Why is it that so many of us look to assign blame when the shit hits the fan? Everything has to be somebody’s fault: our boss, our parents, our sibling, our spouse, the yahoo down the street, politicians, the media, God. Tragedy is part of life. It happens every day. Sometimes there’s an obvious villain to blame, but often there is not. Fault cannot always be assigned. There’s no simple answer and sometimes no answer at all. But, because we are hurt and angry we demand accountability from someone — anyone. Somebody has to pay the price for inflicting pain on us!
Our current global tragedy is the Coronavirus, but there have been myriad natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, economic setbacks, accidents, health crises, and crimes throughout history. Tragedy has touched each of us personally but differently. Some of us have been affected only tangentially, but others have been walloped.
A couple weeks ago, a vicious tornado devastated Nashville, a city I called home for four years. It killed two dozen people, injured hundreds more, obliterated homes and businesses, and left behind a pall of fear, anger, and sadness. Witnessing this widespread destruction and swell of emotion prompted a five-year old girl to ask her parents, “Why does God make tornadoes?” Great question young lady!
Her dad, a dear friend of mine, is a smart, intuitive, gifted pastor who counsels people every day. That’s his job. But his daughter’s question caused him to pause because tragedy often provokes unanswerable questions. Why did it happen? What did I do to deserve this? Why would God do something like this? There has to be a reason!
No, actually there doesn’t. I’m no theologian. I don’t even go to church. But, I don’t believe in any way, shape, or form that God uses tragedy to punish or teach us a lesson. He doesn’t make tornadoes. Atmospheric conditions do. He doesn’t give people cancer. Immune systems break down. He doesn’t kill people in car accidents. Drunk or distracted drivers do that. He didn’t create the coronavirus. It’s a scientific anomaly. Shit just happens. Period.
I don’t believe God says to himself, “Okay, Joe hasn’t been going to church so I’m going to hit him with a stroke to get his attention.” That’s ludicrous. Why would God want to enact vengeance on any one of us? I’ve always cringed when I hear someone use the phrase “God-fearing people.” That’s really an oxymoron. We shouldn’t fear God. God is about love, compassion, and mercy, not fear and punishment. He’s got plenty to do without micromanaging our lives and deciding how best to hurt us.
Could He have initiated a pandemic to enact a world-wide course correction and get us back on track? Sure, that’s entirely possible. But, I just don’t think that’s the way God works. That’s my opinion. You can disagree. However, when it comes to God, much is simply unknowable and so we are left to our own individual interpretations.
Author/Presbyterian Minister Carol Howard Merritt sees it this way: “We thought that God was the force behind the harm instead of realizing that God was being wounded alongside us. God’s part (is) suffering in solidarity with us. Now, God loves us, weeps for us, and longs for us to heal.”
Is it “normal” to blame God for misfortune and to be angry at Him in the face of tragedy or loss? Absolutely. I don’t think He minds one bit if we holler, stomp our feet, curse, or do whatever we have to do to vent. He can take it. He understands. “God can bear our questions and rage and doesn’t turn away in either fear or disgust,” writes author Dan Allender, who is a theologian. “Rather he moves toward us, without overtaking us or intruding, and offers a kindness that signs life to our heart.”
So, let’s not blame God for the coronavirus or tornadoes or cancer or traffic accidents. I certainly don’t pretend to understand the mysteries of life and why things happen the way they do. That’s above my paygrade. But, I do know it does no good to assign blame. Instead, let’s practice kindness, empathy, compassion, mercy, and love. Let’s look out for one another and seek solutions rather than recompense.