I’m totally binge watching Supernatural and now I’m finally up to season 12. In season 11, they resolved the whole “God abandoned his post” storyline which was started in like season 3 or something. In episode 21 of season 11, Dean is airing his beef with God. There’s a whole lot of blaming God for everything bad – wars, plagues, floods, etc. There’s also a whole lot of demanding God apologize for not answering prayers, or taking care of shit other people started. Etc.
The character is pretty silent throughout this and finally says something akin to “helicopter parenting isn’t parenting.” I’m seriously paraphrasing that, but that was the gist. Essentially, “if I kept doing everything for you, you’d never freakin’ grow up.” I just about cheered.
I remember sitting in a panel way back in college during a religion and philosophy club luncheon. The guest speaker was addressing the question of if God is all good and all powerful, then why does He allow evil in the world. I actually chuckled at the question, and was then surprised to see how seriously others were taking it. A bit taken aback, I decided to listen to the lecture. At the end, I was still completely puzzled at the question as a premise. At the time, I didn’t have the perspective to think “what is your foundational world view that is being violated such that it would lead to this question?”
Now I understand it. In a nutshell: dualism.
Well, apparently I’m not a dualist. At all. I was in high school when I read Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse and his devil character said “Didn’t you know? God is the Devil seen through the eyes of the ignorant.” That pretty much sums up my view on the whole thing. This dualistic split down the middle of all-good and all-bad doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s my take.
So if the question doesn’t make sense to me, what is my take on the concept of God “permitting” evil?
I think, ultimately, evil comes from the hearts of humanity. Almost all of the true evils in the world (and I’m NOT counting natural disasters or diseases as “evil”, those just are and we judge them by how they impact us) are done through the actions of humanity. In fact, I can’t really think of a single evil which is not attributed to some action, philosophy, religious ideology, inaction, etc. of humanity’s.
We choose how to act toward our fellow man. We CHOOSE to build walls and bombs. I think that what inspires almost all of the true ugliness is actually fear. Fear of change, of “them”, of loosing what I have, etc. And fear gives us permission to do all kinds of truly vile and evil things. Being a student of history, I shudder in horror at the tremendously creative ways that we have devised over the centuries to torture each other. It’s all rather convenient to claim “the devil made me do it” in whatever form so we can pretend that evil doesn’t lie in our own hearts, but that’s a gimmick.
So if humanity chooses to be evil, guess what? We can choose to be good too. And we do! We choose it with every act of compassion, kind word and gesture.
I remember once watching a documentary in which a reformed extremist was saying that at the time he wanted to bomb the Twin Towers because as a culture we’ve lived in peace for generations. We didn’t know what it was like to live in terror of the scream of incoming missiles in the middle of the night, or random mass violence. He hated us for that, and he wanted to destroy that. He wanted to see us as violent as the world in which he grew up in. That was only fair. And there it is – the choice. Rather than saying “See, it’s possible. They are doing it! Proof! We can do it too. Let’s aim higher than where we are and embrace each other to live in peace,” this particular mindset instead choose the smaller path, the path guided by fear and jealousy. The one which says “if I can’t have it, you can’t have it either!” Those are the choices!! Both options are open to us. While one will we take?
I’ve said elsewhere that the test is easy as to whether or not the idea or the message or the challenge before us is one of evil (Satan, and it’s very hard not put that in quotes) or good (God). God will always ask us to be bigger than we believe we can be. The good path is the one which says “I know you’re afraid, but step beyond the limits you think you have and be better, more loving, more generous, more open. Look up in order see your potential.”
So I don’t think God permits evil. I think we do, and it will be that way until we decide collectively to change it. It will be that way until we as a species grow up and put on out collective big-person pants and say “I’m responsible for this, I got it. I choose to help those around me.”