The Lord’s Work

I’ve been meaning to share the cartoon below since Gretchen Koch shared it almost two years ago:

Lords Work

The cartoon relates to quite a number of theological, political, social, and moral matters.

I suspect that the only reason that the Emperor Nero, back in the first century, was able to blame Christians for the fire in Rome in his time, was because Christians had been heard speaking about divine judgment, and more specifically fire, being in store for Rome. Christians most likely genuinely did think that this was something for God to do, that God certainly would do, rather than something that they ought to do. But that is the exception rather than the rule, and so we can understand how people might have thought that a group that predicted judgment might also seek to inflict it.

On the other hand, in our time, we may think of Muslims who have acted in response to what they perceive as blasphemies by executing those responsible. Treating words about the prophet Muhammad as “blasphemy,” of course, is somewhat ironic, given the more mainstream Islamic emphasis on Muhammad as a human being who was in no sense divine, adamantly affirmed to not be like the orthodox Christian view of Jesus. But that is another matter. In the present context, what is most interesting is the idea that human beings might be responsible to defend God’s honor, as though God is not able to or willing to act to resolve such matters, presumably in a manner that will be more consistently accurate and just than what humans will enforce.

As I wrote a few years ago (commenting on a meme that perhaps deserves to circulate again):

If a deity is offended, that deity can fight his or her own battles. In claiming to “stick up for” a god, you are implicitly indicating the deity’s weakness. That’s why violence in the name of a deity, far from honoring that deity, is an admission of the deity’s impotence.

See my post on “Blasphemy Against the Sith” for even more on this topic – and of course, the movie The Fisher King.

But perhaps most important is the connection between the two examples above. Someone might genuinely mean only that God will judge, but to the extent that doing that which God wills is upheld as an ideal in so many religious traditions, why would one not kill blasphemers, or abortion doctors, or gays, – or turn the key and usher in a nuclear apocalypse that one believes is predicted in the Book of Revelation? Do people have a responsibility for their words such that we ought not to speak in ways that could motivate violence that we ourselves might never engage in? Should people be held accountable when others act on language that they insist was mere empty (and yet hateful) rhetoric?

What are your thoughts on the cartoon?

 

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  • John MacDonald

    James said:

    “If a deity is offended, that deity can fight his or her own battles. In claiming to “stick up for” a god, you are implicitly indicating the deity’s weakness. That’s why violence in the name of a deity, far from honoring that deity, is an admission of the deity’s impotence.”

    – You could use the same logic to argue there is no reason to be benevolent because God can do good things on His own.

    • I’m not convinced that that is analogous, since the point is that it is the deity who ought to lash out angrily if offended, without needing a weaker human being to defend him or her. I do not know of a belief system which says that God alone is or should be kind…

      • John MacDonald

        I was making a joke, lol. The popular conception of God as being omnipotent/omniscient/omnipresent/omnibenevolent seems to imply that we really shouldn’t need benevolent humans for there to be a perfectly good world. of course, if there was such a God, there wouldn’t be 3 year old children dying of cancer. God might be Evil, or Insane, or Impotent, or Indifferent, but the ‘Omni’ God of popular imagination most certainly doesn’t exist.

        • Yes, in those terms, non-elimination of evils and injustices is a problem for anthropomorphic theism, regardless whether the matter that is not dealt with dramatically is blasphemy, poverty, or oppression!

          • John MacDonald

            One could suppose that if an “Omni” God wanted to make us act in a perfectly Benevolent way toward one another, He could take away our Free Will, but that would just render us something akin to NPCs mindlessly going through the motions.

  • Nick G

    There’s a phrase for it: <A href="http://www.dictionary.com/browse/stochastic-terrorism&quot;stochastic terrorism. And I wouldn’t accept the apparent implication of the last frame that the “preacher” did not intend the result.