People are fond of asking “Where is God?” when life becomes difficult.*** Or we look out across the oceans (always away from ourselves) at war and disease and poverty, and we ponder how to find a loving God in the midst of such chaos. I believe, if you really want to find God, then find a woman who is crying and God will be there. Even better, stand with her as a sister or brother and take the risk of God showing up in you, too. (For a brilliant, moving song on the universality of women’s cries, listen to Sweet Honey in the Rock singing “The Women Gather” on their cd of the same title: “The women gather, crying tears that fill a million oceans…”)
I pray for my sisters in Afghanistan
who are standing together against rape and patriarchy,
raising their voices despite the risk.
The skies over Kabul are not so different
from the skies over Washington, DC.
I pray for my sisters in Somalia
who are watching their boys carry guns
in desperation for a piece of the world’s wealth.
The waves that rush to the shoreline are not so different
from the waves that crash onto Florida’s coast.
I pray for my sisters in Darfur
who are barely surviving in refugee camps
terrorized with their children by hunger and violence.
The effort to silence their cries is not so different
from the deaf ears turned toward Oscar Grant’s daughter.
I pray for my sisters in China
who are giving up daughters for want of sons
and losing the chance to raise new women.
The rainfall in Beijing is not so different
from the rainfall in Seattle.
I pray for my sisters in Brazil,
in India, Tonga, and Minneapolis,
in Malawi and France and Puerto Rico.
The God to whom we raise our cries is not so different
from the God who walks with us and promises deliverance.
***(4/25/09) I keep thinking about my choice of the verb, “fond.” I don’t feel the need to change the word, however, I do want to admit that it’s glib and provocative…on purpose. “Fond” implies an affection or a sense of fun, neither of which is typically associated with the question of theodicy (“How can we say that God is good when there is so much evidence of evil?” or, in its simplified form, “Where is God?”). I vacillate between viewing theodicy as an indulgent question and understanding it as a relevant question. As a relevant question, theodicy seeks to hold onto faith in a compassionate God and strives to recognize and respond to evil as an act of that faith. As an indulgent question, theodicy is debated from a position of comfort and privilege; it’s a theoretical exercise, and evil is an external problem that happens far away from “us” (whoever “us” may be). For me, using the verb “fond” implicitly critiques our debate of theodicy as an intellectual exercise.
Whether theodicy is relevant or indulgent, at the end of the day, I think it’s the wrong question. I believe that the better question is, “How is God already acting/How is God calling me to act to affirm Life in defiance of Death?” The problem with theodicy, as I see it, is that it is a stationary question…it’s a talking point that doesn’t (in itself) compel any activity. In the face of evil, we desperately need to be active; I’d rather see us committing our energy to upsetting evil than expending our breath in endless debate.