Leonard Pitts Jr.: Who are we to proclaim God’s will?

11/19/2012 12:00 AM

11/16/2012 5:06 PM

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” – Isaiah 55:8

I am not here to tell you God’s will.

The temptation to do so is powerful, in light of the news out of a hospital in the United Kingdom: Malala has received a miracle.

You remember Malala Yousafzai, of course. She is the Pakistani girl from the conservative Swat Valley region of that country who came to international attention as a blogger and activist for the right of girls and women to be educated. This basic human freedom is a matter of great controversy among Islamic extremists, particularly the Taliban, which used to stage house-to-house raids in Malala’s town, searching for girls in possession of books.

Last month, Taliban goons with guns attacked a van carrying Malala and her classmates home from school. Two other girls were hit, through their wounds were not life-threatening. Malala’s were. The bullets took her in the neck and the head.

A little more than a month later, we learned from CNN that Malala is walking, reading, writing, smiling and is believed to have suffered no significant neurological damage in the attack. Against all odds, all reason, all sensible expectation for a teenage girl shot in the head and neck, it looks like she is going to be fine.

But I’m not here to tell you God’s will.

Granted, Malala’s miracle seems to deserve that – to cry out for it, in fact.

But putative people of faith are often too glib, facile and mean in claiming to have divined the divine. Just as often, their interpretations say less about God than about them, the things they hate and fear, the narrowness of their vision, the niggardliness of their souls.

Pastor John Hagee, for example, said it was the will of God to drown New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina as punishment for the city’s willingness to countenance a gay festival. He did not explain why the Good Lord swamped the rest of the city but left the sin-soaked French Quarter, site of the festival, relatively unscathed.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, on the other hand, said it was God’s will if a woman is raped and then finds herself pregnant with the rapist’s child. He did not explain why God would choose to inflict such physical and emotional violence upon a presumably unoffending woman.

And then there is the Taliban itself, which said it was God’s will, required by the Quran, for this teenage girl to die. If she survived, said a spokesman after the assault, they would try again to kill her.

Since then, a number of things have happened. Malala’s school has been renamed in her honor. The United Nations instituted a worldwide day, also in her honor, and has launched a campaign for girls’ education. It is called “I Am Malala.” Pakistanis, perhaps previously cowed by the terrorist bullying of religious fanatics, have risen in mass protest, finding courage in numbers. Malala has been asking for her schoolbooks so that she can study. On a message board of CNN.com, a reader suggested she ought to get the Nobel Peace Prize, and the idea does not seem at all far-fetched.

Oh, yes, and there is a million-dollar bounty on the head of the Taliban spokesman.

Take it all as a stark reminder that too often, people who speak glibly of the will of God really describe no will higher than their own. They presume to interpret God like tarot cards or the stock market, forgetting that God is sovereign and does not need their help. He is a big God. He can speak for Himself.

So I will yield not to temptation. Unlike the Taliban, I will not presume to tell you what God’s will was.

But in light of Malala’s miracle, it seems pretty clear what God’s will was not.

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