Brute Ingratitude

The Boston Marathon bombing was two days ago. The crowds are just coming around to the truth of it, just beginning to settle into this most recent episode of asymmetric stupidity and blood and spirit-breaking sadness.  People of faith are presumed to have fit the pieces nicely together before the smoke cleared. They may be right or they may be mistaken. We don’t know. A bereaved mother on the radio spoke to an audibly busy crowd of press and photographers, the squall of clicking cameras a familiar accompaniment to heads of state wordily saying absolutely nothing, and heartbroken victims of space and time trying to publicly articulate a dawning sense of the mindless chaos we inhabit. He Moves In Mysterious Ways, to say the very least. There are few things as mysterious as an 8-year-old being ripped to pieces by nails and ball bearings while watching a foot race. For two days I’ve imagined his attentive expression. He’s figuring things out trackside, mapping out another bit of the world through this singular experience. The world will now move on without him. Most believers are spiritually untroubled by the smallish waves of turbulence such wanton ugliness sends through the ether of Faith. Michael continues to row the boat ashore through the mild chop. All is right with the world; God is in His heaven. ‘The Problem of Pain’ as atheist turncoat C.S. Lewis called it, is a thorny one, but the discussion has been dulled by the obviousness of its keynote and the unadorned stone wall it forces us to dash ourselves against, over and over and over again. The world is awash with pain, yes. Much of it literally unbearable. Curiously, the Maker didn’t provide all his Creation the necessary equipment to deal with the heartbreak He either deals out according to His Plan, or passively observes from the celestial throne room. The Bible assures us that the very impenetrability of the veil of sorrow we regard from our prostrate position is further evidence of His mystery. You can say that again. The stricken, aged-sounding mom on the radio is likewise on her knees, brought low by the mechanics of random chance and what we can call the Universal Order. Her 29-year old daughter, “the best daughter anyone could ever have,” she sobbed, is gone. To paraphrase the poet Phillip Larkin, it’s not just that she isn’t here anymore; she isn’t anywhere. “I can’t believe this is happening,” the broken woman continues, seeming almost to be thinking aloud.  The cameras are heard to click away and you can practically see the water falling from her face. Whether He is a wizened, bearded giant in a long robe out somewhere past NGC 2392 , or a clean-shaven Programmer in the next quantum room, He can’t help us; or at any rate He won’t. The Word of God nervily says not to expect thanks for just doing what’s expected of us anyway (Matthew 5:46), but sometimes the brute ingratitude from On High is too much for the rational heart to want to bear. This is the fix we’re in. Pray for the victims.

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