For a long time, the unpleasant reaction of man to pain has accumulated into a myriad of questions about faith, and on such occasion, someone always gets the blame; but why?
As I browse through some reflections about the coronavirus pandemic, what I see common among them is the question whether there is a God in this trying time or not.
Going theoretical, Kurt Gray and Daniel Wegner (2010) came up with an argument on why people turn their blame faces on when things don’t go their way, and it is called the moral dyad theory.
They stress that when something happens, men tend to look for an intentional moral agent (“doer”) that causes damage or otherwise to a vulnerable patient (“doee”), completing the “dyadic loop”.
Basically, when a certain circumstance swings against the direction of a socially accepted norm, one instinctively looks for a culprit.
For Gray and Wegner, when we see no physical liable party, we resort to scapegoat; that when there is none close to being most justifiable, we blame the divine; we blame God.
In a Time article, N.T. Wright suggests that the Scripture calls situations like this as laments. They are events wherein biblical personalities get frustrated when God is seemingly neglectful of them.
One remarkable instance is when Jesus painfully asked the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
The Psalms have promising entries, too: “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10) “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13), and so on.
We have witnessed similar stories in our modern society. Many think that it is God’s punishment for sending us natural disasters, even the paralyzing Covid-19 pandemic, and a shabby national leadership. With this combo, one could easily lament, “Why?”, especially for a Filipino.
In theology, it is called “suffering,” a problem that even the Saints and great theologians have struggled with for centuries.
Nevertheless, the reason behind every suffering is part of the Christian enterprise of not being able to understand or explain it, leaving the people with the least thing to do: lament.
During the Papal visit in 2015, a then twelve-year old girl was talking about neglect, drugs, prostitution, and shortly asked Pope Francis: “Why does God allow these things to happen?” In his response, the Holy Father said: “Today, she has asked the only question for which there is no answer.”
After this brief recall, it dawned on me the question: why do you think there are darknesses in our prayers? Why do you think that sometimes, God is not listening to our laments? The answer could not be as apparent as it is but I think it is because we are only humans, and He is God; which means, we can only grasp what is definable.
God, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, for He is infinite. Faith in Him is untransactable. We cannot bargain with it, we align with it. Our human faculties are finite, therefore, we cannot encounter God directly. What we can only avail is the grasp of finite sensations. That is why when He encounters us, we pass out.
However, St. John of the Cross tells us that there is one human faculty exceptional to this, the will. God approaches us not via images, but in a direct encounter that is beyond human capacity.
Encountering Him in silence will help us deal with the world well, in good times and in bad, with or without a pandemic.
What we are experiencing now is not far from turning our blame faces on, but then again, I suggest otherwise. Sometimes, we need to suffer in order to grow, despite the unknown. The bliss of uncertainty cheerfully awaits.
Of course it would take a lot of courage and humility to realize this process, but it is now up to us if we are willing to accept the challenge.
The next time we think of blaming God for our problems, we better watch our faith from crumbling. Rest assured, the sigh of relief brought by answers, by reason, by completing the dyadic loop of divine blame theory, will be perfected with a firm and non-negotiated sigh of belief.