HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

July 30, 2007
God With Us

Jerome Richard


A lot of people speak to God these days, and some people believe that He speaks to them, but are they really listening.  Or, is He?    People who call upon God for help don't always seem to get the message.  For example, in a BBC interview on November 15, 2001, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban was asked what he thought about the current situation in Afghanistan.  (This was about a month after the U.S. invaded.)  He replied that it was part of a bigger cause, the destruction of America.  Asked if there was a concrete plan to implement that, he said: "The plan is going ahead and, God willing, it is being implemented.  But it is a huge task, which is beyond the will and comprehension of human beings.  If God's help is with us, this will happen within a short period of time; keep in mind this prediction."

Of course, it's possible that six years is a short period of time to God, but probably not to Mullah Omar.  Has he come to the conclusion that God was not willing?   "God willing" ("Inshallah") is a common invocation by Muslims.  It would seem superfluous, but I suppose it represents an acknowledgement of God's supreme power.  However, no amount of failure seems to lead to the conclusion that God was not willing.

A Pakistani cricket fan wrote on his blog earlier this year: "Pakistan will win the World Cup Inshallah."  What did it mean to him that the winner turned out to be Australia?  

President Bush believes that he was chosen by God to be president.  In The Faith of George Bush by Stephen Mansfield, Bush is quoted as telling James Robinson: "I feel like God wants me to run for President.  I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me.  Something is going to happen…"

The attack of 9/11 must have seemed like that something.  So, how does he explain his failure to find Osama bin Laden?  Or his vanishing approval rating? 

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, all-star catcher with the Detroit Tigers, crosses himself before each pitch when he is at bat.  He is a good hitter, but even the best hitters make an out more often than they get a hit.  Sometimes he strikes out.  He is not the only player to cross himself with each pitch.  Some cross themselves once as they step up to the plate, and some do not cross themselves at all.  You cannot tell from their batting averages who does and who does not. 

Some baseball players, and this seems to be a new thing, point skyward as they round third base after hitting a home run.  Either they are thanking God or else giving Him credit for their achievement.  They do not point either up or down when they strike out.  Some football players point up if they score a touchdown; others kneel in a brief prayer.  (His eye is on the game.)

I don't know if there is a God, much less whether or not He cares about our prayers.  (Jimmy Carter says that all prayers are answered sometimes the answer is no.) To me, the proposition that a supernatural being created the world out of nothing, and the theory that a small ball of matter once exploded, resulting in our present universe, seem equally fantastic. 

I know this:  An AP story reported in the Seattle Times (July 18, 2007) described a man named Aaron Snyder who was shot to death by police when he displayed a loaded .357 caliber pistol and a knife after being escorted out of the Colorado governor's office where he had declared: "I am the emperor, and I'm here to take over state government."  Earlier, he had e-mailed a colleague saying that God had made him "the emperor, the sovereign ruler of this nation."  His e-mail continued: "God has bestowed this honor on me.  Today is the appointed day in which God has chosen for me to begin my reign."

After the incident, the Denver police chief said Snyder appeared to have "some type of mental problem."


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