Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Suffering "Candle in the Sun"

N.D. Walsch - Conversations with God
And Robinson Cont’d

Walsch was in a state of depression and woke up one night and wrote God a letter asking him about life.  God answered.  But, after doing a little research (; it seems to have turned into a bit of a cult.  There are a lot of education sessions which have a hefty price tag; you even have to pay to receive a newsletter.  In the article (the link), Elliot tells his story of getting involved with the CWG organization and some criteria for judging if it is a cult or not.  First, is there a authoritarian charismatic leader (yes), is there a large financial commitment required (yes), is the belief dogmatic and does it alienate people who are not involved (yes), and is there a lot of pressure to proselytize (yes).  Also, to categorize CWG, it is considered new age.  In short, CWG isn’t looking at canonization any time soon =).

That being said, there are some churches that fit into the cult category.  But in the end, I am dismissing Walsch because his answers don’t satisfy me.  Honestly, I have heard them before, it seems to be a collection of thought rooted in pluralism, mysticism, and Christianity/Eastern Religion.  

It is summarized very well by a parable that Walsch tells in the beginning of the reading.  A candle doesn’t know what it is if it is shining in the light.  It has to go and find a dark place to find itself.  Given this fact, we should then live our lives trying to express our idea of who we are.  

The most interesting part of the reading was the dialogue concerning suffering.  The line of argument is that any suffering experienced is part of that expression of our selves.  I can see this as being legitimate.  I sometimes wonder who I would be, or what kind of life I would have if I were stranded on a deserted island, or if I were black in the south a hundred years ago, things like that.  I could even see how empathy would make a person wonder what it would be like to be raped.  How would I cope, what would life be like, who could I help once I have gone through that experience?  I don’t think I would want to live my life without suffering a little bit.  Other people have to suffer so why am I so special that I don’t have to?  But what if there was no suffering, would life be the same?  Would we be able to develop as people without suffering?  If we find ourselves in time of suffering would we not know anything about who we are if we didn’t suffer?  

On line of argument that might help in dissecting the problem of pain is that pain is intrinsically evil and pleasure is intrinsically good.  For example, if I touch a hot stove and pull my hand away I did so because I felt pain.  This seems to say that pain is good, but one must make the distinction between good properties and good results.  I pulled my hand away from the stove precisely because the stove was painful and the pain was bad.  If the pain was good I would have left my hand there.  

Suffering is intrinsically bad, but it can sometimes have good results.  For Walsch there is no property of being bad.  This means that the goodness or badness of a thing is just its result.  This means that suffering can be good or bad depending on our subjective response to it.  

In regards to natural disasters I think the best quote to summarize Walsch’s argument is “Deep personal disappointments are responses which are chosen, and worldwide calamities are the result of worldwide consciousness.” (222)  For God to interfere with worldwide calamities is for him to infringe on our will.  Something he just can’t do.  

I think he has a good insight into the nature of being a victim.  Walsch wrote that “For all of life exists as a tool of your own creation, and all of its events merely present themselves as opportunities for you to decide and be, who you matter which master you might name, none imagined themselves victimized” (222).  Jesus was crucified but it seems strange to think of him as a victim.  Jesus died for his convictions.  He chose to die.  What choice does a rape victim have?  I think that is what Walsch’s philosophy is arguing.  You can choose to be who you are (convictions) in every situation.  For the rape victim it is just that he chose to go through this experience when he was a “candle in the sun” so that he could find out who he really was.  In that sense, he chose to be raped for his convictions, he could have opted out.  But he didn’t really want to.  “The day you really want an end to hunger, there will be no more hunger.  I have given you all the resources to do that.” (230).  

So as I see it, Walsch has responded to suffering by saying that we choose suffering and the result of the suffering is what matters.  Basically suffering can be a good thing because it has good consequences (personal growth), and it is only bad when our response to it is negative.  

Why did the earthquake in Turkey kill 80,000 people?
1) Walsch - We choose it, so we can grow.  
2) God allowed it as punishment.  
3) We live in a fallen world (imperfect because of sin - separation from God) and earthquakes are the consequence of that fact. (a more popular Christian answer)

I guess the real question is what is the purpose of life?  I don’t think that the “candle in the sun” creates its own circumstances into which it will enter and experience life.  I think God gives us life.  This is where it is similar to Walsch because I think that life is about creating who we are with the life we are given.  The consequence of the difference is that the rape victim is a victim of the consequences of another person’s choices.  The rape becomes the rapists fault because he chose it (Walsch’s discussion on the cause of rape is a good one, p. 231 but I think it is still a choice on the part of the rapist).  I think Christ offers healing and to go without healing is denial and the experience is suppressed.  The result is that it will come out in some other area of a person’s life.  

That in short is what I think about suffering that has a cause.  I have still not come to a conclusion about suffering that is from natural disasters.  I guess it comes down to Robinson’s article.  I have let God die in the first two areas, but I still can’t blame God for natural disasters because Christ was so compassionate and kind.  How does it make sense that it is the same God that allows earthquakes and is so compassionate to the poor and oppressed?  It is that disconnect that just confuses me.  

Another point is that compared to Walsch I am on a witch hunt.  Everything bad that happens has to be someone’s responsibility.  I don’t see how human decisions can be responsible for earthquakes.  I guess that also shows how I am different than Walsch.  I think there are victims and that means that there has to be a bad guy.  So why do I think there are victims?  Because I think it is necessary for healing.  

But what about car accidents, There aren’t the same moral implications, it is just a bad thing that happened, and it doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault.  Can it be the same with natural disasters?  That is what Robinson was getting at.  It doesn’t make sense to blame the inventor of cars for an accident.  On the same token, it doesn’t make sense to blame God for natural disasters.  It wasn’t a design flaw, it is just a consequence of life.  Shit happens.  

So did God just “invent the car” and die?  I think that is what Robinson was saying, but despite this, God keeps showing up.   Maybe it is that God the worldview associated with God doesn’t make sense, so we can dispose of it but in the process, we have to keep God because he won’t let us throw him out.  

I think I am going to have to re-shelve this issue for another day, maybe until I can read Robinson; Robinson because he makes it alright to not have an answer, which is exactly where I am.  

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