Sunday, April 10, 2005

God only knows

Great news. Jane Wilson is going to be okay.
That’s newly discovered Jane Wilson – not me, old Jane Wilson. I’m talking about the Jane Wilson who was going through a spookily similar mammogram situation as I, the Jane Wilson who wrote about it in the Globe and Mail, experienced.
She wrote back to me as promised and let me know that the 3 cysts that had caused concern were simply that – cysts – and that no further intervention or treatment would be necessary. She added that as she was soon to be married to a wonderful man whose wife had died of breast cancer some years ago, perhaps I could understand how deeply stressful the entire episode would have been. I could. I can. I’m so very pleased.
Interestingly, Jane Wilson didn’t mention prayer as one of the coping mechanisms she applied whilst waiting for potentially devastating news. I didn’t choose that intervention – or rather, appeal for intervention – either; it occurred to me that God had better things to do than function as a talisman, or imaginary amulet against disaster. I felt that if I stuck in my prayer like a token into a slot machine, I’d be treating God more like a one-armed bandit than the Creator of the universe.
Besides, it’s been a busy time for God of late – weddings, funerals… emergency congressional debates.
It’s not awards season mind you (the attention to insignificant detail inherent in following the marathon praying for prizes that begins with a variety of musical awards shows, before spreading like an unslightly rash to encompass Tonys, Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars must be exhausting) but with the high profile individuals involved in the past few week’s events, one pictures the Almighty barely having time to bless Himself for sneezing, in between cursing Himself for having invented human beings in the first place.
After all, if you were an all-seeing, all-knowing entity with absolute power and the discretion to perform miracles at whim, tempered only by the multi-tasking curse of acknowledging every sparrow’s fall, wouldn’t the vagaries and venality of this particular species have you nearly apoplectic with frustration and rage every time they called you in to comment?
(I imagine an annoyance similar to a parent’s when summoned for the umpteenth time to referee teenage arguments: finally, with slit eyes and locked-jawed fury, demanding the miscreants police themselves. Even then – as any parent or universally worshipped free will-granting Deity can attest – you still have to listen to them fight it out.)
And fighting is something God is supposed to know quite a good deal about, claimed by each side as He is in every conflagration since time immemorial – and not just in actual war, but in acrimonious public discourse over the right to die, the right to marry, even the right to be the one who says what it is God means.
Is this who God really is? An entity with such serious self esteem issues He requires endless obeisance and thanks? A God who creates humans, but according to the bible, begins by making them feel really, really bad? And chooses one of the two sexes he creates to be at the cause and the root of all that is evil? A God who causes suffering untempered by mercy or understanding?
The God of the Christian right and fundamentalist Muslim and any of the vast panoply of questionable organizations claiming insider knowledge on what God thinks and means and wants, sounds like the kind of character you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, let alone a church or mosque or synagogue. He sounds like the kind of guy who if He were your boss would be roundly despised for His egomaniacal pronouncements, His obsessive attention to insignificant detail and His insecure need to have everyone love and approve of Him at all costs and at all times… or you’d better get ready to suffer His unspeakable wrath.
I mean, when would you – let alone God – even get any work done?
And this God – or rather this vision of God gaining popularity and momentum south of the border and east of the west – is described as such a hateful creator! Condemning this, smiting that – passing judgment and poking His nose into the bedrooms and business and personal decisions of otherwise law-abiding citizens like an other-worldly Gladys Kravitz on steroids.
It’s been said He created us all in His own image, but if so, according to those currently in the know, He clearly made a lot of mistakes – making some of female (complete with delusions of equality) some of us gay… made some of us not even in believe in Him. And if He gave us free will, why is He always directing His minions and Mullahs to snatch it away from us as quickly as we choose it?
Only the most mean spirited God would promise free will, but threaten eternity in Hell if we were to exercise it.
And why does He spend so much time answering the prayers of the high profile? One figures having maneuvered George Bush into the office of President of the United States (as the President himself suggests) he wouldn’t need to spend so much time following the plans of the leader of the free world, He’d be in Africa answering the prayers of infants with AIDS and their equally fatally infected mothers. Feeding the hungry. Succoring the sick. Comforting the crippled. In the North American version he only loves Christians. In the Middle East, he pretty much universally favours men. Around the world he despises and loathes people born looking like the rest of us save one small detail: the fact that they love their own gender.
If he were to look like your current typical powerful North American pontificator, he’d be wearing a plaid jacket and reading the sports results on network television, with the puffy red nose and smooth, short hat-styled haircut so beloved by Republicans and conventioneers alike. One gets the impression He’d look a lot like Tom Delay.
The problem is, some of the most recent visionaries seem to think God was created in man's image, and not the reverse.
Here’s what I think. I think we were created by a power we cannot possibly imagine or define. An entity whose greatest gift to us after life itself was free will and perhaps just the tiniest nudge toward goodness rather than badness. After that, I think He pretty much lit out, allowing us to succeed or fail, love or hate, help or hurt, create or destroy. I’m not saying He isn’t interested and doesn’t check in, but honestly, what kind of God who deserved to be worshiped would waste one red hot second disapproving of gay marriage, when he could be saving the lives of innocents in danger, fear or pain? It just doesn’t make sense.
It’s a strange time we live in. When I was growing up, going to church sort of went out of fashion and nobody worried overmuch about agnosticism or even full blown atheism. Moral certitude was on the wane, but personal responsibility was on the rise. It seemed like evolution went beyond standing upright and losing our natural fur coats – evolution of spiritual belief meant people deciding what they believed on their own, not needing to disapprove of others if they felt or believed differently.
Now we’re back to that old-time religion: the kind that defines itself more by what it hates than what it loves… the kind that relishes pointing out the transgressions of others and takes an unwholesome interest in meting out punishment. It’s the kind of belief system that doesn’t wait for God to do the final judging, but wades right in, rolls up its sleeves and goes all sorts of Holy Roller on the asses of non-compliers.
I’ve decided I’m not going to waste one more moment of God’s time or my own asking for assistance, aid, approval or advice. I’m going to remove my voice from the unholy noise demanding God smite a homosexual, provide me with the winning lottery numbers, or bestow upon me better hair. I’m happy to let him know I appreciate the beauty of the world, the hope that remains even in the toughest times and the divine spark I believe exists in all of us. I’d also thank him for creating humans who had it within them to choose a system to elect their public servants that allows them to un-elect them at regular intervals.
I won’t thank him for allowing other Jane Wilson to carry on cancer-free, because I don’t believe he had anything to do with it.
But I bet he’s pleased.

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