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The Do-Nothing God

god has a plan

Several years ago, a two-year-old boy (some reports say the child was three) died after his parents left him in the car while they attended an afternoon worship service at Rehoboth Praise Assembly in East Dallas, Texas. Forty-five minutes into the worship service, the boy’s parents realized that they had left him in the car. Sadly, it was too late. The one hundred-degree Texas heat had rendered the boy unconscious. He was pronounced dead later that night at a local hospital.

The parents of the boy have four other children. Polly and I know firsthand the horror of leaving your children behind in an unsafe environment. One time we left our second-oldest son asleep on the front pew of the church. It was not until we arrived home — fifteen miles away — that we realized we had left him behind. I vividly remember driving as fast as I could, praying to God that my son would be safe. Fortunately, he was still asleep when I opened the doors to the pitch-dark church sanctuary. At the time, I praised God for his providential protection of my son. I now know that we were lucky. I can only imagine what might have happened if Nathan had awakened and found out that he was the star in the Baptist version of Home Alone. Several years later, we had another incident where we left our son Jaime sleeping in the car after arriving home from church. An hour or so later, much to our shock and horror, Jaime sleepily came walking in the door. Again, I praised God for protecting my son.

Polly and I were quite busy on Sundays, so we drove separately to the church. Driving two cars and not paying attention to who had what kids led to the events mentioned above. After the Jaime incident, we made a hard and fast rule that neither of us could leave the church for home without making sure all six children were accounted for. I can report that all of our children, from that day forward, safely made it home.

What if something tragic — say injury or death — had happened to our forgotten sons? Would I have still been praising the wonderful love, grace, mercy, and kindness of Jesus? Probably, even going so far as to say that their injury/death was all part of God’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious plan for our lives. I am sure the church and parents of the dead 3-year-old went through similar irrational theological machinations.

The question that is rarely asked is this: Where is God? If the third part of the Trinity — the Holy Spirit — lives inside of each and every believer, why didn’t he — with that still small voice of his — whisper in the ears of the two-year-old’s parents, telling them, Hey your little boy is asleep. Go get him before he dies from exposure to extreme Texas summer temperatures. Remember these song lyrics?

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Or these lyrics?

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Where was the strong Jesus when the weak little boy was being baked to death? Can it really be said that Jesus loves the little children when he idly stands by and does n-o-t-h-i-n-g as a boy is suffocated to death? If God can, but doesn’t, what does that tell us about God?

According to the defenders of Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, their God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. I should hope not! Most people, when finding out a child is dying in the suffocating heat of a closed-up car, would do everything in their power to rescue the child. Not God. He has some sort of unspoken reason for letting the child die. Or perhaps the child’s parents were living in sin or needed to be taught a “life” lesson. Who knows, right? God is always given a free pass when it comes to the suffering and death of children. God knows best, Christians say. Pray tell, how is letting a child die alone in a car in any way “best”?

I am sure the dead boy’s parents are grieving over the loss of their son, knowing that they are the cause of his death. Just now, I viewed a TV advertisement reminding parents to always check the backseat of their cars for children. It’s hot out there, the ad said. Way too many busy parents forget to make sure all of their children are accounted for. Thirty-six years ago, Polly and I could have caused the deaths of our children. Luck, not God, saved our children. Sadly, for the Dallas parents, their inattention cost their son his life.

Parents are responsible for caring for their children. When bad things happen such as this boy’s death, most often parents or others adults are responsible. Years ago, we delivered newspapers for the Zanesville Times-Recorder. One day, Polly was in Shawnee, Ohio making collections. Shawnee is quite hilly, as is most of Southeast Ohio. Polly drove up a steep hill to our customer’s home, got out of the car, leaving our toddler son, Jaime, secured with a seat belt (no car seats back in those days). Polly, thinking she would only be gone for a minute, left the keys in the ignition, not knowing that Jaime had figured out how to unbuckle his seat belt. Mimicking what he had seen his parents do countless times before, Jaime reached up, turned the ignition, and pulled down on the drive shift.  The car, much to Polly’s horror, began rolling backward down the steep hill — 400 feet in all — launching the car into the air before it landed in a creek bed.  Fortunately, Jaime was not injured. It took two wreckers to extricate the totaled car from the bottom of the hill.

During Jaime’s younger years, I painted the front doors of the church red. I didn’t have any paint thinner to clean the brush, so I waited until got home to do so. I put the brush in a pint jar of thinner to soak. Knowing that mischievous Jaime was nearby, I put the jar on the back of the counter, safe from his little hands — or so I thought. I went on to do other things, only to find out that Jaime had pushed a chair up to the counter and climbed up so he could reach the red “Kool-aid” that was on the back of the counter. Fortunately, one drink was all that was needed to teach Jaime that all red liquids are NOT Kool-aid.

In both of these stories, Jaime’s parents were culpable for what happened. Lessons learned: never leave a child unattended, never leave keys in the car, always set the parking brake when parked on steep inclines, and never, ever put dangerous things where children can get a hold of them.

I am not suggesting that parents can protect their children from every possible danger. We can’t. Children love to test boundaries and get into things. It is a wonder that any of them survive to adulthood. Risk is all around us, and one of the lessons parents must teach their children is to measure risk and danger. But, despite training them and keeping them under our watchful eyes, children can do things that could kill them. And sometimes parents can, either through carelessness or inattention, do things that harm their children. Regardless of to whom blame is assessed, one thing is for certain: God will be nowhere to found. He is the do-nothing God, a deity who can’t be bothered with rescuing an innocent child on a hot summer day in Dallas, Texas.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    I Saw The Light of Reality

    Once again my finger hit the Facebook button, hovered over the “Share” button, and retreated when I chickened out, thinking of what a shock 90% of my Facebook friends would think if they knew I thought God was a do-nothing Asshole. Well, actually, did not exist at all and that they all were spending time and money serving and worshipping a figment of their imaginations- And why is this mass delusioned and imagined entity always given a free pass with a wave of the It’s Part of God’ Plan wand or a sprinkle of the God Knows What We Need pixie dust!?!

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      Yes I recommend you keep religion and politics off your Facebook page. The reason is simple, to change an attitude requires more than a bit of a good zinger. Psychologically our minds create what is known as a “schema” for how the world works. While schema can change, they are resilient as the person makes justifications and rationalizations to maintain the schema. Religion is introduced and indoctrinated at a young age, and as such is extremely tenacious. You won’t change anyone’s mind, though you may annoy and possibly imperil some of your friends and family.

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    I must admit that stories like the ones you relate here make me look up and honestly ask, “WTF, God?” Or the case of the Catholic priest that was killed this morning when terrorists stormed into the church in northern France, interrupting the Mass and took hostages, all in the name of God. And it’s the exact same fucking God too, not some special “For Catholic’s only God” or “For Muslim’s only God”, but the same damned God of Abraham and Moses, just different interpretations of His story, rules and will. And the answers that I come up with are either sorely lacking or non-existent. It does shake my faith to the very roots.
    I do not accept the typical arguments religion offers in these cases, because (as has been pointed out many times here by you and other commenters) it turns God into a sociopathic asshole. I have come to believe we humans may have gotten the concept of God all wrong from the get-go. What if “God” isn’t ome sort of super-human being at all and is instead more of a force, like gravity or magnetism? If it were not for my own personal experiences, I would have rejected God decades ago. Instead, I am left with a form of faith that has no formal theology, no denomination, no organizations or institutions, no pastoral care, no actual fellow believers. In fact, this is one of only 3 blogs I read, or any news source for that matter, that focuses on religion. It is a confusing and often lonely place to be.
    … and the still, small voice inside only whispers, “I know”.
    I do not have the answers and I do not pretend to. I only know when I read of that little boy in Texas or the priest in France, I too must ask, “Where is God?” And the silence in midst of the pain and frustration is deafening. All I am left with is hope and faith in the same phrase used used by our LGBTQ communities, “Love wins.” This morning, that’s awfully shaky ground to try to stand on.
    Thank you Bruce, for continuing to make me examine my faith. I remember Gene Kellar telling me when I when I was 15 that if I believed it, I needed to be able to explain why. You challenge me to do that and for that I thank you. May you and all the readers here find a little extra love today and everyday, just when you need it most. Peace.

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      anotherami, you have a caring heart. Examine and breathe and know that I for one am very happy that I share the world with one like you… We all have voices in our heads. May I ask what other blogs you read? I follow some political ones and check-out homeschoolers anon. and an occasional blog written by a remarkable woman by the name of Natalie Greenwood. I also lurk around PZ Meyers’ site.

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      Michael Mock

      “May you and all the readers here find a little extra love today and everyday, just when you need it most. Peace.”

      You say you’re left with a form of faith that has no pastoral care? I think you’re wrong.

      I think you just offered some.

      And I thank you.

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      re: “If it were not for my own personal experiences, I would have rejected God decades ago. Instead, I am left with a form of faith that has no formal theology, no denomination, no organizations or institutions, no pastoral care, no actual fellow believers. […] It is a confusing and often lonely place to be.”

      Lots of people, currently and throughout history, are at the same place you are, but they’re spread out, and not concentrated. Deist founding fathers, Voltaire, etc. It will always be that way.

      Hitchens and Dawkins and company are great for seeing the bad arguments in Christianity, but they’re combative.

      Bruce is great if you are in the inside trying to get out of fundamentalist religion. And he’s also great if you’re on the outside, but want to understand the worldview of fundamentalists to understand how they’re likely to react in various situations. If you understand the internal mental models people are using, they become much more predictable, even in you disagree with their worldview.

      J. Krishnamurti was chosen at a young age to be the “world teacher” by the Theosophical Society, and given training for years until he was an adult. Three years after he was made head of the organization they created for him, he dissolved it. Here are excerpts from the speech he gave on why:

      Krishnamurti: Truth is a pathless land:

      “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices. ” [….]

      “The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not.” [….]

      “You will have no following, people will no longer listen to you.” If there are only five people who will listen, who will live, who have their faces turned towards eternity, it will be sufficient. Of what use is it to have thousands who do not understand, who are fully embalmed in prejudice, who do not want the new, but would rather translate the new to suit their own sterile, stagnant selves? “ [….]

      “You have listened to me for three years now, without any change taking place except in the few. Now analyze what I am saying, be critical, so that you may understand thoroughly, fundamentally. When you look for an authority to lead you to spirituality, you are bound automatically to build an organization around that authority. By the very creation of that organization, which, you think, will help this authority to lead you to spirituality, you are held in a cage. “

      or, a video of of him delivering the speech:
      Jiddu Krishnamurti. Truth is a Pathless Land. New York 1928, Ojai 1930

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    Wow. I am humbled and comforted by the kind words and wisdom shared with me here by Brian, Michael and sgf, as well as by Bruce’s latest post. My deepest thanks to you all. I will answer your queries as best I can. I’m way wordy, so apologies in advance. I really didn’t mean for this to be a guest post.

    First, to our host, Bruce. Your post is going to require I discipline myself and get the real guest post I’ve been attempting to write done and I thank you for that as well the post itself. Whether you still minister to your fellows by vocation (calling/ it’s who you are) or habit, I do not know and it may be that you don’t either. Neither my heart nor my head gives a damn though. You have given me much food for thought to chew on and I appreciate it. Namaste.

    Brian– I am happy to share this world with you too. You clearly have a passionate and caring heart and this world cries out for more people like you. The blogs I read are few; a grand total of 5. The other ones with a religious slant are John Pavlovitz’s “Things That Need to be Said” and a weekly feature on the MSNBC Maddow Blog, called “This Week in God”, written by Steve Bennen. One of the others is a semi-political blog written by Jim Wright, CWO, USN, ret., called “Stonekettle Station”, though he is more active these days on Facebook. The other is Wil Wheaton, just because I was nerd before nerds were cool. I will try to remember the blogs you read the next time I’m surfing for something to read. Thank you.

    Michael– I believe that we are all called to help, or to minister to, one another. This is a truly core belief, based on not even primarily on faith, but on a simple understanding of what it means to be human. We are all interdependent on one another and always have been, as a species. This is especially true in the 21st century on a global scale and has nothing to do with religion, nationality, race creed or sex or any of the myriad ways we turn one another into “other”. They are either illusionary or minor at best, proven by the sequencing of our DNA. We are all “brothers and sisters” and a goodly portion direct descendants of Genghis Khan. And I did think I had no “pastoral care”, as I belonged to no discernible flock. However, what I have read this morning has “opened my eyes” and what I offered was a tiny fraction of I have received. The thanks you offer me I return in appropriate measure to what I have been given. Namaste.

    sgf– Merely trying to address what you posted makes the tears start to flow once again. This is as close to a “Statement of Faith” as I have ever come. A large part of my inner self was jumping up and down with excitement as I struggled to read through the tears, screaming, “YES! YES! YES!” Even the mountain top/valley analogy rings true and has played out both figuratively and literally in my life. Having been raised a Quaker, the words George Fox heard on Pendle Hill in 1650 were drilled into my brain, “There is One, even Jesus Christ, who can speak to thy condition.” It always struck me that “even Jesus Christ” was a parenthetical expression. Jesus Himself is parenthetical? Actually, yes. He was the example, not the Answer. We must find the Answer, the Truth, for ourselves. Thank you sgf, from the depths of heart. While this statement doesn’t quite cover all I believe, it is very very close and it is likely that what remains is irrelevant anyway. After all, it is my Truth I must find, not his or yours. I am also comforted by the fact the author had years of training to be able to put these thoughts into words, for the words themselves become the cage of which he speaks. No wonder I struggled, being without any formal theological or philosophical training. But “I know what I know” is an indefensible position and I felt that lack keenly. You have given me words to borrow and I am humbly grateful. Namaste.

    To all– I have been moved beyond measure by the words on these pages this morning. You have given rest and comfort to a weary soul, and I am renewed and encouraged that I share this world with people such as you all. I thank you deeply for sharing this part of my path with me. Your company and wisdom ease my journey and call me forward, whatever lies ahead. No matter whether this force that I know, be it called Truth, the Creator, God, Allah or some other Name is real or just the voices in my own head, you have done “good works” today unto one of “the least of these”. Life’s greatest blessing to you all. Namaste.

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      glad you found krishnamurti useful. over the last decade, i’ve found other quotes and authors in a somewhat similar vein. little breadcrumbs in the pathless land, letting me know that others from various faiths or with no faith, have trod a similar path. considering doing a series of guest posts.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce’s post, and these comments, show me that there is lots of care and compassion to be found on this blog. That is more than can be said for the guy in the sky that some of us worshipped.

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    I think I would be a better deity than the evangelical God. I would protect anyone who would be in harm’s way, heal those with diseases, wouldn’t have made the stupid convoluted “sin’/condemnation scheme that requires blood sacrifice and utterance of fealty to save people from eternal punishment that I created….

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Bruce Gerencser