Where the Hell is God?
Richard Leonard, SJ, $16.95
Hidden Spring, $19.95
I chose to read Where the Hell is God? because I wondered how it compared with When Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was written by Rabbi, Harold Kushner, whose son, Aaron, died at age 14 of the genetic disease, progeria.
I thought When Bad Things Happen to Good People was a brilliant book but I always felt that it didn’t have enough theories for me on why God is seemingly not around in terrible times.
So perhaps a Christian writer might provide some extra answers as well as a different focus.
Unfortunately, Jesuit priest Richard Leonard did not have all the answers I wanted either. However, he does have very interesting, well-thought out theories and he has not had an easy life.
I always dismiss theories on suffering from people who have had a great life, as I have usually found them patronising and inappropriate.
Leonard’s sister became a quadriplegic after a car accident and through his work he has had to stand beside people facing all sorts of unfair situations.
Leonard starts each chapter in Where the Hell is God? with a theory. The theories are:
- God is not out to get us. God does not directly send or will pain, death, suffering and disease. God does not punish us with bad things.
- God does not send accidents to teach us things, though we can learn from them.
- God does not will earthquakes, floods, droughts or other natural disasters.
- God’s will is more in the big picture than the small.
- God did not need the blood of Jesus. Jesus did not just come “to die”. But God used his death to announce the end of death.
- God has created a world that is less than perfect, or else it would be heaven, and in which suffering, disease and pain are realities. Some of these we now create for ourselves and blame God.
- God does not kill us off.
Leonard writes well. His explanations are clear and well-reasoned, and he is also funny. My favourite excerpts are:
“I think that a good number of Christians do not actually pray to the God and the father of Jesus Christ but to Zeus.”
“Finally, there were scores of letters and cards that said, ‘Your family is really very blessed, because God only sends the biggest crosses to those who can bear them.’ I always like how some people who are not receiving that particular blessing can see it so clearly in other people’s suffering. But let us think about this line a little more. We hear it often. If this line is true, then we should all be on our knees morning, noon and night with only one prayer: ‘I am a wimp. I am wimp. I am a wimp, O God. Do not consider me strong.’ Because if this theology is true and God thinks you are strong, you are going to be blessed with a big cross.”
I really liked this book. Some readers will find it controversial. Read it anyway. It’s full of wisdom.