“Perfect teeth, nice smell. A class act all the way.”

Allison’s visitation was on Friday. Many visitors filed past pictures of her and a student-made banner with her own senior quote, and expressed their condolences to her family and did their best to comfort one another. Afterwards some of us went to her favorite bar, where a framed picture sat on a countertop, flanked by two candles and her favorite drink, and we toasted her memory.

The funeral service was on Saturday. There was a half-hour slideshow of photos of her with her family and friends at various stages in her life. There were hymns, songs, prayers, readings, solos, and three very touching speeches of remembrance. I think she would have appreciated all of it.

I was bothered by part of the pastor’s message. At one point the pastor said that he hated to hear people say, in response to the sudden death of a relatively young person, that God needed another angel, and needed her more than we did. He hated to hear that because only a mean God would do that, and that’s not the God he wanted to serve.

I fail to see why such a motivation would make God “mean.” Maybe I’m missing something. But if you assume the existence of God (as pastors normally do), you’re talking about someone Whose judgement and wisdom are infinitely greater than yours. It’s part of the job description. If He “needs” (since that’s the term we’re using here) an angel, if He needs something or someone more than you do, it seems that you must trust His judgement. You can mourn, and you can grieve, and you can seek comfort and solace, but you must trust His judgement. If that’s mean, it’s no more mean than a parent making a child eat dinner before dessert or brush his teeth or get vaccinated against measles. It’s mean only in an infantile, totally undiscerning sense.

I don’t claim to know what larger purpose Allison’s death serves. But if you believe in the omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent God of the Good Book, you’ve got no business judging His motives. She now serves a purpose far greater than any we could muster. If you’re a praying person, then pray you’ll do the same.

If I have committed any heresy here, I apologize. Eve made me do it.

7 comments

  1. At risk of starting an ideological and religious debate, and of offending someone (although I hope I avoid that), the god in the old testament is far from benevolent and nurturing. I’m sure that the pastor was simply attempting to divert any anger that religious folk might feel toward a god that would take away their beloved friend.

    That being said, I understand why his sentiment wouldn’t be favored so highly from the religious who hold strongly to their convictions, like yourself, and I’m sure many others. I just think he was attempting not to lose followers due to their grief and their blame of loss on God, which happens often.

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  2. I suppose benevolence is a matter of perspective. O.T. God wasn’t very nice to serpents who sucker people into eating the tricky fruit, or people who kill their brothers and hope the omniscient guy won’t find out, or morons who look back at Sodom despite specifically being told they’d get turned to salt for doing so. He’s even kind of tough on His own people. Look at Job and all the crap the Jews were put through.

    Let’s say you believe in God, even the God of the Old Testament. Benevolence and goodness are not standards he has to live up to. If He’s God, He invented them. Doesn’t He get to define these terms, even if we don’t like it?

    With that in mind, revisit the parent-child analogy: when your parents sent you to bed without dessert because you kept shoving green beans up your baby brother’s nose, weren’t they being benevolent, even if you didn’t get it?

    (By the way, I never thought New Testament God was all that different from Old Testament God. Look what His own kid went through.)

    I think the guy was simply trying to sound a bit contrarian to grab people’s attention, and in doing so he said something dumb. My convictions have nothing to do with it, unless you want to call “expecting better logic and rhetoric from people” a conviction.

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  3. You may very well be right. I just thought I’d put in an optimistic interpretation.

    It’s very tempting to discuss religion further, but I think I’ll resist for the sake of sparing your blog the turmoil that would inevitably follow.

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