Mr. T Tackles the Problem of Evil

Mr. T Tackles the Problem of Evil May 30, 2009

It’s not only professional philosophers and theologians who have an opinion on matters touching the sacred. Sometimes, gold-jewelry-wearing, mohawk-having, former ’80s television and movie action stars have words of wisdom to express on these weighty matters. Like, for instance, Mr. T, who recently gave an interview to Bizarre magazine in which he made a very interesting, and unintentionally revealing, comment.

The interviewer asked T if he’d ever seen a UFO, to which he responded:

I’m a Christian – I really don’t believe in UFOs.

What one has to do with the other is not clear to me, but leave that aside. Mr. T is in fact an evangelical Christian, as he confirms in this Beliefnet interview:

I am a sinner who has been saved by grace. It’s by the grace of God that I’m here. We all have sinned and fallen short on God’s glory. I come home and I ask God to forgive me for my sins. Everyday I ask for a new cleansing. I say, “God, let me show kindness to someone, let me give someone hope. Let me be a light at the end of a tunnel for somebody.” I tell people, they say I’m a farmer, I plant the seed of hope, plant the seed of inspiration, plant the seed so they can start praying and believing again.

He credits his surviving a bout with cancer (he had, yes, T-cell lymphoma – no, I’m not making that up) to his faith:

The story of Job gave me strength when I had cancer. I said, “T, if you just hang in there, God will give you double for your troubles.” That’s what I was taught in church and that’s what happened to Job. What he lost, he gained more in the end. Job said, “Though you slay me, yet will I trust you.” God giveth and God taketh away. Blessed be his holy name.” And that’s how I live.

So far, this is the standard evangelical Christian platter of beliefs. But in the Bizarre interview, the interviewer asks Mr. T a different question, and his answer gives the game away:

If you could have a magical power, what would it be?
Easy question! That’s too, too easy Alix! Wow. I appreciate your sweetness giving me such an easy question! I’d have the power to heal little children. I’d want to make sure they all got an education and weren’t scrabbling around in garbage and eating scraps of junk, like the kids in India shown in that movie, Slumdog Millionaire. I hope the people that made that film are investing some of the profits into cleaning up the area where they filmed, and doing something to improve those kids’ lives. Yeah, I’d want to help the tiny ones who are blind, who have diseases like AIDS and problems like muscular dystrophy… I’d heal the children and save the babies.

If he had any magical power, Mr. T says, he’d end poverty and cure disease among the world’s children. In fact, he doesn’t even have to think hard about this: he considers it an “easy question“.

But he seems to have forgotten something important. Mr. T is an evangelical Christian and therefore, presumably, he believes in a god who has the power to do all those things at this very moment. So why doesn’t God do that? Does Mr. T even realize that he’s just inadvertently outlined one of the strongest pieces of evidence against his own religious beliefs?

Theologians have tied themselves in logical knots for millennia trying to explain what reasons God could have for allowing evil and suffering. But Mr. T, in his own inimitable style, brushes those convoluted theodicies aside by saying that the choice to end evil, if he had the power to do it, would be an easy one. Either he is a more compassionate and loving person than the god he claims to serve, or else that god does not exist.

Mr. T isn’t the first Christian to contradict his own beliefs like this. C.S. Lewis did the same thing, as I pointed out in “The Theodicy of Narnia“. They, like many other Christians, insist on believing in a god who has deep and mysterious reasons for allowing persistent and terrible evils. But both of them, when apologetic considerations are not uppermost in their minds, inadvertently contradict their own belief by stating that of course they would create a world without evil if they could.

And of course they would – as would any of us, I hope. Of course we would abolish evil if we could. Basic decency and simple compassion mandate no other conclusion. It’s only the necessity of accounting for the evil that does exist, in a world claimed to be ruled by a benevolent deity, that forces religious apologists to bend over backwards trying to excuse the inexcusable. But when religious concerns are not at the forefront, when simple human conscience is allowed to express itself, most believers prove by their words and actions that they themselves are better and more rational than the faith they claim to represent.

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