Postponing a post I was going to run and write about the terrorist attacks in Paris. These are just some musings on the situation, while realizing that France has experienced its September 11th. Also some comments on the problem of evil and how its times like this that I find it hard to believe in God and feel like I am holding on by a thread. The problem of evil is going to come up a lot in this blog.
“Our efforts to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering end up disconnecting our suffering form God’s suffering for us. The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through.”
“This attack on freedom was aimed not just at Paris, it targeted and it hits all of us. That is why we must all respond together,” said Merkel dressed in black, her voice faltering. “We your German friends, feel very close to you. We cry with you.”
My face is red with weeping, dark shadows ring my eyes
Job 16:16 NIV
I had another post to put up, but after everything that happened in Paris I felt compelled to stop working on that post and spend some time writing about this situation instead. I’ve criticized organizations like Fairfax Community Church who plowed forward despite their being the Navy Yard massacre right in their own back yard. You can read what I wrote here. In light of the seriousness of the current situation I just want to take some time and reflect on it.
I feel sick…and words can’t adequately describe the turmoil I feel in what I am reading and watching.
I was leaving work when I started to hear a little bit about the situation. It sounded disturbing but I thought it would end. So I drove to Rockville, Maryland to meet with some guys I know. I fought traffic and listened to music, so I had no idea of what was unfolding in Paris. When I got to my destination I was talking with some of the guys I know and pulled out my Android and went to CNN. I was shocked when I saw the body count that had risen and looked like it was going to go up more. Then I read about suicide bomber, a soccer game being attacked, a massacre in a rock concert and it dawned on me. It hit me like a ton of bricks….France is having their September 11th. I pushed away from the guys that I knew and stepped outside and got in my car.
And I cried.
I thought of the enormity as to what was unfolding. I thought of the lives that are shattered, and the people who lost loved ones. What this meant for Paris, France, Europe and the United States. I’m also a guy who has studied a lot of history in college and grad school. I thought of what this meant in historical terms, and I realized that these attacks were unique and different than previous terrorist attacks. They are well coordinated, and went after soft spots. It also began to dawn on me that France hasn’t seen this kind of violence since World War II. That violence was different as it was state on state. It was depressing, and overwhelming all at the same time. There were other thoughts that went through my mind, please let me explain. When I was in college I took a Civil War History class, and one of the books I had to read is Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels.” That book is a historical novel that is about 4 days in July 1863 portraying the Battle of Gettysburg and how it unfolded. There is also a popular historical fiction genre that also exists. But in my case I think on and chew on things and consider differing outcomes in my mind. For example from time to time in my mind I wonder…given Europe’s history, could fascism ever make a re-emergence? I remember reading German history and the reason why Margaret Thatcher was opposed to a unified Germany. The reason why is because she remembered what the last unified Germany did. So here I am wondering in my mind….given the shifts in the global stage, the refugees coming into Europe from Syria, the economic situation and racial issues, as well as the past history of Germany, Italy, and Spain…is it possible that fascism could make a come back given the right circumstances? I’m just trying to give you guys a taste of how I think. After all when I write posts like this, this or this, I think that reveals how much history I have studied and how much I enjoy it.
Isobel Bowdery’s Facebook Comment
It’s a small world, but what I am also learning that social media is making it much smaller. Someone I know posted a Facebook comment by one of the survivors of the Paris attack in the Bataclan concert hall. It’s been liked 2,413,663 times and shared 698,214 times. This is the comment by Isobel, please read this:
you never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then whe…n the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn’t just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right infront of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless.. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry – not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn’t. The people who had been there for the exact same reasons as I – to have a fun friday night were innocent. This world is cruel. And acts like this are suppose to highlight the depravity of humans and the images of those men circuling us like vultures will haunt me for the rest of my life. The way they meticoulsy aimed at shot people around the standing area i was in the centre of without any consideration for human life. It didn’t feel real. i expected any moment for someone to say it was just a nightmare. But being a survivor of this horror lets me able to shed light on the heroes. To the man who reassured me and put his life on line to try and cover my brain whilst i whimpered, to the couple whose last words of love kept me believing the good in the world, to the police who succeded in rescuing hundreds of people, to the complete strangers who picked me up from the road and consoled me during the 45 minutes I truly believed the boy i loved was dead, to the injured man who i had mistaken for him and then on my recognition that he was not Amaury, held me and told me everything was going to be fine despite being all alone and scared himself, to the woman who opened her doors to the survivors, to the friend who offered me shelter and went out to buy new clothes so i wouldnt have to wear this blood stained top, to all of you who have sent caring messages of support – you make me believe this world has the potential to be better. to never let this happen again. but most of this is to the 80 people who were murdered inside that venue, who weren’t as lucky, who didnt get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through. I am so sorry. There’s nothing that will fix the pain. I feel priviledged to be there for their last breaths. And truly beliving that I would join them, I promise that their last thoughts were not on the animals who caused all this. It was thinking of the people they loved. As i lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered I love you. over and over again. reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those i love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep belieivng in the good in people. to not let those men win. Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil. RIP angels. You will never be forgotten.
Problem of Evil…
I am sensitive to the problem of evil. I honestly believe of all the reasons to reject God and Christianity that the problem of evil by far is the best. When people reject the Christian faith because of the problem of evil, or pain and suffering…I can nod my head and understand. There is a myth that suffering draws a person toward God, in many cases suffering can also drive a person away. But when I hear of a person leaving Christianity due to the problem of evil, for me it makes sense and its logical. Who wouldn’t be bothered by the problem of evil? I have to confess this…there are times where I feel like I am hanging on by my finger tips to the Christian faith. Today with all that I have read I feel like I am hanging on by a thread. The problem of evil has been a hammer that I’ve dealt with often. Some days are better than others, and when days like November 13 occur and what happens in France plays out and dominates social media and is all over my Android then I am stunned.
These are the thoughts that go through my mind as I wrestle with the problem of evil…still.
- Why does a loving God declare the world is good when he created it knowing that evil was going to enter it?
- Why does a loving God who is perfect and flawless create a world with flawed people capable of such evil. Isn’t that a flaw in God’s character?
- Why does a God who is described as love sit by and stand down and let the events unfold in Paris like they do? Couldn’t that be described as spiritual neglect? What type of loving father would allow terrorists to walk over people and shoot them repeatedly to make sure they are dead and pick people off like birds?
- Why does a God continue to standby and let evil acts happen again…and again…and again?
What troubles me the most about this is that I know this is not going to be the last act go terrorism to occur. There will be more that will be just as horrific and will happen in the future. Also, honestly….we here in the United States sadly in all likelihood will experience terrorism again in the future. I am incredibly thankful yet amazed that nothing has happened in New York City, Washington, D.C. or elsewhere. And I don’t want there to be anything to happen either. But its days like today where I am stuck in the tension but feel more drawn to disbelief as I process and consider the details. What horrifies me is hearing the details of the people who were killed. The potential, the young lives, the shattered dreams, destroyed families, etc… in the days that come we’re going to hear the stories. Its like that anytime something evil occurs…the Roseburg shootings, September 11th profiles of each person killed in the New York Times. It makes it personal and tragic. The other thing that stunned me is reading about the soccer game. Did you know that the soccer match was attended by workers of that Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps? Remember that was where you had that pilot who was suicidal who crashed a plane into the ground because he wanted to end his life, and take 90 or so passengers with him. That bothered me immensely….but I felt for everyone, I can’t imagine what it was like to work the scene of one tragedy and then find yourselves amidst another tragedy.
Here is another avenue to the problem of evil that bothers me also as I contemplate it. We have been focused on Paris because that is front and center. There is a lot of evil happening in the world that doesn’t have attention or we almost seem to accept. For example we aren’t as emotionally moved at the fact that there are North Koreans starving to death in internment camps. There are suicide bombings and acts of terrorism that still happen in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan that are so frequent we accept them. There are situations of disease and famine that occur in Africa where people starve to death in places like Somalia on the horn that we also don’t talk about and consider. So Paris has the spotlight but it is not the only part of the world struggling with the problem of evil. Not by a longshot. I am not trying to downplay what happened in Paris, all I am trying to say is that it is overwhelming.
Then there is this aspect of the problem of evil that bothers and personally angers me. It is at times like this when people are vulnerable, raw, and emotional that someone, somewhere opens their mouth and says something horrific. In writing this I haven’t checked John Piper’s Twiiter account, but I cringe as John Piper is nothing but the Neo-Calvinist Pat Robertson in that regard. My hope is please….John if you read this…don’t say anything outrageous or stupid. If you are can Jon Bloom or someone else as Desiring God take away your Twitter, blog, keyboard, smart phone or Android and have you step back from social media? if necessary I can Fex-ex some duct tape to wherever John Piper is at. But please amidst such pain don’t open your mouth and say something that is horrific and tie this to some aspect of Neo-Calvinism to make a point. I can predict you John when it comes to tornadoes, I don’t want to do the same thing when it comes to terrorist attacks. So John Piper, Justin Taylor and anyone else…back away form the keyboard. Please nothing that will make suffering worse and compound it. Can we agree to that John? I’ll respect you more if you can behave like that John.
Now having said all that let me tell you something that brought a smile to my face and gave me a glimmer of hope that some parts of evangelical Christianity are getting it right. In my Facebook feed I noticed that my former church in Milwaukee, Wooded Hills Bible Church, decided on a Saturday night to get together and just spend time in prayer. It looks like it was impromptu, and had no plan to it other than get together and pray. No spectacle, just a church…..responding to a dire situation. Just a church acting like a church in interrupting life for a pressing situation and responding. It is a church that disrupted their Saturday evening schedule to come together to pray for those weeping and in pain in Paris. When I heard about that I smiled…it is one of the few things that gave me hope. Many evangelical Christian churches blow the opportunities before them, in this one sense. They are devoted to a program and they miss the pressing needs of the community they claim to serve. That happens way to often and it troubles me when I see that occurring over and over. Its why I am proud of my old church in the Milwaukee area. Had I lived there instead of the D.C. area I would have attended and joined them during this situation and prayed for the people suffering in Paris. May the evangelical Christian church learn from this…
As always I love you guys. Do me a favor….reach out to someone you love and express that to them. Life is short and it shouldn’t take a tragedy, or a terrorist attack to make one realize how fragile life can be. I am going to close with the French national anthem. Vive le France.