Your Petulant Deity: Email Correspondence in the Wake of September 11

Shlomoh and Friends
November, 2001

In November, 2001, just 2 months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the daughter of a friend of mine forwarded a global email to me as one of the people on her distributed list. The original email message had been sent out by the daughter of a prominent Protestant evangelist. It stated that the attack of September 11 was God's punishment on a sinfull America.

What follows is my response to her email and then following that is her own mother's response.

Date: Friday, November 02, 2001
To: Carrie
From: Shlomoh
Subject: Your Petulant Deity

Really Carrie!
This is a bit much!
It's an awfully petulant deity you worship! Petulance is a quality in a human being in which he or she is easily upset when he or she does not get what he or she feels entitled to, and that entitlement may be completely off the wall. The message you sent me seems to indicate that you feel God took a stand to let America suffer terrorism because we committed acts which religious people consider sinfull.

If that does not sound like petulance on the part of an almighty deity, I don't know what does. So that's how God deals with His beloved children? He acts like a spoiled and abusive parent when he gets ticked off? Let me ask you something? If your mother let you get killed because she did not like the way you were following her orders, what do you think we should do with her? You better start demanding from your God what He demands from you, and nothing less, otherwise how can you respect yoruself? Otherwise you are a slave to a hypocritcal God who is petulant and abusive.

You know why I don't worship your god? Because of His representatives that insult an America which is bleeding and whose innocent citizens died, and this woman you quote cannot say anything other than that we pissed off God so he let us die.

Nice! Real nice! She should be proud of herself. She's almost as bad as binLaden. After all, he says basically the same thing. America is a land of sin so it deserves to suffer. I guess that great (religious) minds think alike.

Carrie, you always struck me as an intelligent person. Wake up and realize the poison you are helping to spread with that email. There is enough religious poison killing the earth. We don't need more of the same.

From: Carrie
To: Mom
Subject: Your Petulant Deity
Date: Mon, Nov 5, 2001

Shlomoh sent this as a reply to an email I forwarded to him. What should I say?

From: Elaine
To: Carrie
Subject: Your Petulant Deity
Date: Mon, Nov 5, 2001


I think you need to sit back and really consider what Shlomoh is saying here, and you need to re-think your opinions, ideas, and beliefs if you think the WTC destruction was an act of God's judgement upon humanity.

I'm at a disadvantage to say more as I did not read the original email from which the correspondance derived. However, based upon Shlo's reply alone, he's right in that our God is not a God who used terrorism as 'judgement' against a sinful nation. He is not a God who will allow his bride, the church, or his children to suffer the wrath to come.

Today is the day of salvation, mercy and grace ... not judgement. What happens through terrorism is a result of sin being borne into the world; it is the result of evil versus good.

My dear sweet confused child ... "search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life."

Ecclesiastes states something about whosoever breaks the hedge, a serpent stands without, ready to strike.

God is not sitting upon his throne inflicting pain and/or judgement upon mankind. We do that to ourselves when we remove ourselves from his divine protection.

As a parent, I set specific boundaries in order to try and protect my children. However, if they chose to step outside of or remove themselves from the boundaries, then whatever harm came to them was caused by their own foolish choices.

God set a boundary in the Garden of Eden when he instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the forbidden fruit. He did this as a protective parent. They chose to be disobedient, bringing judgement upon themselves and sin to all humanity. As a result of man's fall, evil was birthed. Even then, God had a plan for redemption though to try and reverse the harm that was done; to try to unite himself with humanity (after sin separated mankind from him) through Jesus Christ.

God didn't simply send his son to die. He came himself in the form of man ... the saviour, the Messiah. That flesh was referred to as "the son" yet it was God, (the Father) veiled in the flesh, in humanity. Because he overcame, death, hell, and the grave through his resurrection, he gives us power to overcome our enemies by his Spirit (the Holy Ghost).

Terrorism is a result of evil birthed into this world via man's fall in the Garden of Eden, Carrie. However, God is able through these sorrowful events to remind us of our need for him; to awaken us to our dependence upon him. He is not the perpetrator of these evil acts via judgement. How can he be when the Word clearly reveals to us that it will be HE who comes in vengence and judgment against the Evil one?

Hope I've helped you somehow.

ADDENDUM [June 22, 2003]

Needless to say, I do not subscribe to my friend's, Elaine's, religious philosophies regarding the nature of God nor to her interpretation of the events poetically and mythicallly descibed in the Bible's account of Man in the Garden of Evil. See my essay here, "HAD ADAM AND EVE NOT SINNED", for my own interpretation of the Eden story.

One thing that Elaine's response to Carrie seems to imply (and I seriously doubt that she even realized it at the time she wrote it) is that not everything that happens is the will of God. This is a very difficult position for a religious Fundamentalist, deeply committed to Biblical Religion, to take. However in many instances of deep tragedy, people find it hard to believe that God actually wanted the tragedy to occur. A facile answer is that a particular tragedy is "part of a Divine Plan". But the victims of tragedy do not wish to be part of any plan that reveals itself it their own pain. If a parent lost a child in the fall of the WTC, and someone said to that parent that the child is now "in the arms of Jesus", which heart-broken parent would not immediately say within himself or herself, "That be damned. I want my child back in MY arms"?

There is a story of a Chasid who escaped death in a Nazi concentration camp when the fleeing Germans machine-gunned all the remaining inmates that had not already died. This man was fortunate enough to not have had any of the bullets hit him. When he later asked his Rebbe if his survival was not indeed a miracle, the Rebbe angrily told him that his survival was an accident. To think that it was a miracle would be tantamount to spitting on the graves of all the other victims who perished in the hail of Nazi bullets. Here again, in this story, there is a desire to "clear God" of any wrong doing by intimating that the death brought about by the Germans was His will. In deep tragedy, common sense won out over theology. Most of the time, it doesn't. Paul of Tarsus said that all men are sinners and that they cannot do anything righteous. Yet surely he saw, everyday of his life, people living righteous and decent lives. He ignored common sense and the sense of his own eyes in order to justify his theology.

Tragedy is a terrible thing, especially when it occurs on the scale of 9/11. For many people, it was preferable to believe that it was part of God's plan rather than that tragedies like these have no reason except the reason found in the hearts of the religious fundamentalists who perpetrated it. To them, it is intollerable to think that we have no absolute power over senseless and MEANINGLESS tragedy.

One last thing about this subject. While fundamentalist Christians were heaping blame on Americans for the tragedy of 9/11, many humbled Orthodox Jews of New York City were devoting their time ministering to the wounded and donating their blood, and saying Pslams in memory of the dead.

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