Sunday, May 27, 2007

Losing My Religion

I'm supposed to be practicing my offertory this morning, but instead I'm starting a journal that I've been writing in my head for months. I guess everybody's got a tipping point -- mine was a little boy in Chicago named Cameron Smith. His mom's fighting in Iraq, and her boyfriend beat Cameron so badly that he died. Cameron was four, the same as my son. It's not the first time in human history something so horrible has happened, and it won't be the last. It'll probably happen again today, somewhere in the world, only it won't show up on Yahoo news.

This incident, like a few others I've heard about in the last year, caused an internal click when I read it. Cameron, dying alone in his bed in pain. Joshua Minton, age two, suffocating alone in panic when his babysitter taped his mouth shut when he wouldn't be quiet for his nap. Sammy Boehlke, age eight, with the same diagnosis of high-functioning autism as my son, dying alone and cold in the woods of Oregon when he got separated from his dad on a camping trip. All of these made something in my heart snap shut. Something about this is wrong.

I know the rhetoric -- when Adam and Eve sinned, sin came into the world along with its consequences. God chooses not to step in and stop every evil thing from happening. Bad things happening to innocent children is just a side effect of the fall. God doesn't kill people, people kill people.

I just don't know if I can buy the rhetoric any more. Did God hold those little boys close as they died, their systems shutting down and the world going black as their eyes drifted shut? Did he comfort them and tell them they were loved? Then why didn't he alert someone to their presence? Those "miracles" happen every day, when someone steps in just at the right moment to avert a tragedy. Why not these? What kind of love watches a child die instead of calling 911? God is the ultimate emergency service, and he chose to watch these children die rather than save their lives.

I still believe all the basics about him. He is holy, he is just, he died for our sins. But I no longer know how I can come to church and sing about his goodness and his love. I can honor him. But love him? I'm no longer sure how to do that.

Well, church starts in just a little while. I'd better go look through my piano books and find something to play, preferably not something that burbles about the joy of the Christian life. There are three little boys in graves today who never had the chance to live the Christian life, or any life at all.

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