Today was a strange day. Chapel at school was a bit of a grim exercise, as we were reminded of some of the atrocious evils human beings are perpetrating against each other, and our responsibility to resist these evils and work toward the peace, harmony, and justice that we believe will ultimately characterize God’s redeemed world. Stories of murder and rape from Sudan and Rwanda, human trafficking from Eastern Europe, and drug addiction and prostitution in our own backyard here in Vancouver painted a pretty desperate and hopeless picture of what humanity is capable of. Our world is a sick, hurting, and evil place, and it was painful to be brought face to face with that fact again this morning.
Immediately following this chapel we were led downstairs to finally catch a glimpse of the brand new library that we have been anxiously waiting for. It was pretty spectacular, and it will certainly be a pleasure to study in this facility for the next year or so. Amazingly, it’s already paid for by a collection of extremely generous donors.
Those of you who know me will know what’s coming next…
The dissonance created by this morning’s experience was, at least initially, a bit much for me. Old questions returned as I began to think about how to put the two experiences together theologically. We see this new library as a blessing from God, and rightly so. I think.
It was just strange. I felt guilty thanking God for blessing us with a multi-million dollar sparkling new library where I—a privileged middle-class North American—can study in comfort while 11 year-old girls are being gang-raped in Sudan (to cite but one grisly example from this morning’s chapel). I felt guilty thinking about how much money I have spent, and will continue to spend on my education, while areas of the world are starved for the resources that could be used to combat some of these atrocious evils.
Sometimes I feel like telling God that he might want to think about directing his blessing elsewhere for a while. I mean, the library is wonderful and it really will provide a wonderful resource for students for so many years to come, but maybe we could have continued to “suffer” in our cramped quarters.
I know that the correct theological solution to the conundrum produced by this morning’s experience is to say that it is God’s prerogative to bless wherever, whenever and however he sees fit, and that we can’t always fathom God’s ways. I know that it is theologically problematic to associate suffering with God’s absence or lack of involvement, and to associate prosperity with his blessing. I know that we are all called to serve God and promote shalom in the contexts within which he has placed us. I know that God created us to love him with our minds and that Regent College is a place that is dedicated to providing people with the best possible tools to do so. I know that Regent’s graduates go on to do truly remarkable and praiseworthy things to bring healing, wholeness, justice—salvation!—all over the world. I know that the new library is an important tool toward this end.
I agree with all of the above.
But $14 million…
and 11 year-old girls…
Strange days indeed.