Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Faith - The Challenge of Injustice

I write a lot about faith and religion in this blog. I am generally pro faith and anti religion. Faith can be a sustaining influence in our lives. Each of us is able to define our own faith. I like that. Not so with religion. Religion comes complete with its own dogma which more often than not doesn't sustain us at all. Rather, it often intentionally tears us down and does its best to convince us that we are nothing in the sight of God. I see religion as a negative influence in our lives. Faith, on the other hand is largely a positive influence in our lives.

That doesn't mean our faith can't be challenged or even be severely shaken. It can be indeed. I guess the thing that challenges and shakes my faith more than anything else is the injustice rampant in the world.  As I write this blog on a Mac Book Pro, I am surrounded by comfort and convenience. It is hot in Houston but air conditioning keeps me comfortable. It's just the two of us, but we live in a large four bedroom home in a nice neighborhood with quiet streets, well kept lawns and lots of trees. Food is abundant for us. We have access to every material thing we need or want.

Yet, much of the worlds population lives in make shift homes without running water and without adequate sewage disposal. And there is nothing that can really be done about it. If the affluent gave everything they have to the poor, then the only result would be that everyone would be poor. There seems to be no justice in that.

At the beginning of June, my good friend Bill passed away. Bill was a good man who had been through a great deal of tragedy in his life. But he never let it get him down for long. He made the most of what he had; and in spite of all the tragedy, he became a very wealthy man and shared that wealth with a great number of people who were not as fortunate as he. Yet, he died all to young while some that have contributed nothing to anyone in all their long lives continue to draw breath. Where is the justice in that?

Last Thursday, the 24 year old daughter of a friend of mine lost her battle with colon cancer. She died before she ever really had a chance to live. Yet, not more than five miles from where she lived, a woman in her 80's who can no longer contribute anything to anyone, who can neither sit nor stand and who can not speak or comprehend continues to live draining the energy of her son who is caring for her the best he can. Where is justice in all this? Where is God?

I first asked these questions in 1969 when my mother died of cancer at age 48. Up until six months before her death she had been contributing greatly to society as a teacher of young children and a mother to her family. She never lost faith in God. She accepted her plight as God's will. I never could bring myself to be quite as stoic.

Later in 1969 my 23 year old cousin died in Viet Nam. He was a great kid with a new wife. He had much to give to this country other than his life. But thousands who had and never would have anything to give to anyone continued to live as we buried my cousin. Where is the justice in that? Where is God?

It has been said that the good die young. It seems there is truth in that saying and every time I see it in someone close to me, my faith is shaken.

The Bible assures us in Romans 8: 28 -29 that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord. I've seen that to be true in the case of my mother's death. I actually benefitted in some ways from her death, but that only made things worse and filled me with a sense of guilt. Realizing that my mother would have gladly given her life to benefit me and my family helped, but did not heal the wound caused by her death. I'd give up all the benefit gladly to have had a few more years with her.

The Bible tell us that God transcends us in every way. It tells us that His way are not our ways. That is certainly easy to see. As human beings, the best of us often seem to have more compassion for others than does God who is said to be infinite in Grace. To observe that shakes my faith.

But in the midst of all that shakes my faith, I still see things all around me that continue to confirm my faith at the same time. I try to content myself with the hope that those who die young go to a better place and to a better life.

If there is a just and loving God, infinite in Love and Grace, I look forward to His bringing me to the point of understanding all the things in life that defy understanding.

As shaken as my faith is at this moment, I simply cannot believe that the beauty of the earth, not to mention the universe is an accident, the product of a scientific anomaly. All that is good in our lives, and there is good in even the most meager lives, has to spring from something bigger than ourselves. Faith is the belief in things unseen. In the end, I choose to cling to faith.

Jack Scott


  1. You have stated your thoughts well. Seeming injustices do tend to shake us up. The death fo a loved one, especially a younger person, is always difficult. However, I don't agree with you about the supposed negativity of religion, or at least some religion. Religion is literally (etymologically) what ties you back to the basics of who you are and to God's plan for you. That's not to endorse superstitions like prayers to random "saints" and repetitious recitations of scripted prayers like Hail Mary, but pure New Testament religion is inspiring and uplifting.

    1. I understand your point about the roll of religion in tying us to be basics of just who we are in relation to God and to our understanding of his plan for us. I don't have any problem with that when it reflects religion at its best.

      Unfortunately, it seems we all too seldom see religion at its best. World wide, the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions seem to become more and more hijacked by their respective radical wings whose real goals have nothing to do with God and everything to do with using God and religion as an excuse for asserting power over others.

      That said, I recognize the need for people to stand up and defend true religion practiced for just and good purposes. That is why I am still a member of a religious order and working from within to help keep it what it should be.

      Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

      Jack Scott

  2. I am glad that your faith brings you comfort.

    Earlier in my life, I was a devout Methodist, including being a Sunday School teacher for kids and adults, member of the administrative board holding various offices, and a lay leader.

    However, now I am further from faith and religion than I have ever been. Religion has given us so many wars, suffering, and the Spanish Inquisition. Faith never explains concrete examples of pain, injustice, and loss. I have finally realized that god did not create man, but rather man created god. Two of the main reasons that man created god was to explain what could not be explained, and to believe in an afterlife. Science has and continues to explore the unexplained and gives us answers. We are given but one life, and it is up to us to make the best use of it, and that best use is usually serving others, and religion is not necessary to do that.

    1. Sounds like we've traveled much the same course to arrive at slightly different destinations.

      I agree fully with you, faith never explains concrete examples of pain, injustice and loss. It frustrates the hell out of me. I know this sounds egotistical, but I sometimes think that if I were God I could have figured out a better system.

      How many times have I pondered the question, did God create man or did man create God? In weeks like the last couple, I tend to believe that God is nothing more than a figment of our collective imaginations. That would explain quite well why there are so many different views of God.

      But then there are the times, in my life to many to be pure coincidence, when things work so well even in the most difficult of circumstances that the power of God for good in our lives seems beyond question.

      Finally, I agree fully with your assertion that we do not need religion to live the only life we have (as far as we can know) and should live it in service of others.

      Yet, I for one worry very little about the afterlife. Sure it would be nice to see my parents and grandparents again and renew long lost ties, but it is not an important reason for my faith.

      I don't see the Bible as anything other than a guide to faith. It is certainly not a science book as the fundamentalists claim. It is certainly not a magical book that contains the exact thoughts and words of God either. History proves that (along with common sense).

      So these things don't have much draw on me to keep my faith in tact. I guess the reality is that as upset as I get with God and the way he chooses to do thing, in the end I see more in the world that convinces me of the involvement of a grand architect than I see that convinces me that all creation is an accident.

      For me, the end game is the same. If there is no God, I die and rest in eternal peace. If there is a God, I die and live in eternal peace. Either way, it won't be bad.

      Jack Scott

  3. This was a good post, Jack. I do wonder, though, if religious dogmas are more misused than bad in themselves. I find religion can be uplifting and affirming of faith, when practiced properly. It's only when people misuse it to selfish ends that it can be destructive.

    You have a wonderful and uplifting understanding of Scripture, but I bet if there were no religious education in your life, you would not have the love-affair with the Bible that you do. It's through years of listening to good preaching that I've learned to pray, and through that I deal with my struggles. Singing hymns, I have found answers to prayers. I also find the community support of my church to be invaluable.

    I think people need to get away from Fundamentalist churches that tear them down, but God works very powerfully in some of those old buildings, especially for broken souls like us.

    1. Mack, there is a great deal of insight and wisdom in your comment. You are right, even dogma can be good, but unfortunately it is most commonly used by fundamentalists as a weapon rather than as an instrument of nurture and peace.

      You are also right about my situation. If I had never heard of Christianity and was introduced to it by an evangelical Christian, I would think they were crazy. It is only my years of study and thought and prayer that have led me to a form of Christianity that works for me and in which I see what I believe to be the true God.

      Like you, I think people need to get away from Fundamentalist Churches, but instead they are flocking to them. Fundamentalist Churches are the only churches that are growing. The more liberal churches are dying. I simply cannot understand why people willingly subject themselves to be emotionally and spiritually ravaged by the message of a hateful and wrathful God who is going to send most of humanity to an eternal fire.

      I sat through thousands of those sermons as a child and that God never appealed to me. In fact, I came to hate that God. I wanted nothing to do with that God. Had I not had the good fortune to find that the real nature of God is nothing like that.

      I'm glad I had the guidance from people I loved and respected and the self will to find another view of God.

      Jack Scott

    2. Great post. I am someone who has lost much because of religion. I was raised in a family who believes the bible is the literal truth. As soon as my sisters and parent found out I was gay, I was barred from family events, holidays, etc. They were truly evil to me. Of course with 16 years of perspective on that, I realize I am happier, healthier, and braver than I ever thought possible. But at the time it was devastating.

      When someone feels they must announce their christianity to me, I walk the other way. No one will ever make me believe that religion is good.

    3. I simply can't imagine the pain the reaction of your parents and siblings must have put you through as a young man. The other thing I simply can't imagine is that people do such things in the name of God and think they are pleasing God by doing it. It simply does not compute for me.

      Yet, you are a great example that we as individuals cannot choose what happens to us; but we can choose how we deal with it. You feel happy, healthy and brave. That is a tribute to your choice and it also happens to be the best revenge.

      They failed. You won!

      I appreciate you sharing your success in molding yourself into a happy man in spite of everything the world has thrown at you.

      Jack Scott


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott