Many years ago I read about a Nazi-occupied town in Europe during World War II in which a group of Resistance Fighters were hung in the town square. The group of fighters included a young boy of about twelve or thirteen. The story goes that there were two men in the crowd watching the hanging when one asked, “Where is God? Where is He?” And the man next to him replied as he looked at the young boy as he was dying, “There He is.”
I’ve thought about this story a lot over the years since I’ve heard it and the idea that God was a single omnipotent being watching over us and meting out judgment, punishment, along with mercy and divine intervention just didn’t work for me. To me, God is a singular reference point our tiny human minds use in order to try and understand the infinite vastness of the Universe we live in. To me, The Universe is all that we are, all that we were, and all that we will be. It is all of our lives, our souls, our consciousnesses, our thoughts and feelings, our dreams and our hopes, and our pain and suffering. But in that vastness is one thing that drives the direction we all go in: free will.
My father used to say ‘free will’ was a tricky concept and I understand why he thought that way. Because if we have the freedom to make any decision we want to, how do we know which decisions are the right ones?
I believe the Universe, God, has provided us with the guidance needed to choose wisely and choose well. From the Prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles in the New Testament, to other religious faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and countless others, and also from countless men and women throughout the history of humanity. The guiding belief is to love another, to do no harm, to care for those in need, and to change the world for the better. I believe all these teachings come from conscience, empathy, compassion, and love. So in turn, teachings of hate, harm, and oppression come from teachings with no conscience, no empathy, no compassion, and no love.
So why are the voices of hate, harm, and oppression so loud, loud enough to cower people into silence? My answer is they are loud because they are without any restraint of conscience, empathy, compassion, or love. When a person is devoid of those things, the only holding them back is their own decision to do so. I’m willing to believe that some who talk in an awful way or who have caused harm to others may have tiny shreds of conscience, empathy, compassion, or love inside them. But I don’t believe that’s for other people to reach out and find in those people who live their lives by hate and harm. In the spirit of free will, I believe each person has to find their own way in this world through the good and the bad. Therefore I say to those who have done harm and continue to do so: ask yourself why you think and feel the way you do and keep asking until you find all the answers that you can, but I will warn you that you might not like the answers you find, and sooner or later you will have to deal with them.
I believe the Universe runs more on good than evil. I think our planet here is a good example of that because good has triumphed over evil by the fact that we haven’t nuked our planet into oblivion, and that this little blue ball is still hurtling through space full of life. Yet in order to save this little blue ball of ours, we can’t give up hope for a better life. We can’t choose evil over good. We can’t back down in the face of hate or be drowned out or cowed into silence by voices of hate and harm. We must always strive to live our lives with love, and the reading below shows us the way:
From the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a):
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have
love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all
mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to
move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over
so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own
interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood
over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but
rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.