Thursday, September 4, 2008

Maps of Meaning

Somehow or another in my THEO 100 class last Friday, we got talking about the problem of evil – something about the limitations and potential of theological language about God. Anyway, at one point one of the guys in the class told a story about a soccer coach from his high school who died at age 38 – great guy, a couple of kids, loved his students, the works. This student explained that part of him clung to the old saw about “God wanted him in heaven” because he couldn’t handle the idea that such a great guy died for nothing. We went on with the discussion, but after class, this guy stayed around and asked me about how guilt factors in to bad things happening in the world. I asked him what he meant, and he launched into how some part of him in his guts feels guilty for this coach’s death, even though his brain tells him that there is no connection at all. This little voice tells him that he wasn’t playing very well in the last few games before this coach died, and maybe his part in losing those last games added to the coach’s stress that led him to have a cardiac arrest, and so on. I told him that he had absolutely nothing to do with his coach’s death, and of course he said he knew, but I could tell that some part of him wasn’t hearing it. By this point this guy was starting to break down, and was doing his best to keep a stiff upper lip, so it was clear that this is still a live issue for him. He actually remarked that it was a Good Will Hunting moment – knowing “It’s not your fault,” but not really believing it. I guess I write this out of amazement that our gut desire for order would prefer such an awful and painful explanation for evil over the possibility that there is no “reason” (i.e. predetermined meaning) behind why bad things happen; even if it would indict this kid’s psyche with guilt, in a way such a scheme was better to his psyche than everything just being meaningless.

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