By Leonard Pitts Jr.
I threw down the newspaper in disgust. God, who was sitting in the recliner next to mine watching the baseball playoffs, glanced over.
“Relax,” he said, “the campaign will be over in a few days.”
“It’s not that,” I said.
I handed God the newspaper. He put on his reading glasses and spent a few minutes studying the page. Finally, He shook his head. “Oh,” he said as he laid the paper aside.
‘“Oh?’ Is that all you can say? Didn’t you read the story?
These rebels in Uganda, they’re kidnapping children and forcing them to be soldiers and sex slaves! It says here they’ve killed 100,000 people, displaced 1.6 million over the last 18 years. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“It bothers me,” said God.
“I would think so. Especially since … ”
God arched his brow. “Especially since what?”
It took me a second to gather my courage. “Especially since they’re doing it in your name,” I said finally. “It’s bad enough they call themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army, but did you see this part here? According to the United Nations, these monsters say they’re kidnapping kids in order to set up a new government based on the Ten Commandments.”
“They forgot No. 8,” said God.
“No. 8,” said God. ‘“Thou shalt not steal.’ Also No. 6, of course. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
“Why don’t you stop them then? Send a plague. Destroy the rebels.”
“Is that what you think I should do?”
“You weren’t shy about it in the Old Testament.”
God sighed. “You send a little too much rain one time and they never let you forget it.”
“It’s not funny!” To my surprise, I shouted it.
“You’re angry with me,” said God.
I swallowed hard. “I guess I am. It shouldn’t be this way. It doesn’t have to be.”
“Well, we agree there.”
“Then make it stop. You could.”
“I could,” he agreed. “Maybe I will. But it will just start again somewhere else. You know that, don’t you? That’s the problem with that free will thing I gave you all.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “We can choose to do right or we can choose to do wrong. I know all about that.”
“Don’t give me ‘yeah, yeah,’” God said sternly. “And for the record, that’s not what I meant. What I’m saying is that you people, you’re all like that Jim Carrey fellow in that ‘Bruce’ movie. You all think you can be a better God than I can. Some awful thing happens to you, or some bad person isn’t instantly struck down by lightning bolts and you figure it must be because God is slipping. You figure he needs your help.
“So you decide to play God. And you use my name to sanction your meanest and most narrow impulses, like I’m a moral Get Out of Jail Free card or something. You say you’re doing my will, then you steal babies and make war. You say you’re doing what God said, then you kill one other. I told you to ‘love’ one other. How do you get from ‘love’ to ‘kill?’”
“But how are we supposed to have faith in you when you let so many bad things happen?” I asked.
“I could ask you the same question,” said God. “You know why I gave you free will? I wanted you to surprise yourselves sometimes. Surprise me, too. I knew you’d do things that disappointed me, but I thought you’d make me proud more often. I thought you would find more opportunities to do good. Instead, you find opportunities to break my heart.
“And yet I keep giving you chances, don’t I? Keep giving you sunrises, keep giving you babies, keep giving you breath, waiting for you to surprise me.”
I picked up the paper and looked at the awful story again. “Lord, have mercy,” I said.
God gave me a wan smile. “I know,” he said. “You think it’s hard believing in me? Think how I feel, trying to believe in you.”
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org