The suspension of Rick Santorum’s campaign for the Republican nomination apparently in light of the recent exacerbation of his daughter’s sad medical condition raises a question for me. I question why such seemingly random events are selectively chosen by preachers and pundits to “prove” the existence and power of God, Jesus, Allah, etc.
Here we have a family tragedy with a sick little girl whose medical complications put a great deal of stress on her and her family. I am certainly sympathetic to any illness and suffering and even more so towards that of little children who have yet to have enjoyed much of what life has to offer.
However I find that the use of such seemingly random events is frequently incredibly insensitive. Take for example Pat Robertson’s assertion that the Haitian earthquake was punishment from God for a purported “deal with the devil”. Leaving aside the bearing of false witness perpetrated in the lack of any evidence of such a deal I was incensed by the condescending and racist overtones.
I have a really hard time with anyone telling me what God wants or means. If you have access to some heavenly hot line please let me know because as far as I have been able to determine the realms of heaven are not connected by any human technology. And God is not on Facebook (yes, I checked). The only position to which I will lend any credibility is that of telling me what you think God wants. I think it is important to acknowledge the non-divine nature of the bearer of allegedly divine knowledge.
So while I am tempted to assign divine rectitude to my own opinions by declaring that God caused the little girl’s illness as a message to Mr. Santorum to get out of the campaign I simply can’t do this in good conscience. I think that his daughter’s illness carries no message other than the sadness of sick children and perhaps that we should do things to prevent and alleviate suffering whenever possible.
I am tempted to make a divine ploy to support single payer health care or “Obamacare”. Anything but the current dysfunctional system. But like telephones and laptops I don’t think God has or needs healthcare nor does he/she have any need to dictate how we care for each other.
What I would like to see is a truce driven by truth (catchy, huh?). By that I mean an agreement in which we all agree to be honest about assigning our opinions to ourselves and not to alleged divine transmissions. Unfortunately divine transmissions are much like psychotic delusions and hallucinations in that they are frequently self-validating, meaning that they are true simply because we experience them (or hear them, or see them). When these ideas come from people we define as mentally ill we have healthcare practitioners whose job is to intervene and assure that these beliefs cause no harm to the person expressing them or anyone on whom they may have influence. But there are no such protections in place for religious revelation even when such revelations sometimes result in mass suicides.
A friend of mine frequently quotes the dictum that religions are cults plus a thousand years. And while we try to protect ourselves from cults we appear to have very little protection other than our capacity for critical thinking against religions and churches. And that is being eroded by the defunding of education and the increasingly anti-intellectual stance of the right-wing who are clearly threatened by the failure of many of their ideas to hold up to even simple logical analysis. Instead they blame education for left-wing ideas. Never mind that those who are placing this blame are usually products of the educational system. In fact the educational system creates a forum for analysis and dissent which can go either right or left. But keeping people intellectually in the dark and convincing them that one leader can suffice to define reality is a great formula for fascist control.
But power is seductive and, just like the self-validating nature of religious or psychotic revelation, it fogs the capacity for critical thinking. “Power corrupts…”, etc and this is the mechanism by which it does so. The same problem exists with people who know what needs to happen and simply need the unlimited power to implement their ideas. History is strewn with many of examples of why this method does not work. We need dialogue, dissent, discussion and exchange of ideas.
So please join me in sympathy for the Santorum family in their time of need. And know that nothing they have done brought this on, not God, not the devil, just random events. Pray for them if you like, it certainly can’t hurt and it may help too. The only thing that can hurt is what I think is the opposite of prayer which is the use of religious ideology to support a personal or political agenda.
And let me quote a Bible verse here. This is one of my favorites and it is not frequently quoted especially in contentious situations. It is from the New Testament, the gospel of Mark, chapter 12, verse 30:
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) (Kindle Locations 31506-31508). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
I leave the citation intact acknowledging my source as well as the fact that I had to look it up. So, practicing what I preach to the best of my ability, I acknowledge my source and the fact that it is my opinion.
I am glad that Mr. Santorum will not be running for president but I am not glad for the seemingly random events which have contributed to that end. God bless the Santorum family and all those who suffer.