In “Voices of Faith,” religious leaders answer readers’ questions.
World may be unfair
The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor of St. Andrew Christian Church, Olathe: Read the fine print on your homeowner’s insurance policy: “Acts of God” — tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes and the like — aren’t always covered. Of course, many of us don’t believe God “acts” in such a way, causing catastrophes and cancers, guiding events great and small.
We live in an unfair world. Sometimes, that’s attributable to human behavior. I knew that in first grade when the black girl sitting in front of me was unfairly blamed for taking my lunch money. Sometimes, it’s just random. Natural disasters strike in patterns that carry no meaning. God does not cause the avalanche to bury unfaithful hikers, or the tornado to skip over the faithful.
It’s difficult to answer your question — is God fair — because underneath it are assumptions that do not fit my view of God. Rather than a God who acts in a controlling, coercive way, manipulating outcomes, my experience is that God acts, as process theologians describe, in a calling, persuading and inviting way.
For me, the more helpful question is whether we are fair. In the face of climate change, are we working to minimize environmental damage to vulnerable communities? Do we work for equity in employment and schools?
That question is no easier, but at least it begins with a theology that makes sense to me, with a God who joins us to celebrate the gracious and mourn the tragic.
All is fair and orderly
Rabbi Avi Weinstein, head of Jewish studies, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy: “...execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates” (Zechariah 8:16)
It is clear that if we are mandated by the Prophet to be equitable that God expects no less from himself. We also realize that often what is perceived as fair for one individual may seem egregiously unjust to another. Ultimate justice is something to which we aspire, but never realize.
Once, long ago, I was attending a class given by Rabbi Benzion Brook, an ethical master in Jerusalem. He taught: Once a man was visiting a community for a weekend and attended Sabbath services. When it was time to honor people with Torah blessings, he noticed that the sexton seemed to be calling random people up without any regard to their age or their status. After the service, he went to complain about what he perceived as an unfair practice. The sexton said: “You have only been here one day, and you feel that there is no order here? Look, I have a list, and I make sure that everything is in order.” Rabbi Brook turned to us and said: “We are only on this earth a short time. God, too, has a list, and everything is in order.”
We are connected to those before us and those whom we will succeed. We also believe that, ultimately, all is fair and in order.