site. This is the first time they nearly moved me to tears, as i think they really GOT it.,222/

Also, have you read Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimon? Incidentally two of my favourite authors…so effortlessly do they weave narrative with humour and insight. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s something i found incredibly comforting. There is an image of God kicking round, that He plays some form of cosmic chess with the Devil for our souls and ultimate victory. This story plays with that, and then turns it on its head, where it emerges that really God is playing some form of solitaire, where He only knows the rules, and He sits there and won’t stop smiling.
Now, that could be creepy to someone who doesn’t know God…but to me, someone who has no choice to trust in the omnibenevolence as well as omnipotence of God…it is comforting…why else would the Lover of my soul (and all souls) smile, unless things were going to be ok in the end? He would be weeping if He didn’t have a plan (so i guess that somewhat proves the Onion wrong, though i think if God looks at us in our finite moments and feels our suffering on one level, there’s no contradiction that He also looks at the overall plan with satisfaction and joy. Even Christ, who’d know of His Father’s ultimate victory mourned in the moment over Jerusalem’s foreseen destruction and Lazarus’ death).

Anyway, i just found these explorations comforting, so i hope you do too.

Nick, thanks for pitching in with your thoughts. :smiley:

James - I have read novels by Neil Gaimon, but to my shame, I’ve never read Pratchett. I need to get on the ball, and that book sounds very intriguing.
I’m going to read that Onion article after I take care of a couple of things this morning. Thanks again for your encouragement my friend! It’s appreciated.