Tag Archive: God’s Purpose and Plan

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

everything happens for a reason

I came of age listening to Evangelical pastors who repeatedly told congregants that EVERYTHING happened for a reason. God is in control and has a purpose and plan for your life! they said. I began my official ministerial work in the spring of 1979, at the age of twenty-one. Married — all of seven months  — and with a child on the way, I believed that everything that had happened in my life up to that point occurred for a reason. I grew up in a dysfunctional Fundamentalist Christian home. My mother suffered from mental illness my entire life, ending with her successful suicide in the early 1990s. Mom had tried to commit suicide numerous times before. As a fifth-grade boy, I got off the school bus and walked in the door of our home thinking it would be just another day to play with my friends. Instead, I found my mom lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She had slit her wrists. Fortunately, Mom survived. She always survived, that is until she didn’t. A year later, Mom was raped by her brother-in-law. I was home from school sick the day of the rape. Nothing was ever done, and years later the rapist received a fine Christian funeral at a nearby Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. He hadn’t been to church in decades, but Praise God he had walked the sawdust trail as a teen and was wondrously saved! Or so said the preacher giving his eulogy. (Please see Barbara and Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?)

Dad moved us repeatedly during my school years. New schools, new houses, new friends. I hated my dad for constantly uprooting me and forcing me to attend new schools and make new friends. The longest I attended one school was two and a half years — eighth grade to halfway through tenth grade at Findlay Junior and Senior High in Findlay, Ohio. My parents divorced in April of my ninth-grade school year. Shortly after, Dad married a nineteen-year-old girl with a toddler, and mom married her first cousin — a man who had recently been released from Huntsville Prison after serving time for robbery.

Needless to say, the first twenty-one years of my life were less than optimal. What kept me from losing my mind through all of this was the belief that everything happened for a reason. My God, the one true Christian God, was sovereign over all. He was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the supreme ruler of Heaven and Earth. Holding the world and my life in the palm of his hand, Jesus had a perfect plan for my life. I may not have understood his plan — after all his thoughts were not my thoughts and his ways were not my ways — but I knew in my hearts of hearts that God only wanted what was best for me. I loved Jesus with my whole heart, soul, and mind. Saved at age fifteen and called to preach a short time later, I set my sights on preaching the gospel to anyone and everyone would listen. In 1976, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to train for the ministry. While there, I met my future wife, an IFB preacher’s daughter. We later married, embarking on a twenty-five-year journey that took us to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. No matter what troubles, problems, or circumstances came our way, we believed that God had a purpose and plan for our lives, and everything that happened was for a reason.

Thinking that everything happens for a reason messes with your understanding of life. Every time something happened, good or bad, I saw God working behind the scenes. I resolutely believed that God had some sort of divine plan for my life and that everything that happened in life happened to further that plan. Even when it seemed God was shitting on my head and setting me on fire, I still humbled myself before him and trusted his divine providence. And then, one day, I stopped believing that everything happened for a reason. I was still a Christian at the time. As I pondered the arc of my life, I found it harder and harder to see God’s invisible hand working on my behalf. It seemed to me that life was an admixture of good choices, bad choices, choices made by others, luck, being at the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time, biology, environment, and psychology — to name a few.

I have made some good decisions in life, bad ones too. Now that the God who allegedly told me “everything happens for a reason” is no longer a part of my life, I am in a position to openly, honestly, and thoroughly examine my life. I can look at my parents’ lives and see how their experiences and upbringings affected me as a child. I carried these things into my own life, including my marriage. The difference now, of course, is that I no longer think that God has a purpose and plan for my life; I no longer believe that the path of my life is exactly what God has ordered for me. Making an honest accounting of life painfully leaves one with a lot of regrets. Alas, there are no do-overs in life. All any of us can do is learn from our pasts and choose to do better going forward. That’s the only plan I see for my life: striving to do better than I did yesterday.

Did you at one time believe that everything happens for a reason? How did this belief work out in your life? How did life change for you after you deconverted? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Christian Explanations for Why Bad Things Happen

why

Life is filled with good and bad experiences. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. None of us is exempt from the travails of life. Live long enough and you will face some sort of adversity in your life. Recently, my wife, Polly, spent 18 days in the hospital. This ordeal was the most stressful thing we have faced in forty-one years of marriage. I suspect it will not be the last trial we face before we die.

Christians, of course, are not exempt from bad things. “Life” happens to one and all, even if Jesus is your friend, lover, and physician. Faith does not exempt anyone from facing pain, suffering, and loss. Now, Christians will say that Jesus helps them through the bad times of life, but I found as a pastor that what helped people through adversity was not Jesus, but having a pastor and friends who cared about them. Remove Jesus from the equation, and you will find that atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers have the same need for human love and compassion. One need not believe in Jesus to love and care for others.

Go to the local Evangelical church on Sunday and you will hear songs, testimonies, and sermons extolling the awesomeness of Jesus. Jesus, according Evangelicals, is the bestest e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Yet, come Monday, the Jesus-fix is in the rearview mirror and the realities of life lie ahead. Evangelicals love to say Jesus is their co-pilot or sing Jesus take the Wheel with Carrie Underwood, but truth be told, their day-to-day lives reveal a far different story; that life can be and is hard, and that bad things can and do happen. I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. As a pastor who deeply cared for his flock, I traveled hand-in-hand with countless congregants as they walked through the “valley of the shadow of death.” (Psalm 23) I witnessed untold suffering, sorrow, and grief. I stood by weeping family members as they disconnected their loved ones from life support. I stood by the bedsides of the dying, knowing that they would soon be no more. I conducted the funerals of children and seniors alike. I helped congregants move to new homes after losing theirs through bankruptcy or foreclosure. Through it all, I promised them that Jesus was a friend that would stick by them no matter what; that he was closer to them than their flesh and blood family. I will admit that, at times, these words seemed superficial and hollow.

Christians who say their life is different from or superior to that of unbelievers are not being honest. Whatever faith may impart to believers, one thing is for certain: shit happens — both to Christians and unbelievers.

When asked to explain WHY bad things happen in their lives, Christians give several different reasons or explanations.

All Things Work Together for Good

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.

As a pastor, I explained Romans 8:28 this way: To those who are called according to God’s purpose and love him, everything turns out for good. Not everything is good, but everything works out for good. God throws good and bad things into the bag of life, and when everything shakes out, the end result is for our good. God loves us, has a purpose and plan for our lives, and only wants what is best for us. Or so I thought at the time.

God has a Purpose and Plan for Our Lives

Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. In Hebrews 13:5, God promises to never leave or forsake Christians. As a teen, I was encouraged to choose a “life” verse from the Bible; a verse that would be the governing principle of my life. I chose Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

The aforementioned verses and others say to Christians that God has a perfect plan for their lives; that everything that happens to them is according to his divine purpose for them. While it may seem that God is either AWOL or not working in Christians’ best interests, they are reminded by preachers and teachers that God is behind the scenes making sure everything works out as planned. God knows everything, sees everything, and is present everywhere, so Christians can rest easy — the triune God is on duty 24/7.

Above all, Christians are told to not question God’s plan. The Apostle Paul made this clear in his treatise about divine election. Romans 9:20 says:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Simply put, God can do whatever he wants, end of story. God says his plan for you, dear Christian, is perfect. How dare you question his sanity. Just keep on believing until reason and common sense depart and faith takes their place. Once faith rules your life, well anything is possible. Is this not exactly what the Bible says in Mark 10:27, with God all things are possible, and John 15:5, without me ye can do nothing?

God’s Ways are not Our Ways

The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

When God’s purpose and plan seem to be out of sorts with expectations and reason, Christians are reminded by their pastors that God’s thoughts are not their thoughts, and his ways are not their ways; that his ways and thoughts are higher than theirs. In other words, when everything in your life is telling you that God doesn’t know what the Heaven he is doing, just remember God doesn’t think or work as humans do. Come on, dude, he’s God, the ULTIMATE party planner.

Again, when Christians have doubts about what God is up to, they are encouraged to faith-it until they make-it. Since God is perfect in all his ways, he can never be at fault if your life turns to shit or you find yourself sitting in a pile of ashes scraping pus from sores as Job did.

What I am Facing is a Test From God

According to Christian preachers of every denomination, sometimes God brings adversity into the lives of believers because he is testing them. Read the book of Job. God turned Satan loose on Job, a righteous man, to see what kind of faith he had; whether he would break under pain, suffering, and loss. Thus, when Christians face Job-like adversity, the first question they should ask themselves is this: is God testing me?

What I am Facing is a Trial Meant to Make Me Stronger

Isaiah 41:10 says:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness

James 1:2-4 says:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

According to the Bible, God brings trials into the lives of Christians to make them spiritually stronger; to increase their faith; to toughen up their metaphorical hide. So, when bad things happen, Christians should ask themselves, is this a test or is this a trial God has brought in my life to make me stronger?

What I am Facing is Chastisement from God

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:6-8:

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Sometimes, God uses bad things to chastise (punish) Christians for sin in their lives. In fact, a life without punishment is a sure sign that someone is NOT a Christian. God, the Father, punishes and corrects those whom he loves. Just as our earthly fathers beat us when we disobeyed, so does our Heavenly Father.

Proverbs 3:12 says: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

So, when bad things happen, Christians should ask themselves, is this a test, a trial God has brought in my life to make me stronger, or is God chastising me? In other words, which cup is the coin under?

These six statements pretty well cover every explanation Christians use to explain the bad things in their lives. I have yet to hear a Christian say, when asked about the adversity he or she is facing, Hell if I know, shit happens! God’s honor and name must be defended at all costs lest people believe that he is a psychopath who finds pleasure in inflicting pain, suffering, and abuse on fallible, frail humans. Just remember, God created everything and is the sovereign Lord over all, but when things turn to shit, he’s not to blame. Don’t try this at home!

Now, when bad things happen to unbelievers, the explanation is far different. God is trying to get our attention. Bad things happening in our lives are warning signs from God. Warning! Judgment and Hell await unless you, without delay, repent of your sins and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I was somewhat surprised that a Christian zealot didn’t email me and say that Polly’s latest hospitalization was God warning me (us) that I was on a dangerous path that leads to hellfire and damnation. Of course, such a warning would have the opposite effect on me. Giving the love of my life bladder cancer and ulcerative colitis so I will love you? Not going to happen asshole!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Nancy Campbell says to Pregnant Women: God is INTERESTED in Every Minute Detail of Your Baby’s Life

nancy-campbell

Maybe you’ve been longing for this day. Or maybe it’s a surprise! Maybe it wasn’t the news you wanted to hear! Whatever the reason, I want to remind you that it is a MIRACLE FROM GOD. God is the author of this life. He destined this child. He has plans and purposes for this precious one. Let’s contemplate on the MIRACLE.

God chose you to be the MOTHER of His child.  God is INTERESTED in every minute detail of your baby, from creating every part of his/her body in the womb to His plans for his/her life in the future

— Nancy Campbell, Above Rubies, It’s a Miracle!, March 13, 2017


If, as Nancy Campbell believes, the Bible is a Christian-God-inspired and inerrant text, and everything found within its pages is true, what can we can conclude about God and his supposed interest in every minute detail of the lives of infants? What conclusions can we come to about God’s love for children? Is God who Campbell says he is? Is God really pro-life? Is he really L-O-V-E?

I agree with Campbell in one respect: women becoming pregnant is quite an event. One might wonder, though, if the God who created this process failed human engineering class. Surely, there are better ways to bring new little humans into the world. God impregnated Mary without Joseph’s sperm and the messy act of sexual intercourse. Why couldn’t God do that for all women? And while he’s at it, why can’t God make sure every fertilized egg implants in the endometrium. Campbell and other Evangelicals rail against abortion, yet God’s inability — he is the First Cause, he who opens and closes the womb, right? — to ensure implantation make him the number one abortionist in the universe. It seems, based on the evidence, that God is one shitty miracle worker.

Campbell says that God has a destiny and a plan for every child — what that plan and destiny is, Campbell does not say. So, we must let the Bible and history tell us God’s wonderful, awesome plan for every miracle child. Can anyone reasonably conclude that God means good for children, that he loves them, and as he does for the sparrow, cares for their every need? In Genesis 6-9, we find the story of Noah and the flood. By Noah’s day, millions of humans lived on planet earth. All of them were the descendants of Adam and Eve and their children’s incestuous relationships. These descendants began having sexual relationships with fallen angels, producing what the Bible calls giants. God became so incensed over this (Why didn’t God kill off the angels instead of killing everyone?) that he decided to kill everyone save Noah, his wife, sons, and their wives. (No children?) Out of the millions of living people, God chose to save only eight. Left to drown were millions of dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, hamsters, guinea pigs, and lots of children and pregnant mothers. If God is pro-life and deeply interested in the welfare of babies, why did he drown countless babies and fetuses in the flood?

How about the story of Moses and the Israelites in Egypt? Let my people go, Moses said to Pharaoh. Using ten plagues to make his point, God:

  1. Caused the waters of Egypt into blood
  2. Caused frogs to inundate Egypt, including their cooking ovens and beds
  3. Caused a plague of lice
  4. Caused flies to swarm the land of Egypt
  5. Caused the cattle to become diseased
  6. Caused the Egyptians to be infected with boils
  7. Caused large hail to fall on Egypt, killing countless people
  8. Caused a swarm of locusts to destroy Egypt’s crops
  9. Caused three days of darkness to fall on Egypt

and — drum roll please — number 10: God killed the first-born child of every Egyptian family (and any Israelites who didn’t put blood above the doorposts of their home).

Who killed these babies and children? God did. The very same God that Campbell says is pro-life and the very same God who has a destiny planned for every baby. I guess being murdered in your home is a “destiny” of sorts, but I suspect Campbell is using the word “destiny” in a positive sense. Wanting to pump pregnant women full of Jesus, Campbell wants these women to know that the awesome God of the universe has a wonderful, super-duper plan for their fetuses.

Everywhere you look in the Old Testament, you see God smiting and killing people for their sins. Some of those who got on God’s bad side were non-combatants and innocent civilians. Did God give them a pass, punishing instead those who actually pissed him off? Nope. On multiple occasions, God commanded men, women, children, and fetuses be killed, regardless of their culpability. Can it really be said that God is interested in the minute details of the lives of babies — or anyone else for that matter?

Well that’s the Old Testament, Bruce. Fine, let’s talk about the slaughter of all the children under the age of two by Herod at the time of Jesus’ birth. Herod did it, not God, Campbell might say. What a minute. I thought God has a divine plan for every baby? Was his plan for these children to be born to loving parents only to have them hacked to death a year or two later?

And what can I say about the book of Revelation, one of the most anti-human, anti-children, anti-babies books in the Bible. Campbell, a Bible literalist, believes that Jesus will one day judge and destroy the human race — except for those who are Christians, of course. Revelation is the script for God’s upcoming horror show. Will pregnant women or children get a pass and escape God’s violent, bloody temper tantrum? Not according to the Bible. Again, how can an honest reader of the Bible conclude that God is the least bit interested in babies and children?

Consider modern history for a moment. Think of all the wars, genocides, famines, and plagues. If the Christian God holds the world in the palm of his hand, and nothing happens apart from his purpose and plan, what conclusion must we come to about God’s actions throughout human history? Does the evidence at hand suggest that God is loving and kind, and, as Campbell implies, has an awesome plan for EVERY baby? I wonder what Nancy Campbell would say to this mother and child:

starving mother and child

Pray tell, exactly what is God’s wonderful plan for this woman and her child? This child had only known suffering and pain. Where is Campbell’s wonderful, action-figure God?

I urge mothers to steer clear of the Nancy Campbells of the world. They are snake-oil salesmen, selling a God that does not exist. There is no God who has a plan for your children. There is no God who has a wonderful destiny for your children. Your children’s futures depend on you and your fellow humans. It’s up to us. We are the only gods who can love and care for children. Surely, this is good news, yes? Imagine how it would be for mothers and their children if Campbell’s God is real? Imagine how awful it would be if the “kind, loving” God of the Bible acted today as he did in the Bible and throughout past human history. Thanks be to the gods, he is not real. We, collectively, hold the future of our progeny in our hands. It is up to us to build a world where love, kindness, and peace provide a foundation for children to grow and mature. The God-sellers have had their day, Time for us to, as John Lennon so wonderfully wrote:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

God Kills Man and Leaves Three Girls Fatherless

god of love

Several days ago, a young father drowned after attempting to “save his three daughters from a rip current off the North Carolina coast.” According to several friends of the man, he was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ:

“Rick was just a loving father, you could see that when he was with his children, a loving husband, just a wonderful Christian man,”

Becky Mason

“Loved his family, loved pretty much anybody he was around and was not afraid to be concerned about people’s problems, or about their faith because he was a committed Christian man.”

Dr. Dean Baird

Atheists and Christians alike agree that this tragic story is heartbreaking. I can only imagine how I might feel if one of my children or grandchildren died in similar circumstances. This man, by all accounts, behaved heroically in his attempt to save his daughters from drowning. Yet, his bravery cost him his life.

I write about stories such as this because I think it is vitally important to point out to Christians that their God is not who they say he is. In the midst of great suffering and loss, Christians turn to faith to give them strength and hope. That is all well and good. Religion certainly offers something that atheism cannot offer: comfort. That Christians feel comforted in difficult times doesn’t, however, mean that their God is real.  It is people, not God, who comfort, encourage, and help those in need. Both atheists and Christians can and do comfort and help others — no God needed.

What I hope Christians will do, as they suffer pain, heartache, and loss, is ask the question, Where is God? In the story that is the focus of this post, the following questions beg for answers:

  • Why didn’t God miraculously save the three girls from the rip current?
  • Why didn’t God keep their father from drowning?
  • What possible reason could God give for killing the father and leaving the girls orphans?

Why is it when tragedies such as this happen, Christians turn to God, yet never ask him WHY? Conditioned by preaching that tells them God’s ways are not our ways and God has a purpose and a plan for everything, Christians rarely take the big step of reason and ask WHY? How is it possible to square the notion that God is loving and kind and always does what’s best for Christians with stories such as this?

My heart aches for those grieving over loss of their loved one and friend. I vividly remember the day our home phone rang and on the other end was someone telling us that Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident. (Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All.)  Polly and I were still Christians at the time, and I can still “feel” the emotions of the moment as Christians tried to make sense of a senseless death. Some people prayed, while others quoted Bible verses. Many of us wept, while others put on a strong face, not wanting to appear weak. And yet, not one of us dared to say to God, WHY? The reason for this, or course, is that asking WHY is viewed as having a lack of faith, a ploy by Satan to draw Christians away from Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith. Christians must always believe that God is good all the time, never doing anything that is not for their betterment.

Here’s what I know: the day Christians dare to ask WHY? is the day they have taken their first steps away from Christianity. Reality tells us that believing there is a personal God who loves and cares for us and always does what is in our best interest is a lie. A well-intentioned lie, perhaps, but a lie nonetheless.

The only rational explanation for life on planet earth is that shit happens. Life has its wonderful moments, but it also has moments that leave us reeling, suffering great heartache and loss. While we should do what we can to maximize the wonderful moments and minimize the bad shit that happens, the fact is things are going to happen that take us by surprise, often leaving tragedy, heartache, and loss in their wake. This is life on planet Earth. We can either embrace life as it is or we can run to deaf, blind, and dumb Gods when life turns ugly. For me, I choose to embrace reality, knowing that just around the corner I could find myself neck deep in shit.

The Bible says in Proverbs 27:1, Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. The Bible also says in James 4;14, Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. These verses aptly describe how all of us should view life. None us knows what tomorrow will bring. This could be the last blog post I ever right. Pain, suffering, loss, and death, lurk in the shadows, ever ready to pounce when given the opportunity. This is why it is important for us to embrace each and every day as if it might be our last. This is hard to do. We humans are optimistic, thinking that the sun will rise in the morning and another day will be ours. However, as this story aptly illustrates, there is coming a day when each of us will meet our end. No matter how sure we are about the future, all that we really have is the present.

The Do-Nothing God

god has a plan

Yesterday, a two-year-old (some reports say the child was three) boy 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 wonderful plan for our lives. I am sure the church and parents of the dead 3-year-old are now going 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 insides 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 years ago, Polly and I could have caused the death 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 Jaime secured with a seat belt. 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 backwards 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 child unattended, never leave keys in car, always set 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.

Thank You God for Blowing My Leg Off

rebekah dimartino

Rebekah DiMartino’s Amputated Leg

Many Christians are taught to give thanks for everything. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

No matter what, the will of God is for them to always, in every circumstance, give t-h-a-n-k-s. When tempted to whine, complain, or pity themselves, the Christians are reminded of the pain and suffering Jesus endured on their behalf. No one has ever suffered like Jesus, or so Christians are told by their pastor.

Like all of us, bad shit happens to Christians. They get sick, they have accidents, they are at the wrong place at the wrong time, or any of the other countless 1,000 ways to die.  They contract sickness and disease, so much so that it makes an outsider wonder if the Great Physician has lost his license to practice medicine.

When it comes to physical, emotional, and mental maladies, Christians are in the same boat with the rest of us. The difference is they have to pretend that what is going on in their life is good for them, that God had a wonderful, awesome, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious plan for their lives. They must always look on the bright side. They know every word of the Footprints in the Sand Poem by Mary Stevenson:

 One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Jim Steinhauer speaks for many of us when he wrote:

Sorry to have to break it to you, Jesus, but those are obviously my footprints.

Look closely. See how those footprints have that wavy tread pattern on the bottom, just like my docksiders? If they were yours, they’d make a sandal mark, like the footprints next to mine a little farther up the beach when I was going through better times.

See the footprints at the time of my divorce? You’ll notice that the sandaled footprints drift off from the docksider ones. They lead to that picnic bench over there, the one with the cigarette butts scattered all over. It appears that in my darkest hour, instead of carrying me, you sat on a stump and had a couple of smokes. Real helpful, Jesus. Real helpful.

Sure, the sandal footprints came back when I got that big job promotion, but right at the point where my son Tommy died, they veer off again. Actually, now that I look again, it seems like there’s an unusually large distance between each of the sandal-wearer’s footprints around the time of my son’s death, as if the person were actually running away.

I’m sorry, Jesus, but your whole story about carrying me during my worst moments just doesn’t gibe with the facts. Besides, you’d certainly think a person would remember being carried by the Son of God, right? That’s a pretty memorable thing, wouldn’t you say? Well, either I’ve got amnesia, or you’re a liar, because I don’t recall ever being toted around by the Messiah. The only thing I do remember about my worst moments on the path of life is the horrible feeling of plodding along the cold sand all alone while icy rain fell in sheets and chill winds assailed me.

So thanks, Jesus. Thanks a bunch. You were really there for me when things got tough.

I realize that thanking God in the midst of adversity and suffering can be a coping mechanism. One night, in the midst of a bout of horrible pain, I found myself crying out to the God of Ceiling®. While my utterance brought no answer from the Great Physician, it did help to distract me for a moment from the pain. My utterance also caused me to chuckle and say, hey, Bruce, who ya taking to? Dumb ass!

I don’t want to rob anyone of anything that helps get them through the rough times of life. But, when I read news reports of someone praising God for their sickness, disease, or accident, it does cause me to wonder if the person is living in denial or has been so conditioned by their religious training, that they cannot see life as it is. Such is the case of Rebekah DiMartino.

On April 15, 2013, DiMartino was standing 3 feet away from the Boston Marathon finish line when a bomb went off. The blast caused severe damage to DiMartino’s left leg. Weeks later, the leg had to be amputated. She now has a prosthetic leg with the word BLESSED embroidered across the front of it.

Recently, DiMartino told her story at St Matthew’s Baptist Church in Louisiville, Kentucky:

“Whatever you are going through in your life, don’t give up because God has got a plan for everything. And everything that we go through, it ultimately works together for your good.””I took everything in the back of the legs so that Noah [her son] would be saved. That is God’s purpose [for me]. I cannot feel sorry for myself in the least bit because I know my son is running around like normal today. … I thank God every day for my little boy still being here.”

While I certainly sympathize with DiMartino and I appreciate her positive outlook on her life after the bombing, I cannot accept or embrace a God who uses a terrorist and a bomb to blow someone’s leg off. Using DiMartino’s God’s got a purpose for everything logic, the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard, all victims of the same bombing, happened because God had a purpose and plan for them. And the same could be said for policeman Sean Collier who was shot to death by the bombers. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, 264 people were injured in the bombing. Like DiMartino, 16 people lost a limb and 3 people lost multiple limbs. Is this really God working out his plan for all of these people?  (See my post God Gave Me Breast Cancer Because He Loves Me.)

I understand the religious conditioning required to think like this. I used this same thinking for years to “explain” my own health problems. God has a plan for my life. God is working all things out for my good. God is teaching me to trust him more. God is drawing me closer to him. God is testing my faith. God is chastising me so that I might draw closer to him. Christian clichés — that’s all these are. The truth is, for Rebekah DiMartino, she was the victim of a terrorist bombing. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and her son fortunately was at the right place at the right time.

These kinds of stories should remind us that our lives hang by a slim thread. An accident, a genetic abnormality, a stray bullet, a moment of clumsiness or inattention, along with a plethora of diseases, can snuff out our lives in the blink of an eye. As an atheist, I have no intention of praising an absent or fictional God for the suffering and pain I must live with every day of my life. Instead, I embrace the pain and suffering and do my best to make the most of it. Certainly, that’s what DiMartino is doing. The only difference is that she thinks the Christian God is behind the wizard’s curtain orchestrating the events of her life.

Note

Yesterday, People Magazine published a story detailing DiMartino’s separation from the man she married 10 months ago:

 

After 10 months of marriage, a couple injured in the Boston Marathon bombing and married in a “dream wedding” last April are separating……Gregory, who tied the knot with DiMartino in Asheville, North Carolina, in a ceremony and reception thrown by TheKnot.com, tells PEOPLE, “After the decision was made to amputate my leg in November, I found myself having to make an even more painful choice – to separate from my husband Pete. Over the last several months I’ve come to realize that going through such a horrific event together put a fast-forward on our relationship that we each handled differently.”While my heart is beyond broken, I have a certain peace knowing from day one, I truly gave it my all, and have been fully invested in keeping this marriage, and my commitment before God. I still love Pete with all of my heart and ask that everyone respect our privacy as we try to figure out our next steps. As for now, I am focused on doing what I feel is best for my son and I, and will concentrate my time on healing, both physically and emotionally.” …

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