When I sat down to think about this question, it struck me immediately that war is hardly worse than many of the other horrible things humankind suffers through. The tsunami, Katrina, the Pakistani earthquake; the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur; the slow starvation of millions of children and women, the ravages of preventable disease; all of these were/are at least as horrific as the carnage in any war zone.
The real question, it seems, ought to be how can we keep faith in face of natural disasters and human brutality towards other humans? How do we explain a God that allows such suffering to happen?
And the answer to that is that I cannot explain God, and that faith rests not upon the natural world, or the goodness of humankind, but upon the whisperings of our heart, the yearnings of our soul.
I can offer up the arguments about this world being a test to see how we will deal with each other, and whether we turn a blind eye to the sufferings of our fellow humans. But, while I do believe that, it is also quite clear to me that this test could easily be accomplished with suffering on a far lesser scale.
I can mouth platitudes about free will, and how God allows humans to do as they please, which
I also believe, but that doesn’t really explain why God made us so capable of doing evil. Obviously, God could have fashioned us with limited will to harm others, limited greed, limited self-interest.
I can argue that the glories of the hereafter, or it’s agonies, will make up for any suffering or harm caused in the here and now, but that does little to alleviate the here and now suffering that I see before my eyes. And it’s clear to me that justice even in the here and now is often a set of competing claims which means that justice for one results in injustice for another; how much more so justice in an eternal setting.
To be honest, I don’t feel much need to explain God or the natural order. The world is as the world is. Human beings are the way they are. The thing that I call God is the way He/She/It is.
The important question is not, “Why?” but, “What can I do to make things better?” And to that there are a multitude of answers from charity to protests in the street, from volunteerism to advocacy work, and on and on and on.
These works represent, to me, a huge leap of faith — faith that a better world is possible, despite centuries and millenniums of evidence that humankind is inveterately violent, hateful, selfish, and self-centered; faith that the humane, compassionate, altruistic side of humankind will indeed finally win out.
What God wants for the world, I can’t really say. On the one hand I believe that God is Merciful, Loving and Compassionate, and see ample evidence of that in daily life, the natural world, the incredible order of the universe. On the other I see ample evidence that God simply lets things run their course, no matter how horrific that course may be, or, even, that God has set the universe up in such a way, that by its very structure and nature suffering must occur. Be all that as it may, I cannot change the structure of the universe, the nature of life on Earth, but I can act upon the world as it is, I can try and implement my will, my desires, for life here, and hopefully make the world just a tiny bit better.