I had an imaginary theological debate with the Almighty last Saturday. I lost.
The debate had its genesis in a piece by Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speech writer who now pens a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal.
In her Aug. 24 piece for the newspaper, Noonan wondered why more politicians don’t denounce war the way Franklin Delano Roosevelt did before waging the war that brought down the Axis powers. She argued that because FDR, in a 1936 speech, eloquently stated how he hated war and did not want war, his decision to enter World War II was all the more credible.
Noonan built her column around the photo of the little Syrian boy pulled from the rubble of his home, bloodied and in shock while sitting in the back of an ambulance.
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Now to my debate: The photo had me wishing for divine intervention in the Syrian civil war, and I got a little testy with God because he hadn’t intervened. I mean, the Good Lord, had he had a mind to, could have laid waste to the airplanes and bombs before they had a chance to lay waste to the little boy’s home.
But after I thought I had scored a point in my debate with the Almighty, it occurred to me that if the Lord had laid waste to the bombers and their payloads, those waging war in Syria would have turned to, say, rockets fired from fighter planes or helicopters. And if God had destroyed the planes and helicopters and their rockets, the wagers of war would have defaulted to mortar shells fired from tanks and field artillery.
You can see where I’m headed. Mortar shells would have given way to bullets, which would have given way to knives, which would have given way to clubs or other blunts instrument of death.
My point is that while God could destroy all of our weapons of mass destruction, he can’t change what’s in our hearts. And that is where war begins and lives; weapons are just a means to an end.
Because I struggle with faith, I’m not willing to let the Almighty completely off the hook here. God has proven himself an interventionist over the years; just ask the Egyptians, who lost an Army when the Red Sea closed in on it.
But while the Good Lord could make it harder to wage war with deadly efficiency, he couldn’t end the motives for war, whether that be hate or lust for power or lust for hand, unless free will is a myth. If he could change our hearts without ending free will, the Middle East today would be a peaceful place.
It isn’t, as little boy in Syria can attest.
Don’t be a hypocrite
I loathe few things more than a hypocrite, so suffice it to say, I ended up not liking the guy who was sitting next to me at the bar on Sunday while I was watching, or trying to watch, a team from the United States win the Little League World Series.
I thought maybe he was loud and talkative because he was drunk, but the bartender said later that he had had just one beer. So maybe he was medicated; he did talk to himself a lot. He talked to me a lot too, mostly about sports – college football, pro football, Major League baseball, college basketball.
He spoke highly of longtime Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Laundry. “He was a good Christian man,” the talkative sports fan said.
I took that to mean the talkative sports fan was a good Christian man too. But he wasn’t; he skipped out without paying for his dinner and beer, a bill that would have approached $20. In doing so, he broke the eighth commandment.
The man also stiffed the hardworking bartender. In doing that, he proved himself worse than a hypocrite.