This reflection of mine will not dwell on the coronavirus – though my thoughts were sparked by a sermon on the pandemic by a Pentecostal preacher I watched on TV. Thumping the pulpit he shouted: “You ask why? Why indeed! God is chastising us for our sins! Don’t we read in Genesis 6,5 that God sent the Deluge because ‘the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become’?!”
Most Christians I am sure will reject this image of the Tyrant God, the difficult-to-please Disciplinarian, the all-seeing Eye, the strict Master who expects perfection from everyone and unleashes disaster to punish us. But is the Testing God much better? He allowed Job to endure crippling hardships, including the death of all his children and grandchildren. He inflicts pain and suffering on people to give them a chance to gain merit, as the apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, believed. Or what about the Partisan God, the God who spares us if we know how to invoke his/her pity, if we plead with tears in our eyes?
It reminds me of a college student I knew whose father died of cancer in his forties. “I begged God”, she told me. “I spent hours in church on bare knees. I cried. I implored God to save my dad, for the sake of mum and my four brothers and sisters. No use. He is dead.”
And then she added. “I will never go to church again.”
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With thanks to The Tablet, where this article originally appeared.