Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent, Day 18: The Sound of Silence

So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail,
   palm branch and reed in one day—
elders and dignitaries are the head,
   and prophets who teach lies are the tail;
for those who led this people led them astray,
   and those who were led by them were left in confusion.
That is why the Lord did not have pity on their young people,
   or compassion on their orphans and widows;
for everyone was godless and an evildoer,
   and every mouth spoke folly.
For all this, his anger has not turned away;
   his hand is stretched out still.

- Isaiah 9:14-17

Does God bring suffering upon the innocent? We certainly don't want to believe this. In this passage from Isaiah, the prophet bends over backward to demonstrate that the innocent aren't actually suffering -- that, like all the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, nobody who is suffering is actually innocent.

I don't believe this for a second. I think Isaiah is stretching his theology way too far in order to justify what is happening.

Completely foreign to us nowadays is the notion that God smites entire populations with suffering. It just doesn't make any sense because we think in terms of persons, not peoples. Individualism has developed within our Western mindset to the point where we would scorn God for this kind of action. And I think this is a good theological development since the time of Isaiah.

Yet still we have no answers. Why are the people of Aleppo suffering today? What can we possibly do about it? I can't believe that God wants this. I can believe that God wants us to stop the suffering, and there are incredibly brave people trying to do so.

On the day that the last hospital in Aleppo was utterly destroyed, I heard an NPR interview with a member of Doctors Without Borders  He expressed the sheer hopelessness of the situation. The interviewer pointed out that the doctor's life was in danger every day ... but that was irrelevant. There was work to do.

This doctor was suffering alongside others out of love. The rest is silence.

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