December 16, 2017

A Strange and Awesome Conclave

A Strange and Awesome Conclave

criminal_justice_jurisprudenceInside the kingdom of night I witnessed a strange trial. Three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, decided one winter evening to indict God for having allowed his children to be massacred. An awesome conclave, particularly in view of the fact that it was held in a concentration camp.

But what happened next is to me even more awesome still. After the trial at which God had been found guilty as charged, one of the rabbis looked at the watch which he had somehow managed to preserve in the kingdom of night and said, “Ah, it is time for prayers.”

And with that the three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, bowed their heads and prayed.

• Elie Wiesel
Background of The Trial of God

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    Chaplain Mike, you have quoted Elie Wiesel. His works are often read during the Lenten season, and some people would wonder ‘Why?’ because he is Jewish. They would wonder, until they encountered something of what he wrote. Memorable for me, this concentration camp execution scene from Wiesel’s book ‘Night’:
    ““Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out,
    swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing…
    And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes.
    And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still
    red, his eyes not yet extinguished.
    Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
    “For God’s sake, where is God?”
    And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
    “Where He is? This is where–hanging here from this gallows…”
    That night, the soup tasted of corpses.”
    ( Elie Wiesel, Night )

    Most people, having once read Wiesel’s searing words, will no longer wonder ‘why’ he is read by Christian people during Lenten season. They will know.

    • Robert F says:

      Yes, Christiane, and no.

      My readings of Night, and particularly of this passage, have left me with the impression that Wiesel ends in the same place that the Death of God theologians (William Hamilton, Thomas Altizer, etc.) ended: The transcendent God has literally died, or been killed, and no longer lives in his transcendence, but only as his people in a world bereft of God the Transcendent. We are on our own in this world, along with him, fighting back the forces of evil with nothing but the better parts of our humanity, which are also his only tools. We cannot look to any help from “beyond,” for none will or can come.

      And this is a metaphorical account of his experience, a kind of parable that helped him describe and survive the fact that, on that night, his faith in a transcendent God, in any God beyond and above, died. All that was left for him in the wake of this death of faith was a kind of tragic, though still striving, humanism. Christians may appropriate this text for their own theological purposes, but in doing so they are cutting against the grain of the author’s intentions and meaning.

    • Robert F says:

      The meaning of the above account of the conclave and trial is the same. The transcendent God, if he is real, can only be guilty. We will, nonetheless, go to our prayers because these prayers are part of what preserves our humanity, and the humanity of our community,so that we do not become merely beasts, or demons, like these men who are tormenting us have become, or like the transcendent God who, if he exists, can only be a devil.

    • Christiane, I’ve posted this before, also from Elie Wiesel’s Night:

      Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
      Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
      Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.
      Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.
      Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.

      This poem is set apart from the narrative like a pericope. It also has the tension of accusing God, even pronouncing him dead, while still acknowledging his existence.

      According to the following article, it echoes Psalm 150 as well as an essay by Emile Zola entitled “J’accuse.” (“I accuse,” which is echoed in “Never,” or “Jamais” in Wiesel’s original French. And the “Jamais” also echoes the “Hallel,” or “Praise” in the Psalm).
      http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/night/quotes.html

      I come back to this poem fairly often. It also reminds me of something that a visiting Orthodox rabbi told us in an Old Testament class: that we can love God, we can even hate God, and he will still love us; but what breaks his heart is if we simply don’t care.

  2. Robert F says:

    This is a profound story. But it is a humanistic story, showing the nobility of which humanity is capable, even in the shadow of human oppression; if there is theology involved in it, it’s an anti-theology, cutting us off from any futile hope in transcendence, and casting us back upon whatever strength we have as human beings in this life, in this world.

    • Perhaps it shows we cannot help but believe, in spite of overwhelming evidence. And herein is a crumb of hope, a small sign that God is with us even though we find him guilty.

      • Robert F says:

        Though he slay me, yet will I trust him, and maintain my ways before him…

        As a Christian, I accept what you’re saying. But I believe that the night Wiesel was talking of in this book was the night of his faith, and when he talks about the death of God on the gallows, he’s talking about the death of his faith.

        • “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him, and maintain my ways before him…”

          An infamous pious mistranslation because the original translators found the true meaning unpalatable. The RSV gets the sense of the Hebrew:

          “Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope; yet I will defend my ways to his face.”

          One of the characteristics of Jewish piety lost in translation to Christianity was the sense of the covenant relationship. The Most High has obligations too. He has to hold up His end of the deal. Wiesel’s lament is entirely in this tradition.

          • Robert F says:

            The translation you offer is better yet; yes, he will slay me….This makes the tension between a God who is responsible, and a creature who is totally dependent and vulnerable, plainer yet.

          • SottoVoce says:

            THANK YOU for posting this. That verse has been driving me crazy lately and it is an immense relief to know that the original is far more in line with the raw grief and anger of the Psalmist.

          • Yet even in the translation that may be a poor one, Job echoes Habakkuk 3:17-18:

            Though the fig tree should not blossom,
            nor fruit be on the vines,
            the produce of the olive fail
            and the fields yield no food,
            the flock be cut off from the fold
            and there be no herd in the stalls,
            yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
            I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

      • Robert F says:

        I wonder, though, what consolation one can find in the continued presence of a God whom one has found guilty of crimes against humanity? If one took one’s own deliberations seriously, it would be like finding out that the murderer had not left, but was still in the house.

        But human beings are exceedingly illogical; we always hope against hope, and even against the worst aspects of our nature.

      • I would even wonder if it doesn’t point toward the article earlier this week dealing with falling into religious patterns, rather than expressing genuine relationship and worship. If you believe in a God who as turned His back on you, that you can judge for the atrocities that have befallen you… or even a God that is dead… and you still go through your same ritualized worship it speaks volumes about where your heart has been pointed all along.

      • Wiesel is talking about a death of God, I think; but not only the death of God. Also the death of man: “At Auschwitz, not only man died, but also the idea of man. To live in a world where there is nothing anymore, where the executioner acts as god, as judge—many wanted no part of it. It was its own heart the world incinerated at Auschwitz.”

        I need to step carefully here, because I’ve not read all of Wiesel’s writing, and I think all the separate pieces fit together and explore aspects of the same questions. So I might be misconstruing or reading my own thoughts into the tea leaves. But the sense I get is that Wiesel is in a position something like the of the rabbis depicted in Chaplain Mike’s quote. It would seem that God is silent, possibly murderous, or does not exist; there are never any answers, from God or philosophy, that will satisfy the determined questioner. Nonetheless he will go on questioning, and asking. There is the existential leap – Wiesel will go on asking his question. The meaning is hidden somewhere in this act. Perhaps he would cease to exist if he stopped?

        This resonates deeply for many reasons. Wiesel suspects the death of God, man, and faith, in one go – but he also doesn’t bury them and wash his hands of the affair, and go onto new pursuits. No, he is still talking. So you tell me: if that is not faith, what is it? Perhaps it is not faith; then again, perhaps it is the one thing faith can say when it’s not too busy practicing the art of diversion.

        I seem to remember that there was an engaging interview with Wiesel a few years ago that I read; I will try to find it.

          • Highlights –

            On belief:

            “As to my beliefs, people didn’t understand about my faith [in the camps]. I never lost my faith. If I had lost my faith, I would have had no problem. I don’t say I don’t have problems with God. I do have problems with God. As I say elsewhere, the tragedy of the believer is deeper than the tragedy of the non-believer. The non-believer has a problem with humanity, not with God. We had both. . . . . And when I came out of Auschwitz to France, into a children’s home, I became very, very religious. I really became almost as religious as I was as a child [in Sighet]. What saved me, what saved my sanity was study [of Jewish texts]. I never stopped learning. Later on, in the fifties, when I studied philosophy and theology [at the Sorbonne], I began to be invaded by doubts, all the questions we have now in philosophy and theology, God’s presence in history, God’s action in history, God’s relationship to his creation. Again, not that I stopped believing in God.”

            In answer to the question, “Are you a religious humanist?”:

            “My father remained religious to his last breath. And my grandfather, his grandfather, his grandfather. I cannot give it up. I just cannot. Nevertheless, I had problems, very serious theological problems.”

            In the wake of the unthinkable, world has collapsed, but the world must not collapse:

            “We Jews are obsessed with beginnings. I felt that in our generation, it’s much more difficult to “begin again.” I have a friend, Rabbi Menashe Klein [the head of a yeshiva underwritten by Wiesel and named for his father], who quoted to me the verse in Bereshit about Ya’akov: be-makli avarti et ha-yarden [I crossed the Jordan only with my cane]. He said to me, when we came out of the camp, we had nothing, not even a cane. And yet, we must start again. Build a family. Have faith in society, the world around you, your environment.”

          • Thank you, Danielle. From your comments, and based on the quotes, I think you have good insight here. Anyway, I’ve never really understood how God could die without humanity dying, too.

        • And yes, the fact that he suspects such death, but is still talking, implies the continued presence of faith.

          Thanks for teaching me.

        • Interesting aside: one edition of Night includes an introduction by Francois Mauriac, the great 20th century French Catholic novelist; in this introduction, Mauriac remembers Christ crucified as he refers to the account Christiane included in the above comment. He also points to the suffering of his friend, Wiesel, and all those victims of the death camps, as a participation in the sufferings of Christ. Apparently, Wiesel was not averse to this possibility of God’s place in the Holocaust.

          • Danielle says:

            Oh! It is interesting the Mauriac wrote this.

            Mauriac and Wiesel had a very interesting first meeting, in which Mauriac was talking about Jesus and Wiesel snapped at him. They ended up becoming friends, and Mauriac convinced Wiesel that he ought to tell his story to general audiences. Mauriac pushed reluctant publishers to accept “Night.”

          • Danielle says:

            I tried finding a recollection of the conversation in Google (told by either W. or M., and not second-hand), and found this:

            “I was a young journalist in Paris. I wanted to meet the Prime Minister of France for my paper. He was, then, a Jew called Mendès-France. But he didn’t offer to see me. I had heard that the French author François Mauriac — a very great Catholic writer and Nobel Prize winner, a member of the Academy — was his guru. Mauriac was his teacher. So I would go to Mauriac, the writer, and I would ask him to introduce me to Mendès-France.

            “Mauriac was an old man then, but when I came to Mauriac, he agreed to see me. We met and we had a painful discussion. The problem was that he was in love with Jesus. He was the most decent person I ever met in that field — as a writer, as a Catholic writer. Honest, sense of integrity, and he was in love with Jesus. He spoke only of Jesus.

            “Whatever I would ask — Jesus. Finally, I said, “What about Mendès-France?” He said that Mendès-France, like Jesus, was suffering. That’s not what I wanted to hear. I wanted, at one point, to speak about Mendès-France and I would say to Mauriac, can you introduce me?”

            “When he said Jesus again I couldn’t take it, and for the only time in my life I was discourteous, which I regret to this day. I said, “Mr. Mauriac,” we called him Maître, “ten years or so ago, I have seen children, hundreds of Jewish children, who suffered more than Jesus did on his cross and we do not speak about it.” I felt all of a sudden so embarrassed. I closed my notebook and went to the elevator. He ran after me. He pulled me back; he sat down in his chair, and I in mine, and he began weeping. I have rarely seen an old man weep like that, and I felt like such an idiot. I felt like a criminal. This man didn’t deserve that. He was really a pure man, a member of the Resistance. I didn’t know what to do. We stayed there like that, he weeping and I closed in my own remorse. And then, at the end, without saying anything, he simply said, “You know, maybe you should talk about it.”

            Source (another interview): http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/wie0int-3

          • Robert F says:

            Two saints in the making.

          • Danielle, thank you for posting that conversation between Wiesel and Mauriac. It’s a treasure.

    • This is a profound story. But it is a humanistic story, showing the nobility of which humanity is capable, even in the shadow of human oppression;

      To which I reply: so what? What’s so wrong with humanism? What’s so wrong with stepping up and being the men and women, the humanity, God created us to be, called us to be, and empowered us to be? How is humanism nothing more than fulfilling God’s blessing and direction?

      We don’t *need* daddy anymore, but he’s still always there, and it’s not like we ceased to be daddy’s kids.

      Daddy may have destroyed our tower we tried to build to reach him, but then we pushed past that and stepped onto the moon.

      • Robert F says:

        I’ve got no beef with humanism. Some of my best friends are humanists. In fact, I can’t think of single Christian philosopher I have more respect for than I do for Albert Camus, the atheist existentialist.

        • Not saying you do, but just in general speaking out loud, since “humanism” has long been a bogeyman in my circles. Yet now that I’m actually not afraid to question and learn and grow, humanism isn’t seeming as bad as it was made out to be.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In Christianese, Humanism = SAY-TANN-IC!!!!!

            Which is a real kicker when you realize that Humanism began as a Christian movement in the late Middle Ages — a reaction to theology which emphasized the Spiritual (and Christ as God) to the point the Physical (and Christ as Man) was getting squeezed out.

        • It is interesting you bring Camus into the conversation. I see a similarity with Camus “Myth of Sisyphus”, where the choice presented is either rebellion against the absurdity of life or suicide. Here, it seems the choice is to convict God yet remain faithful to our prayers or despair. I prefer Camus.

          Job seems to be more helpful. Even if it is God himself who slays me, there is a redeemer who will defend me. There is no heroic standing alone against the blasts of life’s cruelty and bsurdities. Either someone stands with us, or we are very much alone. If God is on the side of calamity, wielding it to teach, discipline, or punish us, then we stand alone against both God and absurdity.

          BTW, this is one of the best iMonk conversations in years. Kudos to all.

      • Robert F says:

        My point in talking about it as a humanistic story is that we, as Christians, have no right to claim everything as ours just because we believe in Christ. If this is indeed a world come of age, then we must respect the autonomy of human decency apart from the name of Jesus. In Christ, God perhaps has set the world free to be itself, and humanity to be itself, and, in the words of Camus, “There are more things to admire than to despise in humanity.”

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “There are more things to admire than to despise in humanity.”

          Which means butting heads with Calvin and his Worm Theology fanboys.

          “Man sees a cute little baby — GOD SEES AN UTTERLY DEPRAVED SINNER!!!!!”
          — radio preacher from the Seventies (definitely NOT J Vernon McGee, but had similar voice and accent)

  3. Do we worship a God that fails. I’ve been asking myself that for awhile now, I think it would have been impossible for me to watch the little boy and not join him. How? I am not sure if I would find the rope or try to take out those responsible but I fear it would be the latter and immediately.

    In this world of failure where nothing leaves alive in present form. Fallen and I take nothing with me so it can’t be mine. The same way I came here. Yet I came here and there was spirit in me. God be gracious to a hard headed man for his heart is still soft and feels when the few get to touch it.

    • Robert F says:

      Wiesel was a mere boy, 14 years old at the beginning, when he experienced these things. Throughout the book, he emphasizes this, saying, “I was only 14 years old….I was only 14 years old….I was only 14 years old….” The boy hanging from that rope was about the same age as Wiesel.

      Your instinct for rebellion in the face of such horror is healthy one. There were some rebellions, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but not many; fear ruled, mostly, and this led to compliance with the machinery of death. A nation full of baptized Christians performed this feat of horror, or allowed it to take place under their noses.

      Many consoled themselves with the idea that they were only following orders given them by governing authority, claiming that this was the duty of every Christian. They used certain texts written by Saint Paul, and the Lutheran Two Kingdoms Doctrine derived from Paul, as scriptural justification for their actions, and inaction. The responsibility, they said, was with those giving the orders; since all governing authority is of God, they themselves were free of guilt, if there were in fact any crimes committed.

      This version of Christianity claimed too little of their nation, and too little of themselves, for the Lordship of Christ. But has it really changed?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Many consoled themselves with the idea that they were only following orders given them by governing authority, claiming that this was the duty of every Christian.

        That does fit in with what I understand of German bureaucratic tradition since Bismarck until WW2.

        As I understand it, in German bureaucratic tradition responsibility was entirely upon the one GIVING the orders, not the one carrying them out. “I was only following orders” WAS a valid defense — provided the follower could produce a paper trail that he was given a direct order and by whom. (In Germany, you CYAed by documenting EVERYTHING, which is why Nazi atrocities are so well-known.) This tradition got sort-of “discontinued” after WW2.

        Germans have a reputation for a very orderly society, but you haven’t seen Cro-Magnon Anarchy until you’ve seen Germans in a situation where there are NO rules. (Today, this is mostly clowning around when out of sight of authority.)

        • Robert F says:

          The Belgian Congo was Germany’s practice run for the Holocaust; an enormous number of tribal natives were terrorized and exterminated so that an immense swath of the Congo could be expropriated as the personal property of King Leopold II. All done with efficiency and obedience to “authority.”

          • The Belgian Congo was indeed horrific, but it was indeed a Belgian affair rather than a German one. More accurately, it was more or less literally the property of Belgian King Leopold, as I understand it. (“King Leopold’s Ghosts” was an awesome book on the topic from ca. 1999.)

            Germany, like Belgium, was late to colonialism, but they did for a brief time have nearby Kamoroun (Camaroun) and Tanganyika (Tanzania), as well as New Guinea in Austronesia. I wonder to what extent their behavior there mirrored that of other colonialists. I’ve never looked into the question, apart from what I know of the Franco-German Albert Schweitzer.

          • And famously Hitler used the genocide of North America as an example of why in history people would come to accept what he had done.

          • Robert F says:

            Yes (I obviously misspoke re. Belgium and Germany) and yes, Trevis and Witten.

            I’m afraid that the influence of the Pauline texts, and something like the Two Kingdoms Doctrine, in shaping Christian people who follow orders unquestioningly goes well beyond the boundaries of Germany and Lutheranism. It’s a Christian problem, exacerbating the general human tendency to do as we’re told by those above us; it needs to be resisted on theological grounds, as well as general grounds of humanity.

            The genocide of native peoples is the founding crime of the U.S. (equaled only by our history of slavery); we tend to forget it, though it poisons all we do. I have no doubt that something like the conclave described above happened on numerous occasions among our tribal victims.

            Lord, have mercy.

    • Robert F says:

      One of the things that startled Bonhoeffer when he started working with the Resistance was how many “pagans” (non-Christian and/or non-religious), and how few Christians, were involved in the efforts to bring down Hitler and the Nazis. This experience contributed greatly toward the development of his theological appreciation of “man-come-of-age,” represented by those who refuse to look to a deus ex machina, or a “god-of-the-gaps,” for solutions to human problems, instead taking action and responsibility upon themselves, and living before God as if in a world without God.

      I’d guess this is why Bonhoeffer rejected the traditional Two Kingdoms Doctrine: he recognized that the “pagan” Germans were more ready to resist than the Christians partly because they had no such doctrine to struggle against, or to excuse them of culpability if they were to comply with Nazi evil.

      • “living before God as if in a world without God” – that’s a statement that warrants much meditating on – thank you Robert.

      • Robert F says:

        If there is a Christian duty to obey, is there also, at times, perhaps a Christian duty to revolt; and aren’t both rooted in a true appreciation of Christian liberty?

        I’m aware that such an idea has dangers, if it’s taken up by those with culture warrior mentality; or if taken up by those who seek an impossible perfection in life on earth, therein embarking on endless revolution. But what I’m thinking of is the liberty, and responsibility, to join with non-Christians and non-religious in working against injustice, and working for a world in which at least an approximation of justice is possible.

        How can the Christian avoid such a responsibility, which is after all a human responsibility? How can the scriptural command to obey governing authority be anything but an order to comply with the demands of whomever has the biggest gun in the room, if it’s not coupled with developing the wisdom to discern the difference between legitimate authority and the pretense of legitimate authority?

        It’s clear that Bonhoeffer at some point (early on, I think) made the determination that the Nazi regime was not a legitimate authority, but a pretender, and therefore not only had no legitimate right to his obedience, but could not claim immunity from his revolt.

        Do we not have the same liberty, and responsibility, as Bonhoeffer?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        One of the things that startled Bonhoeffer when he started working with the Resistance was how many “pagans” (non-Christian and/or non-religious), and how few Christians, were involved in the efforts to bring down Hitler and the Nazis.

        I wonder if there’s any Calvinist influence involved. Predestination beliefs have a side effect of encouraging passivity.

        Though I don’t think Lutherans are into Predestination. I wonder if there was a tradition of Great Chain of Being Authority with God as the Ultimate Authority; that would have a similar side effect of discouraging stepping out of line.

        And after their 1933 coup-from-within, the Nazis were experts at keeping people in line with a combination of national pride and fear. (Also, the way the Nazis came to power — starting out with legitimate elections and political maneuvering into a more and more dominant position until the Reichstag Fire handed them an opportunity for a coup-from-within — meant they retained more legitimate authority than they would if they’d shot their way into power like the Bolsheviki.)

        • Robert F says:

          Two Kingdoms Doctrine, my friend, Two Kingdoms Doctrine; even the Catholics in Germany had sucked this into their spiritual mentality.

        • Predestination beliefs have a side effect of encouraging passivity.

          This is an idea I struggle against, because the opposite seems to be Finney’s Wretched Urgency, and I will have no part in that.

    • Do we worship a God that fails.

      If I take the Bible at face value, without bringing in systematics or anything, and just read it as is…then yes, we worship a God who fails. A God who has made mistakes. A God who has regrets. A God who changes His mind. A God we can step up to who will sometimes argue, sometimes push back, and sometimes agree with us.

      A remarkably human God, almost as if the incarnation had played backwards throughout His “timeline”.

  4. Wow. This brings up a well of thoughts and questions. Jung’s Answer to Job in which God’s shadow is revealed (if you believe Jung). C.S. Lewis praying out of agony despite God. The late Dr. Bruce Morgan saying we must forgive God as well as be forgiven by Him. A friend of mine tells me the Mormons call Satan Jesus’ brother. All of it blasphemous, if you’re bound to the letter, but none of it can be merely thrown on the heap and forgotten. Talk about paradox. Talk about messing with a safe and ordered childhood image. Talk about a direct road for the weak and evil minded to develop a new theology of evil. This seems like a slippery slope to even begin talking about. Which view is the graven image? The conjugation or the all good all light? And is the whole point not to ask the either/or question? I have no opinion to offer, only questions.

    • Barth said somewhere (and I paraphrase) that the cross is the price that God must pay to be entitled to truly be God of a fallen and suffering creation.

      • Same sort of sentiment exactly. Seems quite upsetting to the God is good we are bad dichotomy.

        • These brings up a really sketchy question. Is God’s state of being a static thing or does He evolve? I know He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” but that only addresses one side of a paradoxical supposition. I’m the same as well. The earth is the same earth that we were born to. Still, we evolve. I don’t worship a different God than Moses did but something has changed. Is the evolving only on our side or are we an image of our creator who is in some strange way evolving? This thought seems to flow naturally out of the other stuff but it is definitely on the burn ’em at the stake heretical fringe. These are just my musings and my personal conundrums.

          • Paradoxes abound. But, as CM said in a comment above, some of us can’t help but believe, no matter how much counter-evidence is adduced.

          • I think just because “God doesn’t change” doesn’t necessarily mean He doesn’t do things differently over time. How else can you explain the Old Covenant vs. the New Covenant? And I also like to think of God being larger/bigger/more mysterious than whatever “God doesn’t change” encapsulates. He doesn’t change, yet He does.

          • I know He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” but that only addresses one side of a paradoxical supposition.

            Can I ask if that’s Math True, or is that Poetic True?

            What if it’s not True? is the question I need to ask after 30 years of default assuming it’s the most rigid true there is.

          • Robert F says:

            You can never set foot in the same stream twice, since the stream is ever in flux; yet, if it is still a stream, and you still have a foot, some things must endure. If this is true of creation, it must be truer yet of God: flux and changelessness exist in relationship to each other, in some mysterious way; perhaps it’s better to just say God is alive and free, and leave it at that. Poetry and metaphor must be closer to the truth here.

      • Barth said somewhere (and I paraphrase) that the cross is the price that God must pay to be entitled to truly be God of a fallen and suffering creation.

        Thanks for that Robert. It is something I needed to hear. Love was willing to pay that price. I think I need that to become part of me.

        Forgiveness seems to be a two way street much like love and I have dwelled on the fact I need to forgive God and what freedom exists for me in His forgiveness and my own.

        The spirit I came here with and leave with is given and all my life I have asked why did you put me here. I never wanted this world and probably never would if I had a choice. Then we get to a choice. How would I know this isn’t the best choice I could have.

        Robert is it possible we have no beginning or end either.

    • The thing that makes me uncomfortable about Jung is that he wants to integrate the darkness, embrace it in some sense, instead of transcending it. I suppose I want the same things to happen, in a certain sense, but the only means of doing so that doesn’t look like a collapse into complete moral relativism, along with ethical vertigo, seems to me to be the crucified God.

      Jung, on the other hand, seems to want to establish integration and balance by way of secret knowledge and wisdom; his is an alchemical and hermetic path, depending on the strength and intelligence of the aspirant. Let us start by saying that what happened in the Nazi death camps was evil, and must be overcome; and let’s not abandon that starting point as we move forward and try to find integration and balance. I’m afraid that Jung, in his thinking, did abandon that starting point for a world in which light and darkness, good and evil, are equally creative. He attempt to relieve the tension that exists between light and darkness by way of a complete relativizing; I think it’s better, and more morally responsible and realistic, to let the tension continue to exist in the absence of a comprehensive solution.

      • I’m not a Jungian but in his terms you can’t transcend the shadow unless you do integrate it. He would have said that the problem with the Nazis was exactly that. They did not recognize their own shadow so they unconsciously projected it outward and poured all their rage and loathing into it. But you don’ have to buy into Jung’s whole system to recognize the principle. The weakling is obsessed with power. The prude is obsessed with sexuality. And so on.

        • Robert F says:

          Yes. The shadow is an unseen killer; unseen until it’s too late, that is.

          I can certainly thank God that Jung didn’t leave us with nothing but Freud.

  5. This is truly a Judeo-Christian sentiment. Simultaneously questioning God, expressing our doubt, fear, and frustration, but instead of allowing this to separate us from him, we turn to him nonetheless in trust though dark our road. It is the pattern of the Psalmist on numerous occasions. It is the patter of Christ on the cross who cries “why hast thou forsaken me?” When things go bad, it is natural to point the finger at God for his failure to preserve us. God knows this, he understands this, he forgives this, and he invites us still, “Come, let us reason together.” Being honest with God, even when you’re angry, bitter, and hateful towards him, is an important step in genuine prayer. When we seek him through pain, he is found in surprising places. He is not the God of the comfortable, but the God of the suffering.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Nicely said, Miguel.

    • Amen and amen!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I remember some online essays by Rabbi Boteach where he claimed the unique strength of Judaism is Judaism isn’t afraid to argue or haggle or wrestle with God instead of just Submitting like Christianity or Islam. Some of his examples were Abraham haggling down the angels outside Sodom like a bazaar merchant, Jacob getting his leg broken in a physical knock-down-drag-out with God, and a lot of the “Where were you?” to God in Job and the Psalms.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi MIGUEL,

      you wrote, this: ” When we seek him through pain, he is found in surprising places. He is not the God of the comfortable, but the God of the suffering.”

      and I thought about how difficult it is for human persons to feel a ‘compassion like that of Our God’, and I realize that we ourselves cannot risk being empathic towards a suffering person without taking on some of that suffering into ourselves, even a tiny portion, and wanting to relieve it for the sake of the other we empathize with.
      So it costs us, as coming back to save a wounded Creation cost Our Lord in suffering for it’s sake.

      The value and work of suffering is a great mystery to me, but I think it does connect up with something else I recently found, this:

      “Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind?
      In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?”

      Henri J.M. Nouwen ” The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society”

      Is it possible that there is a ‘block’ to Christian ministry in some evangelical fundamentalist circles because there does exist such a profound lack of empathic identity of those who would minister towards ‘the others’ from whom they feel a great divide ????