Tag Archives: god

What a difference a year makes!

Last year this time, I was moaning and whining about my class of 5th grade CCD (religion classes for kids who do not attend a Catholic school) students.

Last year’s class was quite a handful. When I was asked to come back and teach again this year, Mrs. Poolman reasonably asked me if I had lost my mind. I agreed to return for year #7, and I’m glad I did.

This year’s class is a large one – 25 students on a full night. And they have their moments, both individually and as a group. There are at least two boys, whose mothers tell me, are ADHD but they are trying to deal with it without using meds. I applaud the effort, but it can make Wednesday nights interesting.

Overall, this is a nice group of kids. They are active and full of energy, but I have been able to keep them more-or-less focused and engaged on whatever we are discussing at the time. They are full of questions, occasionally to an extreme.  Sometimes we have had to arbitrarily cut off discussion simply because the “what if…?” questions just become outlandish.

For the most part, I don’t really mind it. We don’t have a strict schedule of topics we must follow from week to week. So if they want to talk about something that is vaguely related to Catholicism, religion, God, morality, or just issues they encounter in their daily lives, we run with it.

Last night was interesting. When I arrived, the director, Pamela, handed me a sheet of paper with seven or eight guidelines to teach the class to help them avoid becoming abuse victims. (Think Penn State.) I went over these guidelines (good touch, bad touch, etc.) with the class, and then the lid came off the can of worms.

It was obvious this is something they have discussed with their parents (as they should) and their friends. Everyone had a question or a comment. It was active and rowdy, and while there were many times when three or four students were trying to contribute simultaneously, the comments and questions were all related to the main topic. What I expected would take five minutes ran on for 35 minutes, and could have gone to the end of the class.

I have an outstanding co-teacher, who is also the mother of one of the students. She is “the bomb.” She isn’t really interested in doing much teaching, but she actively participates in the discussions and is a major help with “crowd control.”

We may not be teaching the kids everything we are supposed to, but hopefully, they are learning something important. And we are having a good time.

Why blame God?

I had conversations with two women recently, who both expressed the same question in nearly the exact same words.

“What did I ever do to make God so mad that I deserve all this?”

Both women have had their share of tragedies and difficulties and are facing more now.

Julie lost her husband two years ago after a year-long fight with cancer. He was in his 60’s. Now, her 89-year old father just died, while, at the same time daughter delivered a pre-mature baby.

Sharon’s son (early 20s) was killed in a traffic accident three years ago. Now her husband has just been diagnosed with ALS.

My heart goes out to both of them. They both have taken and continue to take some hard hits. I would not want to trade places with either of them.

However, I cannot agree that they should be blaming God and themselves for their problems. A loving God does not punish someone by causing suffering to their loved ones. Sometimes things just happen. Diseases like cancer and ALS are tragic, as are fatal traffic accidents. However, they are not part of some sinister plot by God to inflict pain on the victim’s families.

It is a common religious belief, one to which I do not subscribe, that God has some sinister plan, and that everything that happens to a person is because of that plan. You frequently hear people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

In the extreme, people see God meddling in the details of their life. This was a common theme among the ancient Greeks. The epics of Homer and the plays of Sophocles and Euripides were filled with the Greek Gods messing around and manipulating the mortals. To one degree or another, it remains a common theme among some religious groups today.

Some bad things that have known and tangible causes. A life-long smoker need not question the metaphysical source of his lung cancer, just as a drunk driver need not examine the reason behind his car becoming wrapped around a tree.

In other cases, like a brain tumor, a pre-mature birth or ALS, things happen without any reason, at least none we can fathom. Those breaks are not evenly or fairly distributed among us. Nothing guarantees that life is just. So there is no benefit to torturing yourself by asking what you did to deserve your fate. The answer may be “nothing” or “everything,” but your loving God doesn’t use your past actions to punish or reward you, at least not in this life. Sometimes stuff just happens. That’s life.