A Kingdom of Disruptions


Behold the Hurricane

I have had hurricanes on my mind today.

One reason: This post from a while ago about Kamau Brathwaite, Picasso, and writing.  Brathwaite famously said “the hurricane does not roar in pentameters.”

Revisiting that post meant listening to “Behold The Hurricane” by The Horrible Crows (Brian Fallon and friends) on repeat for a few hours.

I’ve also been talking/writing a good bit about the 3000 dead Americans in Puerto Rico.

There are hurricanes everywhere.

I have had extreme ups and downs today.  I have spoken with people who have had extreme ups and downs today.

For weeks, I have been tackling theodicy from all kinds of angles.  I can’t come up with anything better than the upshot of Harold Kushner: that physics are real and there are things that God perhaps cannot control.

I can’t settle for “chooses not to control.”  I have to go with “cannot” control.  I can give up omniscience, but I cannot give up goodness and mercy and love.

It strikes me that part of what we do here is behold the hurricane.

That’s different than just staring into the abyss. Beholding something implies some kind of action. There’s some sense of tarrying. If I were to write a theology of suffering, it would start with the idea that God tarries along side us, and beholds the hurricane.

To a Poem is a Bott the Stranger

A few thoughts on this.

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the overall success of some of the language or if I’m terrified by it. I am leaning towards inspiration, but I also tend to romanticize things.

That said, some lines really stand out:

“the wind is only for me.”
“there’s part of the world between the darkness”
“the father of the light is not a fist of the bones.

The line about the wind is almost identical to something I read yesterday, which I think was by Antler. I’ll share it here when I can find it again.

The darkness line is lovely, and reminds me of “Break on Through,” by The Doors.

“The father of the light is not a fist of the bone,” is to my ear very similar to the idea behind this line of Christian scripture: “anger does not produce the righteousness of God.” That’s James 1:20. James 1:17 says “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Data for Breakfast

Code is Poetry. This is part of the WordPress philosophy. As a coder and a poet, I have always loved this phrase. I decided to turn this phrase around and ask, Can I make poetry with code? Could I make a bot that could write original poetry? I created an experiment to find out.

First off, I knew that if my bot was to learn to write poetry, it first had to read poetry. In 2017, authors used WordPress to publish over half a million posts tagged as poetry. I reached out to some prolific poets sharing their work with WordPress and asked if they’d be willing to collaborate with me on a fun experiment: would they allow my bot to read their work so that it could learn about poetic form and structure, so that it might learn to write its own poetry? Special thanks to these intrepid…

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The Big Bang and the Personal God

I think I’d heard of God’s Crime Scene before clicking through a link on reddit this morning, but I don’t know very much at all about the work of J. Warner Wallace.

With that caveat, I share this post: A Personal God is the Best Explanation for the Beginning of the Universe.

I found this part to be especially interesting:

“Big bang cosmology, often referred to as the Standard Cosmological Model, demonstrates that everything we see in the universe (all space, time, and matter) had a beginning and came from nothing. If this is true, the first cause of the universe must itself be non-spatial, a-temporal, and immaterial.”

Wallace goes on to say that the first cause must also be personal (with respect to personal force, which can choose when to act, and impersonal forces, like gravity, which cannot). I’m not sure how convincing I find that part of his premise, but I like his point about the Standard Model requiring a non-spatial, a-temporal (timeless), immaterial first cause.

Christians believe, of course, that God is personal, and that God chose to incarnate (to step out of the immaterial and timeless glories of eternity) and come to us as Jesus.  Regardless of how creation happened, that’s how Christmas happened.

Have a Merry one!

Where is God in Hurricane Season?

God did not send Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria. I hope you know that.

Why didn’t God prevent Irma, Harvey, Jose, and Maria? Larry King asked a variation of this question on Twitter last night. If God is omnipotent, why doesn’t he prevent natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes? King noted that no religious leader has ever been able to answer that for him. The tone of the tweet was not antagonistic. It felt like an honest question mulled over a lifetime. It’s a question we’re all asking. And it’s not just about natural (or human-made) disasters. It’s about all kinds of tragedy and injustice and loss. It’s the cry of Jesus from the cross.

Before going further, let’s ask ourselves what we actually lose if start to allow for the possibility that God might not be omnipotent in the way we traditionally mean.

In philosophic and theological studies, the question of why terrible things happen to good or innocent people is known as “The Problem of Evil.”  Millions of attempts continue to be made to solve the conundrum as classically presented:  if God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does evil persist?”  Some answers are more satisfying than others, but none seem entirely sufficient in the moments they feel most needed.

Martin Luther said that we know God best through God’s love and compassion, not God’s power.  There’s something to that, but we’re still left asking “but if God has the power to prevent X,Y,Z, why won’t he?”

Luther also wrote at length about the suffering of Jesus on the cross as real spiritual trauma for God.  On the cross, Jesus (God in time and space and flesh and blood) experiences the quintessential human question: “God, why have you forsaken me?” On the cross, God experiences the human condition in totally, because on the cross, God experiences the feeling of being Godforsaken.  God experiences what we experience. God knows the pain we know.

We lose nothing, really, if we allow ourselves to consider the idea that God, who is mighty to save, may not be omnipotent in the way we generally think we mean.

My response to Larry King’s tweet was “maybe God isn’t omnipotent. but I do believe God is in the suffering and mourning and struggle. That’s why I follow the Crucified.”

It took the cross for God to know Godforsakenness. And God stayed on the cross. Christians follow a murdered God.  I think that tells us something.

If God isn’t omnipotent in the way we’ve traditionally said, how can we say God is mighty to save?

I think the answer to this part of the question lies in the call to take up our own crosses and follow Jesus.  To sacrifice confidence and trust in anything besides the love and compassion of God as the grounding of our being and the source of our identity.  The cross frees us from seeking our personhood or salvation in systems of politics, economics, and empire.  Naked and crucified, the God born in the poverty of the manger completes his final to move to total solidarity with us.  The life and death of Jesus are no quaint pantomime:  God knew hunger, tragedy, temptation, weakness, and loss.  God felt utterly abandoned by God.  We know and feel all of those experiences on the ebbs and tides of life.

In the person of Jesus, God found the fullness of God’s identity: the God who relies on the care of others for survival, the God who struggles within complex family systems, the God who celebrates at weddings and mourns the loss of friends.  The God who rejoices in our triumphs and the God who suffers the way we suffer.

Where is God in Harvey, Irma, and Maria?

God is in the shelters.  God is in the living rooms of family and friends where displaced people are finding hospitality and healing.  God is in the suffering and loss. God is in the hope of resurrection, in the kindness and compassion of strangers becoming friends. God is in the clean-up crews and buckets.

I don’t know what God is able to do about preventing human suffering.  I pray as if God can do every single thing.  But I do know what God is able to do in the wake of devastation.  Christians follow a crucified God, yes, but also one of Resurrection.  On the cross, God felt the horror of feeling Godforsaken.  In the Resurrection, proof of God’s attendant care breaks forth as Easter Morning.  Jesus was not forsaken or forgotten.  The power of God, mighty to save, manifests in healing after horror. We feel Godforsaken, but we aren’t ever really.  God’s attendant care is there in healing after horror. That’s another way God saves us.

I’m okay with the idea that the God who heals us might not have the power to prevent everything that hurts us.  Come what may, I always seem to find God in the aftermath.  None of this is to say with certainty that God’s not omnipotent in the classical sense.  But if God is, it seems God may have more to answer for than what the cross itself sets right. While it’s true that the frequency of extreme weather events rises with pollution, and while it’s true that so much of what we call evil or unjust is the accretion of broken people living broken lives, and while it’s true that none of that is God’s fault, a classically omnipotent God ought to be able to find a way around the human noise we throw up to heaven.  A classically omnipotent God, we hope, would say “regardless of your free will and brokenness, I have abolished evil, entropy, and want.”

That’s not the reality we seem to experience.  But that doesn’t mean God isn’t here, isn’t moving, isn’t active, isn’t real.  Jesus was killed by systemic injustice and the evil choices of his enemies.  Jesus was raised to glory by the God whose attendant care is there, healing after horror.