7/01/2008

when bad things happen to bad people


Wounded, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

I suspect that many of my LDS acquaintances have thought that when bad things happen to me or my family, that we're reaping the consequences of leaving the church, breaking the commandments, and/or reneging on covenants. (As in, "If only she had been wearing her temple garments, they would have protected her from injury." Note to my non-LDS readers--said holy undies are offered with the promise that they will be a "shield and a protection" to the wearer.)

I suspect that some of my LDS acquaintances have thought that if only I had gotten a priesthood blessing from Mormon elders, my recent ailment would have cleared up much sooner.

While I can understand this line of thinking to some extent (given Biblical precedence and all), I wonder if any of my readers believe that God works this way? Do you think that God punishes nonadherents? Would he purposefully smite one of his children with an illness as punishment for wayward behavior or for not wearing godly undies? Or would he withhold healing from a person until they submitted to a a priesthood blessing?

20 comments:

Deborah said...

What an interesting question. If, as MLK wrote, "The arc of the universe is long and bends toward justice," I believe in a corollary: "The arc of the soul is long and bends toward healing." And I believe that God provides many many paths (and people on those paths) to help our bodies and souls become more healed/whole. Priesthood blessings, for some, are very real tool for healing. I think the only "foolishness" in closing one path to healing is not opening another one (and you've opened up several). I've opened up a few in the last five years I wouldn't have thought of in my teenage years -- reiki, Catholic-derived devotions, coursework in counseling psych.

Lessie said...

The god that I came to know before I left the church seemed rather arbitrary. I had similar fears when I first removed the garment and went inactive. Ironically though, things went better for me after I left. I met people who were able to help me find myself in my new place, I came to a measure of peace that I hadn't felt in years, and I further liberated myself from some of the gender roles that I had been trying to maintain.

My thoughts lately have been that people, the universe, are in general, morally neutral. That bad and good are wrapped up inseparably in us. They are parts of us that we can't escape. We can certainly try to be more aware of the bad impulses and learn to overcome them, but ultimately, some times bad things happen even when our intentions were good.

saraarts said...

I tend to believe that the Bible was "written" (told over and over until various people wrote it down in pieces) by drunken old men and is not to be taken as any kind of reliable authority.

And this sort of thinking makes me SO MAD. The holy undies didn't keep your other leg from coming off, now, did they? No they did not. And you were just a child. What could you possibly have done to deserve cancer?

Shit happens. It happens to everybody. Most people don't deserve it any more than anybody else. And honestly, most people don't deserve the bad things that happen to them any more than they deserve the good things that happen to them, which they also mostly don't deserve more than anyone else. Fortunately, we have each other to help us get through what can be gotten through, and to share the good parts when they come along, too.

Jessica said...

Jana, I really hope that this sentiment is not something that others believe, just a concern that you have about the possibility of others thinking it.
I struggle with the opposite idea, that righteous people are blessed with money, power, righteous families, etc. It seems to me that this is often unquestioned in the church, but seems very far from the doctrine, particularly in the BoM.
Anyway, I hope if there are people who think these things, they will encounter some of the bad stuff out there and realize that good and bad happen to everyone.

JohnR said...

I respect believers who find silent strength and patience in suffering through their own faith; but the ones who seek to justify others' pain and illness as the will of god are not far off from those who wrote off millenia of Jewish suffering and persecution as divine punishment for rejecting Jesus.

Nature and chance seem much better explanations for why people get sick or injured. It's nothing personal, except perhaps when other humans are somehow involved.

JohnR said...

"shit happens"

Amen, sister saraarts! :P

catbonny said...

I second Sara in hating this line of thought (could you tell last night when we were talking about it?)

I guess it to could be healed from chemical depression and wouldn't need drugs if I would just give it up to God and let him heal me. (Bleggh- I was told this as a 14 year old)

I am thinking that a God who would punish people in this way is not a God I would want to be so tight with. Maybe because as humans we tend to be vengeful and selfish and hurt the people back that hurt us, we think that we should project our own selfish stuff onto God.

I don't know what/who God is, but I don't believe in a spirit that seeks to teach us by form of punishment and reward. To me that would just make God seem weak- like humans.

I think in your situation I would choose to see 'god' as your lbing husband and children and all the people who wanted to help you out and care for you when you were sick, rather than the force that was not letting the infection go away. I like that view a lot better.

catbonny said...

Also this picture makes me think you should get a rockin' tattoo on your leg when all of this healing is done. Definitely shouldn't say wounded, but I'll go and get one with you if you want. =)

jana said...

Bonny, I love your tattoos and the stories behind them. I am not so sure that I'm a tattoo person, but if I was to get one, camouflaging a rather wicked leg scar would be pretty good reason for one, IMO (note: I won't get anything clown-related...).

Heh.

amelia said...

i don't think this way about god. and i don't really understand thinking this way about god. on some level it ends up being a form of self-condemnation, because we all end up having bad things happen to us at some point or another. and in the meantime, when someone thinks this way, i think it's much more about their own feelings of inadequacy and trying to compensate for them.

i don't know. i find myself simplifying my religious beliefs more and more as i get older. to the point where it doesn't make sense to me to think about god involved in human lives in such convoluted, double-entry bookkeeping ways. to believe in that kind of god seems to me a failure of imagination.

Anonymous said...

Two members of my family, one LDS the other not had gall bladder operation. The LDS member received a priesthood blessing and was good as new in three weeks (which this member proudly proclaimed). The other family member, an atheist, received no such blessing and was as good as new in three weeks. ;)

Brooke said...

I absolutely do not believe in that god.

lma said...

As catbonny mentioned, I believe that the vengeful, punishing god is a projection humans make onto their idea of what a God would act like.

Many humans have, at some time, wished that something bad would happen to someone who didn't like them, or whom (who? I've never figured that rule out) they perceived didn't like them. So, I think that those people probably figure that an all-powerful god who can do whatever he wants would certainly do bad things to the people he thinks don't like him/her/it, or don't offer sufficient worship to him/her/it.

Just my two cents' worth. :)

Alberta said...

I don't think that, and I think those that do are wrong. On a side note, it was always my understanding that the "shield and protection" was spiritual protection not physical protection. Darn you Steve Young!! ;)

Zenaida said...

I think it has so much more to do with your own line of thinking. If you believe that a priesthood blessing will heal you, then there's a good chance it will. If you believe that doing a naked voodoo dance (suggested counsel as I recall) will heal you, then there's a good chance it will. Faith is powerful.

sarah k. said...

Even if there were a mean old God up there waiting to punish people for being "disobedient", the logical fallacy that says that the bad things that are happening to you are because of that "disobedience" makes it too easy for believers of such nonsense to think that the rest of the world (non Western-European/North American) is also to blame for all of those misfortunes, that they somehow deserve their circumstances. Those 9 year old girls in Yemen, being married to 30 year old pedophiles and beaten and abused have not done anything to deserve their fate. It's just another way to feel superior.

Curiously, if you had stayed in the church and kept the magic undies, your illness (which I'm fairly certain wouldn't magically disappear) would be chalked up to "adversity" which would only be because of your steadfastness in the faith, and would only serve to make you stronger. Those same people accusing you of transgression would be cheering you on and bringing you casseroles.

Anonymous said...

I am just wondering has somebody actually said something to you or are you just assuming that they are being judgmental and talking about what kind of undies you are sporting these days.

Greg said...

God does not punish

Anonymous said...

Another case of small minded Mormon culture that seem to just not understand the nature of God. Some day when something bad happens to them and they are really quote un quote good people I think their faith will waiver. I think somewhere in the scriptures it says that the sun shines on both the wicked and the righteous and that it rains on both as well. I know so many good people who have some really bad things happen. I know people who deserve bad things but have no issues whatsoever.

I think it comes down to consequences of our choices, others choices and well just living in this imperfect world where things happen because of environment or so many factors that we don't begin to understand.

I think we knew this before we came to earth and that we knew that God would not interfere. It would be part of our learning.

I do believe who ever we are Mormon or whatever if we reach out to him in faith he will help us, heal or deal etc.

People who think because the are "good" will have riches, good health and no problems are going to be horribly disappointed. Bad things happen to good people all of the time. And there are many good people who have left the church who are well healing, and living and dont walk around wearing a target that god is going to punish them. They will make their choices and receive the rewards or punishments for those choices just like the rest of us imperfect Mormons.

Anonymous said...

Would you do that to your child? I don't think so.

God loves you, He loves me. He IS love. He is not vengeful or angry or 'out to get' the people who don't wear the right underwear. The Mormon church doesn't understand that.