Does God Nap?

I once watched a television show about the Holocaust involving a panel discussion of three people, one of whom was an elderly Jewish rabbi. When the moderator asked him the question, “How do you reconcile the notion of a loving God with something as horrible as the holocaust?” the rabbi responded, “God was napping.”

I don’t claim to know the mind of God, but I do think I can say with some certainty that God doesn’t take naps. If he did the entire universe would disappear. This is a powerful example of an anthropocentric (man-centered) notion of God, of man creating God in his image. But the question was a good one: How do we reconcile the notion of a loving God with something as horrible as the Holocaust? How could God let the Nazis exterminate six million innocent Jews?

The only way to reconcile this is to question the premise—the premise of a loving God—and define love. Clearly love in this instance is interpreted to be love toward humans. Yet if we step back and look at the bigger picture of God as the divine creative force manifesting as this entire universe, a universe characterized by creation, violence and destruction and re-creation, we see that God didn’t let the holocaust happen, he was the holocaust, just as he was/is/will be everything else. If you truly believe that God is omnipresent and omnipotent there is no other conclusion to come to.  God is a verb, not a noun.

Remember—God isn’t just good; God is. If we want to live in alignment with the Way, with God, we need to let go of our judgments and labels—good/bad, right/wrong, pretty/ugly, happy/sad, creative/destructive—for they’re all anthropocentric, every last one of them. The wandering Buddhist monk, Sengstan, put it quite well 1,400 years ago:

The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.

Make the slightest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

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#1 Michael McGaulley on 12.20.07 at 10:00 am

In another comment here, I used the analogy of a parent giving the child a bike and a final little shove to set him off on his own.

Not to trivialize the holocaust, or wars, or thievery or murder, but I see us as like that little kid learning by doing on the bike. There will be skinned knees from falls, and on the larger scale there will be human to human horrors. But, hopefully, fewer of them as we learn.

Has this happened? I think so. I think we are less bloody and callous as a race than in past centuries. Now at least there is general recognition and acceptance that the persecutions are to be condemned — while, say, 500 or 1000 years ago it seems these acts were accepted as the way thing were and always would be.

#2 jrpenberthy on 01.08.08 at 10:45 pm

It does seem like we’re gradually getting more civilized but at the same time our killing methods require less personal involvement–pulling a trigger, pusing a button.

But this misses my point that there is no final endpoint at which man will have finally arrived. It has and always will be an ever-evolving process. Herein lies the perfection!

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