Thursday, 31 May 2012

Letter to God about Lorna Dueck and The Globe & Mail

Oped from Wednesday May 30th Globe and Mail

Dear God

Please forgive our sister, Lorna Dueck, for the hateful assumption implicit in her article, "Liberia proves the power of prayer," published in yesterday’s Globe and Mail.

God, I am sure you were as moved by the first person who prayed to You for help in that first moment of pain committed by that dreadful warlord, Charles Taylor, as you were by the many women who worked together and sent out prayers in Monrovia after this depraved man and his henchman had murdered tens of thousands. It shatters me to think a woman who professes to believe in A Loving God could believe Your help was based on some kind of numbers game, a sort of celestial version of “Who Gets to Be the Fulfilled Petitioner?”

I prefer to believe, if I can believe in You at all, that You were simply unable to act to prevent pain, suffering, and loss. A God of Lost Powers suits me better than a God who could ignore the suffering of millions and millions in favour of granting the prayers of “broken, war-weary women [who] received divine strength as they gathered in Monrovia’s fish market in 2002 to pray for peace. They dressed in emulation of the Hebrew Bible’s Queen Esther, who mourned as she prayed God would save her people’s lives.”

Dear God, in my synagogue, many of us don’t even believe the story of Queen Esther—not to mention every supernatural event related in The Five Books of Moses--could possibly have happened. But I digress.

Help me, Oh Lord, to overlook the appalling ignorance and the “blame-the-victim” mentality implicit in the theology of people like Lorna Dueck. And help me to remember that such disgraceful sanctimony doesn’t only exist among people who consider themselves good Christians: for example, I’ve been told that there are streams among Orthodox Judaism who blame the Holocaust on the failure of all Jews to follow the 613 mitzvot.

Above all, God, please help me to remember that even in the face of my own powerlessness—of Your powerlessness—to try to choose to do only good, to be compassionate to all my fellow humans, and to erase my hideous and ongoing judgmentalness, as this prayer makes obvious.


PS Oh and please give my best to Hitch and tell him we miss him still.


  1. Thank you Beverly for thinking about the effect of the women's prayer movement for peace in Liberia.

    Here is the key thought to consider, a thought which you write in your blog, when you ask, : "God, your help was based on some kind of numbers game, a sort of celestial version of “Who Gets to Be the Fulfilled Petitioner?”

    No, rather, God's help is based on human hands. I think these women, equipped to be activists through the power of prayer, were some of the hands God used to heal Liberia. They were the answer to a child who prayed after they saw father killed and mother raped by Taylor's goons ..... the stories go on, but we need not be passive. God's love pushes out to flow through human hands.

    These women in Liberia changed into women of courage because they prayed. Prayer orientated them to be releasers of justice. They demanded peace for Liberia at great risk to their own safety and comfort.

    The history of God has countless examples like this .....a mysterious thread that shows God's love persists in giving us the ability to resist evil and reset the moral compass.

    Onward to a better tomorrow ---

    with thanks, Lorna Dueck

  2. Lorna, I appreciate your comment, and its ability to nod toward yet complete skip over the crux of the problem that many people have with belief in a just God. If God exists, why didn't She stay the hand of the killer, rapist, sadist, or genocidaire BEFORE the crime? Why only a God of healing? God has to be responsible for the bad as well as the good...and only healing after the prayers of so many for so long? What, God is hard of hearing or something?

    Or maybe God is busy any event, your position implies that those who pray and don't receive answers or healing aren't praying hard enough. Or maybe their costumes aren't pleasing enough in God's eyes...

    Either way, God is distracted, cruel, or an idiot. Not exactly an inspiring endorsement of belief.

    I look forward to your future columns. I believe the issue of abortion is next on the Harper agenda.

  3. Beverly, you seem to believe that God is responsible for horrors on earth. I often wonder if people jump up and down and cry, "Why me, God?" when their cup runneth over with good things and many blessings, or do they only cry out when bad things happen? I think you have conflated God with the Blue Fairy.

    God gave us the greatest gift when He gave us ethical monotheism and the teaching that we, who were once strangers in a strange land, must care for the other, for the stranger. Ethical monotheism took us away from the belief that our lives are at the whim of nature and the capriciousness of the gods.It gave to us free-will and more importantly, the obligation to exercise it-to choose rather than go with the flow.

    It was revolutionary 3500 years ago in a tribal society and needs to be resurrected,today in a world inhabited by people with grandiose infantile delusions of grandeur; people who talk about rights, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without considering responsibilities.If bad things happen, surely they carry no responsibility? It must be someone else's fault.When men like Taylor take control over a country, is that God's fault?

    George Steiner wrote about God and the Holocaust. Of all the many extraordinary things he has written, I remember this one question he asked about God. Was He distracted? Even for a moment, and that's when the horror occurred. Or, as I prefer to think about it,where were the ethical human beings? What happened to them?

    Those who pray with the idea that they will "get something" have an immature understanding of prayer. They are still children in that respect. Prayer opens us up to possibility. Prayer is like mediation in that it makes room for silence and the opportunity to listen to the still small voice within. Prayer, in a group, like a minyan, enables us to come together in strength and for strength. God is not hard of hearing, Beverly. It is human beings who don't listen.

    Diane Weber Bederman

  4. Yes, well caught Beverly. The crux of the problem: why does God not stop evil before it happens?

    Because God does not violate personhood. God loves humanity so much that free will, even when employed in evil, is allowed. I think there is a huge sigh of relief in the heavens when God hears people calling out for repair.

    God reconciling humanity to God's ideal then begins .... Lorna