I wish I knew. I don’t say this lightly. Some people aren’t going to like this but I’m going to say what’s been bothering me since I first heard the news on Wednesday. If I as a pastor can’t speak my mind, then who can? I’ve been wrestling with this question for three days now. Amid the discussions about mental health and cockpit security, the “God” question has been foremost in my mind. From the moment we realized the passengers and crew were aware of a serious problem (via the in-flight recorder) they too must have known their own deaths were imminent.
Why did God allow 149 innocent people to perish on the side of a French mountain? This question can be posed in any number of ways involving tragedies ranging from disease, famine, and natural disaster. Why does God permit any of these things? For the moment, I only want to talk about the plane crash.
I hear accounts of miracles on almost a daily basis. Listening to stories of God’s divine intervention and miraculous actions are not new to me; they are part of my work. Earlier this week, a man came to the church to tell me the story of his fiancé, crippled in an automobile accident last year now slowly regaining the use of her limbs. This he assured was a miracle and a response to his unceasing prayers. God had intervened on the night of the accident and saved the life his beloved. Now, she might walk again. I hope so. I prayed with him for over 30 minutes about his life and the life of the woman he hoped to marry.
I read in scripture that God actively intervened to deliver the Israelites from military catastrophes and social disasters. Jesus healed people day in and day out of his three year ministry.
It would seem easy for the God who divided the Red Sea, raised Lazarus, and is doing miraculous things for nearly everyone I encounter on Facebook, to cause the electronic lock to fail on the interior of a cabin door of an A320 about to crash in the French Alps so the pilot might save the lives of 149 innocent people. For some reason, that miracle doesn’t occur. That would be a miracle I would love to weep about, hold up to the world, and point to the mysterious workings of a great and wonderful God. I can’t do that; because my God, the God who worked that way in Exodus, Joshua, Matthew, and Mark is not working that way on a Germanwings flight over the French Alps. I don’t know where that God is now. I would like to know where that God has gone. How can this God be credited with so many things in my world (pre-mature babies born safely, people healed of cancer) and no one hold the same God accountable for the unspeakable terror of which Flight 9525 is only one example. Some will call such statements heresy. I call it a fair question, especially at Easter.
Perhaps that idea of God died en route to Dusseldorf. Like a modern day version of Calvary on a Good Friday that never ends, God has fled the scene we are left to pick up the pieces. So we wait, for redemption, deliverance, and meaning from torn up doctor’s notes and aviation experts. Woven in between the frantic words of explanation is the one truth of Holy Week: God can die and we must acknowledge this reality.