Thursday, March 30, 2006

Boo Radley and Moby Dick

Last night as I was riding home on the light rail, I overheard a couple ofyoung men debating the existence of God. One man said he didn't believe in God; the other thought it was preposterous not to believe in God. The man supporting the existence of God was making some sort of argument from design. The fact that we can talk to one another points to the existence of God, he claimed. The other man said this was simply a result of evolution.

I refrained from joining in, but it got the wheels turning in my mind. I happen to regard the existence of God as plain for all to see. I think you have to be taught ways of thinking that get around the existence of God. At the same time, I realize that the rational arguments in favor of God's existence fall well short of what could honestly be called "proofs".

So why do I believe in God? I think it comes down to what kind of world you think we live in. Is it a cold, hard place? Or is it a place of love?

Moby Dick offers us a view of the world as cold and unfeeling. Those who fight against this cold reality are killed by it. While Mellville wasn't necessarily denying the existence of God, he finds the hiddenness of God torturous. In modern times, there has been a distinct movement to give up the hunt. The absence of God is interpreted as the non-existence of God. No longer feared, God is dismissed as a myth.

As an alternative, I'd like to offer Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird as a model of God in the world. In the beginning, the children fear Boo. He's a monster to them -- if he's really there at all. But gradually, a new perception dawns on them. The reason? He leaves little gifts for them in a tree outside his house. He mends Jem's pants when Jem gets caught in the fence. He secretly covers Scout with a blanket on a cold night. And eventually, he saves their lives.

This is how I think we can see God in the world. God is the mysterious stranger who touches our lives with anonymous acts of kindness.

I was explaining this to my wife over dinner last night, and she challenged me to provide an example. As it turns out, I had one handy. Earlier in the evening, as I was riding the shuttle bus to the light rail station, I was reading. It was about 6:15 and the light was poor. Then as the bus turned a corner, my page was suddenly flooded with light. I looked to see where it was coming from. For a split second, I thought someone was shining a spotlight at the bus. Then I realized the "spotlight" was the sun. And it felt as if it were shining there just for me.

Now, I know, any skeptic would laugh at this example, and by itself it would be silly. But it is the accumulation of little things like this that convince me that God loves me.

No comments: