Sunday, December 30, 2012
Forgive Me Father
We read the heartbreaking and maddening stories all the time: kids horribly treated by their parents, or caregivers. (One just happened here, matter of fact, leading to a thirty-year sentence). Tortured, beaten, starved, chained, locked in tiny rooms. And we know that in many, maybe most or all cases, the children still try to love their abusers, feel it's their fault; if they just try harder, the abuse will stop. The parent loves them, and this is how they show it. I deserve it, the kid thinks. I must do better.
When it's discovered, we grab the kids out of their homes, remove the abusers from society, and try to love the kids, tell them it's not them. It's their daddy. He's the bad person, and we'll keep you safe from him, we'll make him go away.
When mass murders occur, when kids are killed wantonly or accidentally or die slowly from a horrible disease, what do we do? Prayer circles. Our president shows up to pray with the grieving. We ask god's mercy and reaffirm our love for him and that we know he loves us. We pray to the one who, any way you look at Christian doctrine (fundamentalist, at least), allowed it to happen, caused it to happen, and ask for his blessing. We abnegate ourselves in favor of our abuser.
We're exactly like those poor abused kids, except there's no one there to save us from the abuser, to take us out of his house. We rationalize, we bend ourselves in knots trying to reconcile the notion of a loving and powerful and knowing god with what we observe of the world. We have scholars and theologists who come up with explanations, like relatives who lie to the cops about the whereabouts of a murderer on the run. No matter the horror, we continue to believe god loves us, that it's somehow our own fault.
I've said, and I guess sometimes I actually believe it, that I wish I could believe in god. How much easier would life be with non-answers to everything? But, more and more, even as I get closer and closer to nonexistence (in many ways I'm already there), the less I think that. I suppose I can't say with absolute certainty that there's no god; but I know, without any hesitation at all nor second-guessing, that if there is, he/she/they/it is nothing like the Mike Huckabee/Pat Robertson/Billy Graham/Rick Santorum/TV preacher Christian view. You can dance a dozen theologists on the head of a pin, and none of them can reconcile reality with belief in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful god.
If I don't especially relish the idea of being infinitely dead (my rationalization is that I've already been that way, before I was born, and it must have been okay; survived it once, can do so again), I'm okay with not needing to invent a bunch of mythology, or to believe a bunch of self-contradictory and logically incompatible notions of a supreme being. I feel no less bad after the Connecticut murders than anyone else; but at least I don't have the added misery of trying to make it fit into an impossible god-centered world-view.
I know and accept that, for many, religion is a meaningful way through life; that for them it's about generosity and caring for one's fellow men and women, and a source of strength in times of need. I've seen it in patients, gravely ill, and their families, and I've been glad for it, for them and for me as a caregiver. I have religious friends whom I respect and admire, who are undoubtedly better people than I am. But the knowledge that as I write this, on the Sunday after, people are gathering in churches to pray to their god, praising him, asking him to bless the grieving Connecticut families now, when he didn't then, makes me nearly physically ill, in the same way it does when I think about those kids in homes where they suffer daily abuse and, because they know no better, seem to ask for more.