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Wholly Bible: A View from the Pew

Seeing Things

By RAY WADDLE

The economic crisis gets me thinking about those medieval monks who carefully carved beautiful patterns and figures under the pews of their chapels.

Yes, under the seats of the pews, where no one could see them. Why? Because they wanted to please God, and God sees everything.

The Creator made this life ... The Lord pays attention to our behavior ... God sees everything. Do people still believe that?

The ills of the 21st century make me wonder. The ethical collapse behind the financial collapse -- the deceptive mortgages, the poor regulation, the reckless debt, the lack of transparency, combined with lust for easy profit -- points to an indifference to divine power or moral code.

People seem eager to take God out of the equation. People seem willing to act as if God sees nothing.

With the rise of therapy, a sense of shame has been on the decline for a hundred years. Modesty and humility are dismissed as signs of low self-esteem. "I create my own reality," people solemnly say as an expression of self-confidence. But it can easily sound like a cosmic boast, a way of justifying anything.

Maybe the 9/11 attacks disillusioned people, striking a blow against the sentimental idea that God's first priority is to exempt America from suffering. Maybe the speed of digital technology flatters us to think we can control and manipulate this life in all its details.

A fine little book called Why People Do Bad Things in the Name of Religion by Richard Wentz (Mercer University Press, 1993) revisits the old insight that people do evil when they worship (blind) gods of their own making (money, vengeance, self-pity, security, purity) and lose a sense of awe for the Creator's power and mystery.

Another book, the Bible, reacquaints the reader with that awe for divine power and mystery. The story is: God is an overpowering presence, yet God is also alert to human life, and our destinies are somehow wrapped up with the Creator's.

"Be still and know I am God," the psalmist says. That's not a sweet little Sunday school slogan. It's a reality check, and an invitation to truth.

--Columnist Ray Waddle, author of two books published

by Upper Room Books, lives in Bethel, Conn.

 




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