Like many, I’m sure, I was deeply affected by the atrocities inflicted on the people of Paris on Friday evening. We must stand shoulder to shoulder if we are to preserve our belief in the importance of liberal democracies. By granting and preserving the right for people to hold divergent views, to live differing lives and to enjoy freedom of expression, we take a risk, but we also provide an environment conducive to human flourishing. I for one believe this is worth preserving.
Atrocities like these are a challenge for people and communities of faith, how and why does God allow this to happen? There are many who stumble at this point and loose their faith. I have to admit, on Saturday morning, I, like many, had a few questions for God. Yet, God, as so often happens, reached out to me in the form of an article I began reading on Saturday afternoon. Taken from last Fridays edition of The Tablet, written by Camody Gray, a doctoral student in theology at Bristol. Camody is talking about the presence of evil and I think what she has to say is worth repeating – it certainly helped me:
” ‘The problem of evil’ is poorly named. It is not so much ‘a problem’ as a total and all encompassing void of comprehension.
Christianity takes an unusual line among work religions…by and large (Others ed) attempts to explain the existence of evil: it is for our testing; for punishment… Catholic tradition defines it as a privation of the good, a parasite on being, a distortion, not a thing in itself.
There is no symmetry, no parity between good and evil…It is a form of insistence that there is no explanation for evil… Christianity sanctifies indignation. It mandates an attitude of permanent protest. Evil is not what God wants; God works always and everywhere against it, evil has no part at all, because it has no part in the good, in God, in God’s future; it was not designed, not ‘planned into’ reality. This is an outrage, an affront, and God will not have it. This is not to deny the mystery of redemptive suffering, God in Christ has shared our darkness and transformed it utterly…it is simply to say there is to be no explaining, no justifying. The cross of Jesus is not an explanation it is a victory.
Joshua Heschel said that there are moments in history when anger alone can conquer evil and God is angry.”
The Tablet 14 November 2015 page 5
Amen to that, I can get my head round an angry God, evil is an affront to everything He has created, it is not part of creation and there are NEVER any excuses for it. It must be shown for what it is; we must never provide opportunities for people to avoid responsibility for the choices they make.
If you are struggling to make sense of what is going on in the Middle East then you are not alone. I am not normally a fan of the Daily Mail, but a letter in there was recently circulated on social media. It goes like this:
“Clear as mud. Are you confused by what is going on in the Middle-East? Let me explain. We support the Iraqi gov’t in it’s fight against Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS). We don’t like IS but IS is supported by Saudi Arabia whom we do like. We don’t like President Assad in Syria. We support the fight against him, but not IS, which is also fighting against him.
We don’t like Iran, but the Iranian government supports the Iraqi gov’t against IS. So, some of our friends support our enemies and some of our enemies are our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting our other enemies, whom we don’t want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.
If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they might be replaced by people we like even less. And, all this was started by us invading a country to drive out terrorists who weren’t actually there until we went in to drive them out – do you understand now?”
Aubrey Bailey, Fleet, Hants
There is a touch of flippancy and humour in the above letter but also much truth. Not least that some of the actions of the West have helped to radicalise terrorists who are now doing their worst on the streets of the world. Not least in Paris, just over a two hour train ride form London.
We live in dark and troubling times. We must talk with our enemies and we must pray. An endless cycle of tit-for-tat violence inflicted on each other’s lands and families will achieve nothing but endless bloodshed and tears.
There is seemingly very little to cling onto at times. But we can, just, cling onto our faith. Cling onto the Love of God in Christ Jesus that reminds us at all times: