Italy

Photo by Austin Skipworth

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column is about the true nature of God–Creator .

The world is filled with so much beauty. Is there anything as adorable as a baby’s chubby wrists? Or as heart stopping as the first kiss with someone you love? Walking out in nature is a feast of beauty, too: the rainbow after the storm; the bird songs that announce the arrival of spring; the mountains that steal one’s breath away.

If one is to believe in God—and I do—then I think these little glimpses of our natural world show us something fundamental about him. God’s actually pretty good.

That is not to say that life is always trouble free, but I wonder how many of our hardships are really God’s fault, and how many are simply the stuff of life? A good friend of mine, in his forties, was just diagnosed with cancer. Earlier this month our family marked the sixteenth anniversary of my baby boy’s death. Life is certainly full of pain. Yet perhaps the reason we recognize the pain and rage at it is primarily because we also know joy, and have come to expect it. If life weren’t usually sweet, would the pain be as great? Even those who don’t believe in God would, I think, look at the evidence and conclude that life is indeed supposed to be lovely.

All of these thoughts were going through my head last week on the anniversary of September 11. When stories of heroism and bravery and generosity hit the airwaves again, it brought tears to my eyes. After all, it is often in the midst of ugliness that beauty is most apparent. The people who carried a man in a wheelchair down seventy flights of stairs; the firefighters who fought to free a seriously injured woman, and lost their lives in the process; even the generous Newfoundlanders who found their towns inundated with stranded passengers, and took them into their homes—all of these responses show our essential goodness. North America reacted to horrible acts of violence by displaying, instead, beauty.

Then last week, after we had listened to these stories anew, violence erupted again, as fanatics in the Middle East decided to attack American embassies, killing four in Libya. And once again, they did it in the name of God, under the terrorist flag of Al-Qaeda.

The real work of God is in creating, not destroying. It’s in bringing forgiveness and healing, not in killing and maiming. It’s in what our soldiers do protecting the innocent and standing up for freedom, rather than what their soldiers do in targeting the innocent and eliminating freedom.

I’m sure that these fanatics think that they are doing the work of God, but I’d ask them to open their eyes and look around at the world. Can a God who made the Grand Canyon, and the coral reef, and a baby’s chuckle be the same God who wants you to kill indiscriminantly? Do you really think that you’re doing God a favour? Can’t you see that with every act of terror you solidify our determination to never believe what you believe?

I understand the urge to justify one’s culture, or to try to preserve what one has, or to attack others who seem to have more than you. What I don’t understand is thinking that any of that has anything to do with God. And to those who are tempted to dismiss God altogether because people do such awful things in his name: just look at the beauty in the world. That tells us far more about God than anything that involves machine guns or slitting people’s throats. And perhaps if we all opened our eyes more to beauty, there would be far less horror in this world that we share.

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