Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't mess with me.

This post is especially angsty, so consider this a warning.

At our ward's last fast and testimony meeting, several people mentioned the "fact" that God sends us our trials.  This can somehow be construed as comforting (see the last post on how everything being "controlled" by God is both deceptively comforting and false [in my opinion]).  When you get down to it though, what kind of a god would be so cruel?  If he is real, he helps us see the benefit that trials can bring, but he doesn't send them to us.

When people in sacrament said that God sends trials and will take them away when we learn enough, I felt anger and the thought that came to my mind was, **language alert**

Everything happens for a reason

I do not believe that “everything happens for a reason” in the sense that some things are caused to happen for a specific outcome; I believe that you can find meaning in anything that happens, but that meaning is a result of the occurrence, not the other way around.  (This topic reminds me of Justin Bieber's controversial faux pas when talking about abortion:
"I really don't believe in abortion," Bieber says. "It's like killing a baby." How about in cases of rape? "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that.")

I think it can, on the surface, seem rather comforting to think that everything is controlled and meant to happen—but that seems rather too much like determinism to me.  True, you could say that not everything is controlled and that just some things are.  However, I don’t think things are controlled to the degree that some people think they are.

The main point: I think that instead of changing the circumstances, God does something better and helps us change our perspective of the circumstances.  He may have the power to change the circumstances, but he doesn’t do this as often as people think he does.

I bring this up because of the number of times I have heard people bear testimony of how God changed a situation for them, but when you think about it the amount of things he would have to change, and the degree to which he would have to mess with people’s agency is astounding.

For example, a brother told a story about how, late at night, his car was breaking down.  He could make it to a gas station up the street, but only if all of the lights remained green; if he had to stop, the car would break down.  He said a prayer, and all of the lights remained green.  My reaction is that, since it was late at night, it was luck that the lights turned green.  God touched his heart so that he could be grateful for this luck.  If he had encountered a red light and his car didn’t break down, he would have praised God for this miracle and would have testified that God doesn’t always answer our prayers but does what is best for us in the end.  If his car had broken down, he would have praised God for something that would have come out of it: maybe a car would have stopped and the driver would have helped him, and somehow the church came up and he was able to share the gospel with him or her.  He would have testified that it was meant to be that his car broke down.  What I’m saying is that no matter what happened, he would have credited God with making it turn out the best way possible.

Another example: A sister told of how a day devoted to traveling to Hawaii was full of delayed flights and inconveniences which caused her family to arrive in the evening when the were supposed to arrive in the afternoon.  As she was walking down to the beach, the thought came in her head that maybe all of those inconveniences happened so that she could meet someone.  Sure enough, a guy came walking along the beach, they started talking (including about religion), and he became a great friend of her family’s.  Now he’s going to an LDS church in Hawaii!  It was meant to be!

The problem: How did God cause the flight delays?  Did he cause people to make mistakes so that they would slow down? Wouldn’t that interfere with their agency?  Why would he convenience all of those other passengers just for the benefit of one man?  Of course, you could say that someone’s eternal salvation is much more important than a flight being on time.  But think of how much the delay could have affected the other passengers: they could have been involved in a car accident that they wouldn’t have if they had arrived earlier, a father on his death bed they were traveling to see could have passed away before they were able to get there, etc. I ask why that one man was more important than all of those other passengers?

This sister was blessed to be able to find a positive outcome from her inconveniences, but that doesn’t mean that those inconveniences happened for that positive outcome.

I usually don’t like the “you are less than dust” rhetoric, but why am I so important that God would rearrange a snowstorm for me?  Why would I be blessed with safe travel just because people are praying for me when other people could run into dangerous road conditions because of that delayed snowstorm?

I guess you could answer that God works in mysterious ways and that we don't understand everything with our limited mortal scope.  But in this case, I think it's a little bit of a cop-out answer.