My spouse tells me I put too high a value on consistency. Perhaps I do but I try as hard as possible to connect what I believe to what I do, to connect the various things I believe so there they fit together. I apply this as well to my theology, what I believe God does and we as human do need to fit together, that there is a narrative story that hangs together, that makes sense.
I remember when I realized I was not in the majority when it came to making consistency a priority. It was the Sunday after 09/11 and the churches were filled. I was surprised, yes a terrible thing had happened but terrible things happen all the time. “How could God let this happen?” Yet that same month, that same year, terrible things had happened in the world, things caused by weather systems, wars that claimed casualties far in excess of 09/11, diseases were killing people by the thousands. Why now? Why were people just asking this question about God now?
On a smaller scale this happens when some people get a bad medical diagnosis, “how could this happen to me, I have been such a good person?” The obvious answer lies in the deaths of the millions and billions of innocent people who have suffered throughout time. Why would we expect it to be otherwise for us? Why would the people who saw 09/11 happen assume that would never happen to “us” when it happens all over the world, all of the time?
For those of us who try to connect the dots there is a realization that God allows suffering and death and often for the innocent. The righteous suffer and the evil ones prosper. It happened, it happens, it has never been otherwise. So for those of us who try to make sense of this there is an understanding of mystery, we don’t know why God allows suffering and we aren’t shocked when it comes.
When I try to address topics like this there are usually two reactions. 1) People like me who have seen evidence of suffering’s blind eye to righteousness are relieved and find the nuanced understanding of God’s place in all of this helpful and reassuring and 2) those who have always thoughts of their personal God was giving them what they deserve because of their personal devotion and righteousness get angry and defensive. “What kind of a God do you believe in, don’t you think God can fix my troubles, you don’t seem to have faith?” They will skip over Job and Paul and even Jesus and find other references in the Bible that refer to asking and receiving. At that point I am accused of not only lacking faith but not believing in the Bible.
It has never been my intent to undermine the narratives people live by. As long as they are not directed against others I am perfectly happy to affirm that for many consistency is not as important as it is for me, in short if your theology works for you then I am happy for you. BUT once challenged that I lack faith because I have tried to make sense of not only my life but the lives of people around me I get mighty annoyed. My faith is very important to me and I try very hard to live it every day. To be told by someone who is afraid of facing the challenge of consistency that I am lacking is not only insulting, it is mean. And because I am not an emotional person by nature I am usually able to raise the inconsistencies in an orderly way.
As I get older I find there is so much more I don’t know than I do know. And it no longer troubles me to come to that place.