Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What Kind of a God Do They Have?

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio, listening to hear about little Yotam Shmuel, a young child (18 months old) who lost his leg in a terror attack. The newscaster was reporting that Yotam had survived the complicated surgery but the situation was still very grave. As the newscaster described the attack and the wounded...he said, "what kind of a God do they have?"

This is something I love about Israeli radio...the informality that lets an announcer slip in a comment. Sometimes they are funny; sometimes informative; and sometimes, terribly poignant. The phrase stuck in my mind all day and now, hours later, I want to say something. I've been thinking a lot about God...my God, their God, the God of others.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with two delightful people in Vienna on the way to Germany. They were missionaries and wanted to know if I believed in Jesus, "even a little bit?"

No, I answered without hesitation, not at all, not even a little, not even less than a little. What I do believe is that he was born...and died...a Jew and that he would be horrified at what has been done in his name.

I asked them if it was true that Christians believed that only those who believe in Jesus go to heaven, and they answered, yes, it's true. But don't worry, they assured me, at the gates of heaven God...or Jesus...or someone, I missed who, is standing there offering each person one last chance at redemption.

So I asked them the worst of all questions - the six million Jews, the ones murdered by their fellow countrymen (and no, I didn't say that because I didn't have to - we all know who killed more than six million Jews, more than 1.5 million Jewish children). So, I asked, are you telling me that the six million Jews who died not believing in Jesus would be denied eternal heaven, but the Nazis that murdered them would be admitted?

That was when they told me about that lucky chance given to each person at the gate. Why, I asked, why would Jews accept in death what they denied in life...especially when their murderers would supposedly be on the other side of the gate after their God chose to ignore cold-blooded murder? What kind of God is it, I should have asked them, that would admit a murderer but deny the murdered?

It's complicated, they seemed to be saying, and the conversation changed to something else. Other than the issue of Jesus, we had a lot to talk about. I told them that my religion is one that believes good people go to heaven...that an atheist who does not believe in God but spends his life working to help others is more likely to be found in the higher levels of heaven than a man who wore certain clothes, didn't use electricity certain days, ate only certain foods, and spent his life cheating others.

No, I don't believe in a God that would deny a murdered child eternal rest because of the religion he was born into. I don't believe in a God that rewards a terrorist who met his death by exploding himself while standing between two families eating pizza on a beautiful summer day.

My God would look the terrorist in his eye and say, "Boy, I don't know what you heard down there, but up here, you are in so much trouble...so, you see that elevator over there...yeah, that one...go on and press the button that says 'Basement.' That's where you're headed...and you just wait there until you see snow."

And then I heard the radio man say the words that crystallized so much..."what kind of God do they have?"

That really is the question for so much about what is happening here in Israel...and around the world. What kind of God commands you to slam your car into an infant...as happened recently in Jerusalem this week...and last year when a three month old baby died?

A God that not only approves but demands that you ax people to death, stab them in the head and neck, throw large boulders and firebombs at families traveling in their cars? What kind of God instructs you, permits you, desires you to shoot a father and mother right before their children's eyes? Slit the throat of a three month old baby? Shoot a 10 month old baby in the head?

What kind of God is this? What kind of God do they have?

And then, in pain and in anger, I thought of my God, who has commanded me to help others when I can, commanded me to choose life always. He has given me children and blessed me to watch them grow. There is no death in the words He speaks to me - only life...always life.

I am commanded to bring children into this world, teach them to respect their parents, their elders and teachers, all human beings, even those who stand against them. And so I make coffee in the winter and give bottles of cold water in the summer to the Arab workers in my city. I will speak respectfully to an Arab cab driver, bus driver, doctor, nurse - all of whom come to my city and prove that we have created a wondrous society, a rose among the thorns, a pearl floating in a sea of darkness.

It is Israel that opens its hospitals to treat thousands of Palestinians - children who need open heart surgery so that their mothers can realize the possibility that later in their lives...a life our doctors enabled them to have...they can strap explosives to their bodies and die for their god.

It is Israel that allows thousands and thousands of Palestinians to shop in its stores, walk openly in our streets and if now people look at them, watch them, and move to the side - it is the fear their own people put in us. I will not be disrespectful, but I sure as heck won't walk in front of them or sit with my backs to them.

My God delivers justice - and so the rockets they fire at us miss more times than they hit; the bus driver is granted the strength to close the door and prevent the terrorist from getting on the bus...not always, but mostly.

My God delivers love - so those who are wounded by the will of their god, are surrounded by neighbors and friends, tens of thousands around the world say prayers for their recovery, neighbors bring food and watch over children and remind them that even in the solitary world of their mourning, they are never alone.

My God is a God of acceptance - you are loved by God, even if you do not recognize His greatness; no matter what religion you are, no matter the color of your skin, the amount of money or possessions you have. All that my God asks of you is that you be the best human being you can be, the kindest, the most giving. My God asks that you do the right thing, the moral thing...and then loves you no matter what you choose and if you choose the wrong path, my God waits until the very last minute of your life for you to turn around and return to Him. In the heavens of my God, you are judged by how you treated others in life, if you were a moral, kind, decent and caring human being...and if you were, that pretty much beats everything.

My God has promised us this land and has kept His promise through the centuries. All those that rose against us have disappeared. Our friends are blessed; our enemies cursed...

My God has granted our children with quick minds to invent the most amazing things - inventions that save lives, entertain us, make us more productive. And He has granted us healthy and swift sons and daughters to defend our borders and blessed them to find the tunnels, the knives, the guns and axes they would raise against us in the name of their god.

My God is our Protector and He has commanded us to live...that is what kind of God we have...and what kind of gods they have.


4 comments:

Netivotgirl said...

What an amazing blog post. So incredibly moving. Once again you nail it-- express what I feel deep in my heart but am unable to pen. Paula may Hashem bless you today and always, and may you continue writing other exquisite posts such as this one.

Andy Monfried said...

awesome piece of writing Paula. moved me.

thank you.

andy

Aunt Diane said...

Beautifully written and very moving. Thank you.

Frank said...

Maybe we would be all brothers and sisters when the people would reject the religious rubbish.My God is better than yours, no He isn't, my God is it.How childish is that?

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