Feb 7, 2009

The Christian Sick "Moral Teaching" of the Day

Just a little while ago I got in my truck and because there is nothing else on the radio, turned on the local Christian AM station and heard host Chuck Bentley on his show "Moneylife" talking about the topic of suffering in the context of job loss and hard financial times. (I should point out that I missed some of the minor details in the following because I had to pay attention to traffic.) So Bentley read from the Bible a letter by Paul about the sufferings and persecutions he went through as he spread the Christian religion to others. Bentley's point was that this was important because Paul's example showed other Christians how to "suffer well" when they have to. I think, okay, fine, when times are tough one has to cope with it, perhaps to the point of finding strength within oneself one did not even know was there. What does anyone need a guy on the radio to point that out for? Well, it got better... or should I say, worse? This is religion after all.

Bentley then related a story about an older man who lost his job and the pastor went to see him. The older man said that as he lost his job he had no fear or worry because he "knew" that God was there watching him and this is part of God's plan so it will all work out in the end, or something like that. So here Bentley gets to his point: God has us suffer so we can be an example to others of how to suffer well.

Beliefs like that are imaginary rationalizations to help religious believers cope. This gives them a positive attitude, no doubt, so they can persevere. Meaning, as well, is projected on their suffering so it seems more than just a loss without reason. But more important, what does that rationalization really mean? Would one do to one's own children what God did to His "children" - make them suffer so they are good examples to their siblings of how to suffer well?

Imagine your child comes to you all distraught with a tale of how his life is suddenly turned upside-down in some way and you say to your child, "I love you and I know you are strong and can suffer well until you make things right again. By the way, I am responsible for turning your life upside-down. I did it so that you can serve an example to your brothers and the other children of how to suffer well. Be comforted by that until you make things right again."

Should the response to that parent be heaping on him praise and love - or is it perhaps time to call social services (to say nothing of a psychotherapist)?

I do not think I need to articulate just how irrational and immoral that parent is. It should be pretty evident. If, however, God does that same thing it demonstrates how wise and wonderful He is and how good it is to believe in Him.

I do not know who is more morally and psychologically depraved: a God who acts like that or Chuck Bentley who praises and worships that God.


  1. 1. > ". . . his point: God has us suffer so we can be an example to others of how to suffer well."

    Another justification I have heard for accepting, or even welcoming, suffering is the expectation that it is cleansing. E.g., a Catholic opponent of physician-assisted suicide told me that prolonged suffering before finally dying was a way of preparing the soul for its entrance into Heaven.

    2. > "But more important, what does that rationalization really mean?"

    I suggest a definition of "rationalization" that neatly fits your use of the term: here, in the November 30, 2008 post on Making Progress.

  2. I like the wording of the psychological definition. It is very clear. The use of the word "acceptable" is interesting - I right away thought that it should be in quotes because someone who is prone to rationalize is not likely to be objective, but would be concerned with what others deem as "acceptable," which could be entirely subjective. I think reading the term "acceptable" that way gives a bit more insight into one major reason why people rationalize.

  3. It always strikes me as odd, that the religious feel that I live a life without meaning... I just feel like I live an honest life without false meaning. There can't be reasons or justifications for everything, the answers aren't always quick and easy, and people need to learn to live with it.