Is God Responsible?

the tsunami & other evils

The real horrors usually elude us. Most of our life is spent in a kind of daze. We are distracted by the nice taste of the sandwich we had for lunch, the pleasant conversation, the thriller we relax with in the evening; and then something reminds us that tragedy is built into being: the devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004, or the destruction visited on the Unites States on September 11, 2001; the news that we have an inoperable tumor; the death of a child, husband, wife, or friend.

How should we take this in? Can we? In the wake of the horror visited upon the people who live around the Indian Ocean, several newspaper articles and Internet blogs took up the theme of how difficult this must be for those who proclaim belief in a benevolent, loving God. The general tone was, “They have some explaining to do.”

They do indeed, but they always do. A few things must be said first: the tsunami impresses us because of its scale, the heartbreaking photographs of dead children and weeping parents, the terrible extent of the destruction-described, frequently, as being “of biblical proportions.”

But when a child you know or anyone you love dies, it also strikes you as infinitely terrible, even if it is only one child. The death of a child by flood is no more horrible than the death of a child by random gunshot in a drug-infested neighborhood, or by cancer. It is crushing for the parents, and they will...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.