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God Killed Our Baby: Isn’t God Awesome?

romans 8 28

Evangelical Christians believe that their God is the giver and taker of life and that he controls the universe. As the old song goes, he’s got the whole world in his hands. Everything that happens in their lives  is according to the purpose and plan of their God. When tragedy comes their way, they turn to prayer and the Bible to find hope and comfort. The Bible says in Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

and in I Corinthians 10:12,13:

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

According to the Bible, everything that happens in the Evangelicals’ lives is for their good and God will not  create any burden in their life without making  a way for them to bear it.

The Bible says in Hebrews 13:5:

…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

and in  Matthew 28:20:

…lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

and in Psalm 37:25

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

According to the Bible, God/Jesus promises to always be with the Evangelical, even to the end of the world. He promises to never forsake them. No matter what, God will always be there for them.

It is important to understand what I have written above in order to make any sense of what I am about to write next. Jason Williams is the assistant pastor of High Street Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. (See church’s blog here.) High Street is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church that was once pastored by one of the most hardcore IFB pastors I ever met, Charles Mainous.

A year or so ago, Williams and his wife lost their unborn child. Williams wrote a post for the Old Path’s Journal about the loss of his child. He wrote (page no longer active):

How many of you have been in a relationship and lost someone you love? Maybe it was because of a break up and you are hurting badly and feel rejected. Maybe you even lost someone dear to you because of death. If so, then perhaps you are like me and you are asking God, “Why did you take this person from me?”…

…It was during this very difficult time in my life when I was asking God why He took my child, that He showed me Psalm 61. Psalm 61 is a Psalm of healing. It details all the things that God gives us. As I read this chapter, it was as if God was saying to me. “Yes, I did take your baby, but look at all of the things that I have given you.”…

…Your loss is a gift from God! He looked down from Heaven and deemed you worthy to glorify Him! What a gift! To think that God would think I am worthy to praise Him blows my mind! I am just a sinner, but He looked past my sin and gave me a trial so that I can stand in front of others and tell them that He is good!

Because God took our baby, I have been able to stand in front of our church and praise Him! So many people came to me afterwards and told me that the testimony made them realize just how good God is! That night a politician texted me and told me our testimony caused his faith in God to grow! What a gift God gave me! The chance to glorify Him!…

Williams believes that God killing his baby was good for him and his wife, and that God used the death of their baby to advance his purpose. Through the death of their child, other people can see how GOOD, how AWESOME, God is! Only those indoctrinated in the Evangelical worldview could ever take the tragic death of a baby and turn it into an awesome event. Since God is good and only does what is good for the Evangelical, whatever happens in the Evangelical’s life is g-o-o-d. This kind of thinking forces the Evangelical to accept a warped view of the world, a view that has no place for bad things to happen.

Now, an Evangelical might object and say, bad things do happen, but God turns them into good. This is nothing more than semantics. Since the Evangelical must never call a good work of God bad, how can anything REALLY be bad? No matter what happens, God will turn it into good and Evangelicals must never, ever forget that God is always good and only does that which is good for them. Over and over they are told this, so when bad things happen in their  lives, they dismiss, discount, and reject how they really think and feel about the tragedy or circumstance they are going through. They are never permitted to say, what has happened to me is bad and nothing good can come from it.

Ten years ago, my sister-in-law was killed in a motorcycle accident. I vividly remember how Polly’s Evangelical family went through the mental gymnastics necessary to turn Kathy’s death into good. During the invitation at her funeral, a person raised their hand and said that God had saved  him. Polly’s family thought, If one soul gets saved then Kathy’s death was worth it. At the time, I was still a Christian, but I made it very clear that I didn’t accept such thinking. I told them If I was asked to choose between the life of my sister-in-law and a soul getting saved, the whole world could go to hell. Nothing good has come from Kathy’s death. Polly lost her only sister, Polly’s parents lost a daughter, and she left behind a husband, children, and grandchildren who love her and miss her.

Look, I understand why people like the Williamses, Polly’s family, and many Evangelicals think like this. Bound by their literal interpretation of the Bible, they are forced to embrace a way of looking at life that is a complete denial of how life REALLY is. If thinking like this helps them to find peace and sleep through the night, then who am I to object, right? Fine, but they should not expect people like me to think the same way. I subscribe to the ‘you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse’ way of looking at life. I am a realist who tries to see the world as it is. This forces me to see that bad things do happen, things that lack any sort of goodness. Of course, seeing the world this way is part of the reason I am an atheist.

I want nothing to with a God who afflicts (tortures?) people so he can teach them a lesson, punish them for sin, or remind them of what an awesome God he is. Such a God is a psychopath  who derives pleasure from the suffering of others, a God who delights in tormenting and killing people. If such a person were my neighbor, I would quickly decide to move somewhere else.

Some Evangelicals think my refusal to accept that God is working all things for my good, in light of my pain and suffering, has turned me into a person who hates God. If such a God exists, then YES, I hate him. If the pervasive pain I have every day of my life is God teaching me a lesson then YES, I hate my tormentor. No decent human beings would treat someone they love this way, yet I am expected to believe that I am in pain tonight because God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life? Not a chance.

Yes, my pain and suffering informs and powers my writing. I doubt I could be the writer I am today without it. But, if you asked me to choose between being a writer and having a life free of the debilitating pain I am in, I would gladly not write another word. The only way for me to come to terms with where I am in my life is for me to realize that shit happens. Due to genetics, choices I have made, choices others have made, environmental exposure, and luck, my life is what it is. I accept my life as it is. If Polly and I were in the Williamses shoes, we would surely grieve as they have. However, we would not cling to the notion that God killing our child was somehow for our good. Instead, we would recognize that some babies die in the womb. Death is the one constant in our world. Every day, people die. When my sister-in-law died, she died because she was at the wrong place at the wrong time. When the woman in front of the motorcycle made a quick u-turn, there was no way to avoid hitting her.  Just like that, Kathy was thrown from the motorcycle, struck her head  on the pavement, and she was dead. I can still remember the anguish in my mother-in-law’s cries as she got the news while at our house on Memorial Day. Just like that, everything changed.

This is the reality of life. I understand why people use religion to escape this reality, but I cannot do so.  Bad things happen, and all the prayers and all the religious-speak in the world won’t change this fact. How about you? As a former Christian, how do you now view and understand the world and the bad things that happen? Do you ever wish you still had God and faith to hold on to when bad things happen?  If you are a Christian, how do you deal with the bad things that happen in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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13 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Geoff

    I find it very hard to understand even the most hardcore evangelical’s ability to reconcile god’s will with the Nazi holocaust. Six million Jews exterminated, countless others tortured and maimed, and that’s god’s will! Please?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      As a pastor, I always gave God a pass. Since God could only be righteous, holy, and good, evil was ascribed to Satan and humans. Where this logic falls apart is when you try to square with the sovereignty of God, that God is the first cause of everything. I think this is an insurmountable problem. The best a Christian can to is say, God’s way is not our way. What appears as evil is just us not knowing all the facts. For the Christian everything is ultimately reduced to faith. *sigh*

  2. Avatar
    Lynn123

    I think of it now as Christians think we’re in a little play, and way up above is the puppeteer moving the little people around and having things happen to them. The puppeteer is closely watching and maneuvering the little people and happenings, and it’s all part of the huge play. Christians think the puppeteer cares for them as much as they care for themselves.

    If the puppeteer arranges things constantly for the Christians’ good, then I guess he’s just using the non-Christians to that end. It’s the Christian’s life that matters, not the non-Christian’s.

    When our 7-month-old daughter died, I was still a Christian and wondered why this happened. I joined a bereavement group and heard a lot of sad stories. I heard a speaker tell about his daughter being killed in a car accident, and he said, “Some would say that she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” But then he went on to say there was a greater plan, a greater meaning. In other words, none of us want to think that our child’s death was just something that happened; we, instead, want to think that they were an important player in the grand scheme, and that there is a meaning in it all. Why? Because they were so important to us, we think they must have been important to God also.

    Now, I think the world makes more sense with the “they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” I doubt there’s anybody up there caring deeply for us or those we care about. Look around-I don’t see evidence that there’s a God up there doing anything. As you’ve said, Bruce, we want to think we’re important, that we matter. Of course we matter to a certain number of people while we’re here, but in the grand scheme of things, we are extremely unimportant.

    I don’t wish that I still had God and faith because all that got me was confusion constantly. Now it’s enough for me that my family loves me, and I know I matter greatly to them. Now THAT makes sense.

  3. Avatar
    Melody

    “According to the Bible, everything that happens in the Evangelical’s life is for their good and God will not let anything happen in their life that he will not make a way for them to bear it.”

    Because of a suicide in our family (an uncle) as well as people battling depression or suicidal thoughts, I’ve found this to be such a horrible idea. If God gives us bearable things, no Christian should ever commit suicide, but we all know this isn’t true. Whenever I heard some testimony of someone almost commiting suicide but them then finding God instead, I would cringe. I’d be happy for that person, but God hadn’t stopped our family member. The rationale for this was that God only saves the lost so they don’t go to hell: so basically christians about to commit suicide are not stopped, but heathens still saveable are?! That made me pretty angry!

    When I was a young girl, my mother sometimes talked about commiting suicide and it made me feel very unsafe and scared. When my niece told me one day that all suicides went to hell, I became even more frightened. Not only might God not prevent her commiting suicide, but he might also sent her to hell just because she found life to be so hard. I had a hard time liking that God, but I definitely feared him. I immediately asked my dad about it and he said that no christian would ever end up in hell, not even for sins they couldn’t repent of, such as suicide. I needed to believe that so badly, but I couldn’t forget my niece’s words either. Who was right? I didn’t know for sure….

    Matthew 28:20 was one of my favorite verses. At least, God was always with me. I liked psalm 139 for the same reason. However, I did have a love-hate relationship with the latter because I felt that God often hadn’t protected me from harm. What’s the point of God seeing you, even in womb, but not helping you when you actually need him? And if he doesn’t help you, does that mean you are not worthy of his help? All these ideas, justifications, and (non)explanations just increase the pain that is already present.

  4. Avatar
    Brian

    Pain is so hard. When I ask the pain the lessen for a moment, I am pleading with the pain. Sometimes my dog sidles up to me and thinks perhaps that I am begging him. He comes close and hangs around, a bit nearer. It is a glory to be cared for in life and to care. Life matters better when it can be shared, if desired. Death is so not the point.
    We know we are talking to ourselves when we are fed up with some situation and say something like, “Oh, please stop!” That’s jim dandy and the challenge as I know it, has to do with being kind enough to ourselves rather than maintaining the old teachings about original badness, fallen humanity…. It is not a fault to hurt or feel down. Propaganda endures! It was/is drilled into us and comes up unbidden in little Sunday School songs. I change the lyric sometimes: red and yellow black and white all are fodder in His sight… I am talking to myself, singing to the me. When I wake out of the moment and realize I am a legend in my own living room, I of course get very humble, quiet (and crank up Annie Lennox.)

  5. Avatar
    Jerri

    I was 25 when my mother had a massive stroke. (I’m 48 now.) I’d already started on my deconversion journey. (I finished it last summer. It took me a long time.) Mom was in the hospital for months and spent some of that time in a coma, then brain surgery, rehab, etc. Hordes of her church people gathered at the hospital at various times. They knew I wasn’t in church at the time so they used their energy to try to convince me that “God’s hand was working here” and it wasn’t difficult to figure out that perhaps Mom’s stroke was God way of saying I should be in church. My dad lost his job as a truck driver as he still had 2 children at home and couldn’t go on the road like he’d been doing. They lost their house. Mom is still completely paralyzed on the left side, she has had lots of complications and surgeries since then. She doesn’t know why God has not chosen to heal her yet. She gets angry and frustrated about her severe limitations – but not to God, just her family. She just *knows* God’s got a plan. (I don’t believe ANY of those things. And it’s annoying to hear them, but at least I can walk away from her now when I’ve had my fill. Sorry if that sounds cold, but my mom was really, really tough on me growing up. And we live in the same town and I do a lot for her still, so me walking away every once in a while is not as bad as it might sound.)

    • Avatar
      Brian

      Dear Jerri. I am glad that you have been able to be honest, to love and be honest in your life. And I am so sorry that your church people don’t get it. They are unable to simply love and let people be…. you have to be brought back into their fold. Well, we won’t be folded anymore. I wish you peace and that your mom gets better instead of worse. My parents are both losing much as they both have achieved their 90’s! My mom still makes cutting little comments about my ‘rebellion’. I tell her that ended a long time ago, that I am not rebelling at all, that I disagree. She does not understand the word.

      • Avatar
        Jerri

        Thanks, Brian. I’m sorry about your pain. It sounds like you’ve come up with some creative ways to deal with it. Perhaps I should follow your lead and address my pain and anxiety directly and out loud. It might be therapeutic to tell it to f*** off. And give your pooch a scratch behind the ear for me. Doggies rock.

  6. Avatar
    Ahab

    I’m reminded of my Catholic upbringing, in which suffering was glorified as a tool for getting closer to God. I vividly remember books about the martyrs showing ecstatic men and women being executed for their faith — as if executing innocent people was a glorious part of God’s plan and not an atrocity. Looking back on those days, I feel sick.

    There is nothing spiritually redemptive about suffering. It only brings trauma.

  7. Avatar
    Jim

    I am still a Christian, but I am SERIOUSLY doubting how God can be remotely what He says He is in the Bible, given what I have experienced on earth, EVEN as I am doing His SPECIFIC WILL!! Lying is a sin, so I didn’t lie at work, and now I am 2 years out of work, and running on empty money-wise. Had I lied, I would be in fine fettle in all ways, with the exception of not “sinning.” Tell me how following His will is better, please? Shall I go to Hell for being imperfect, and/or because I cannot afford to be “holy” and unemployed at the same time?!!? Surely, no one, even under God’s reign should expect their life to be perfect, but should a good Christian not be able to expect AT LEAST not to be fired for NOT lying?!! Answer, NOPE! I will never leave you nor forsake you must have a HUGELY different meaning to God than it has for me, as losing one’s job, soon one’s house, soon the ability to buy food for one’s family are SURELY examples of being left and forsaken.

  8. Avatar
    Beth Beyke

    Yes,I actually hate God,he killed my 11 yr old grand-daughter, she died of melanoma cancer, she had when she was 5, died on 9-11-201 at age 11, I imagine he died this because of sins we committed, so he used her to make us suffer, and if this so called great God made he’ll, he sure has a evil mind!

    • Avatar
      Geoff

      How very sad Beth, that’s a terrible loss. I’m not sure where you stand as regards belief in God, but you may find it easier to come to terms with your situation if you cast from your mind the idea that there actually is a god controlling these events. Things become clearer when you realise there is no God.

  9. Avatar
    Cob

    How do I understand the world and the bad things that happen?
    I guess I would say that I see the world now as a place where a great deal of bad things are avoidable, that there is no driving force behind the evil in this world but cause and effect, and I and everyone in my first world existence benefits in ways they cannot begin to even imagine by this type of thinking. I’m alive today because someone discovered penicillin in 1942 that saved my dad’s life as a toddler, I’m alive today because of the motorcycle helmet that saved my life twenty years ago (and the law that forced me to wear it against my will,) In China, where my brother lives there are twenty times more traffic fatalities than here, twenty times more of those avoidable tragedies in China. How short-sighted and idiotic is it to think that not wearing yoga pants is an act of goodness,while not believing that creating the small pox vaccine, which irradicated a disease which killed 500 million people in the twentieth century alone, is a ethically good thing? Our definition of goodness is not only far too small, but grotesquely warped. Due a mindset of people far more visionary than I, I have been spared a world of shit, so much so that it’s been 30 years since I lost a dearly loved one.
    At the same time I have suffered intensely over a lot of bullshit, because I held a mindset that there’d a deeper meaning behind things. I’ve suffered countless hours being depressed over things because of a warped and un-proportionate view of life, a view that had little to do with reality.
    I think the unavoidable tragedies in life are bad enough, there’s no need to make more of them by fear, ignorance, and stupidity

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