Wednesday, May 23

If in God you trust, why not give up bullet-proof Popemobile?


By Ken Morrison

"I want to thank God; he’s the reason we won." How many times,
from how many different professional athletes, have we all heard
some variation of this standard ascription to divine
intervention?

But there’s one holy proclamation I long to hear from a
prominent sports figure during a nationally televised post game
interview. Just once, and then I could die a happy man.

Mind you, I’m not picky; any athlete, after any event would
suffice. But ideally, I’d prefer to hear it from the star running
back for the losing team in the Super Bowl who, at the end of an
otherwise brilliant run, fumbled the ball away at the goal line.
With only seconds left on the game clock, a touchdown would have
won the championship for his team.

Just once, during a post game interview, I’d like to hear it
said (with no tongue-in-cheek): "We should have won. I would have
scored a touchdown … BUT GOD MADE ME FUMBLE." Perhaps said with
disappointment, but no hostility; just said matter-of-factly, "God
made me fumble." Maybe, just maybe, God was on the opponent’s side
and did make him fumble.

"The Lord is on our side." Why not? Virtually every nationstate
asserts it during military conflicts against the "immoral"
opposition. But war is different – it’s life or death. God can’t
care about or be bothered with petty things like a football,
baseball or basketball game, can s/he? Yes, yes, s/he’s omnipotent,
omniscient and omnipresent. But can s/he really be all powerful,
know everything and be everywhere, all the time? Well, s/he is God,
so sure. And it may be just a ball game to you or me, but it’s a
whole heck of a lot more to those who depend on it for their – and
their family’s livelihood.

But why would God make anyone fumble? I suppose the other team
simply could be deemed more worthy of victory (perhaps the
sincerity of their pre-game team prayer was more clear than that of
the loser, and that helped tip the balance). Or perhaps God wanted
to teach the losers a lesson in humility in order to help
strengthen their character. In any event, to the extent God is
praised for one’s successes, shouldn’t s/he be held equally
culpable for the failures as well? At least since Teflon-Reagan was
president, I can’t think of anyone who gets credit for all the
perceived good things and is never held blameworthy for any of the
bad.

Now, to be clear, I don’t mean to pick exclusively on
professional athletes; they’re just a convenient, visible target.
Many an Academy Award recipient has divvied up a pro-rata portion
of thanks to the almighty among their lengthy list of
acknowledgements. And, after listening to enough victory speeches,
one could easily conclude that God was the major financial campaign
contributor to a rather large number of politicians.

Certainly, people must be entitled to believe as they wish -
freedom of the mind is perhaps the most basic of all freedoms.
Likewise, I’m certainly entitled to feel that such public
pronouncements ("spreading the word of the gospel") within secular
settings are simply inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And, in
fairness, I recognize that not all believers in a god should be
lumped together (there are varying degrees of belief in free will
vs. predestination, etc.).

Still, it’s quite perplexing that so many people publicly
attribute credit to God for the good things, yet never a scant word
is heard regarding shared blame for the bad. Perhaps this is
because the religionists actually know something they won’t
publicly admit: God is not directly controlling the outcome of
events in their lives.

Certainly the Pope knows it; how else can the "Pope Mobile" be
explained? Pope John Paul II publicly explained that God had saved
his life during the 1981 assassination attempt that led to the use
of his bullet-proof cruiser. If he really believes God is
protecting him from assassinations, what’s with the plexi-mobile?
It must be that he knows a bullet to the head is no match for God.
Therefore, isn’t the Pope’s mistrust tantamount to giving God the
finger, blaming God for causing him to get shot? If so, let’s hear
him say it: "God made me get shot." Of course, since he’d be out of
a cushy job the next day, I won’t hold my breath waiting.

But again, maybe God is there, everywhere, all the time, and
every bad thing happens for a reason. The Pope tripped on the hem
of his robe in November last year perhaps because he had an impure
thought that day and the almighty just wanted to get his attention
by dislocating and slightly fracturing his shoulder. I don’t even
want to guess what he might have done to deserve the broken leg he
got when he slipped getting out of the shower last April, let alone
the bullet he took in 1981.

However, we’re still left with the age-old issue: What plausible
explanation could there be for so many infants and young children
dying and suffering in famine-stricken regions – the most innocent
of innocent people, certainly too young to have even had an impure
thought let alone "sinned" in any other way?

Of course, faith, by definition, is not captive to the
restrictions of logic. So perhaps the simple, if not obvious,
retort to my little pecksniffian diatribe is that, once again, I’ve
missed the whole point: S/he really does work in mysterious ways. I
guess God made me fumble.

Ken Morrison is a UCLA alumnus who admits to having taken only
one philosophy course that dealt with religion (and he got a
C+).

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