The idea for this article came out of my cogitations on Blood Lad. The anime provides scads of fun and excitement over the course of ten episodes. Still, as many bloggers noted, it leaves more loose ends than an unfinished tapestry. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the show is the dynamic between the vampiric siblings Staz and Braz. Due to the belief that Braz tried to kill Staz in childhood and sealed Staz’s power out of spite, Staz hates his elder brother. This attitude is understandable: if Braz has any laudable motives, he keeps them to himself. Furthermore, Braz has no trouble using others willy-nilly for his own ends.
At the same time, one discerns that Braz has a deep affection for his younger siblings, Staz and Liz, and wishes the best for them. In this manner, Braz very much imitates God’s love for His children. Also similar to God is how Braz’s motivations remain mysterious to his siblings, which cause them to doubt his affection for them.
We have an Older Brother in Christ, and the Faith tells us that He is omnipotent, omniscient, and so omnibenevolent that He consented to die in our place for the sake of our eternal welfare. Yet, the evil within our lives and in the world may cause us to doubt that God is good. I once expressed such a doubt in the confessional. The priest reminded me of the perseverance of Job despite his suffering, and I have never before or since heard such good advice in the confessional. (This same priest was far less helpful on subsequent occasions, which confirmed to me that Christ does occasionally borrow the confessor’s lips during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) The story of Job is perfect for reminding us of suffering and the need to persevere, even as the rest of the Scriptures and the blessings in our lives remind us of God’s goodness.
Distrust of God can unfortunately even affect those who should be most confident in Him: priests and religious. In St. Faustina of Kowalska’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, she writes of our Lord telling her: “My Heart is sorrowful, because even chosen souls [i.e. priests and religious] do not understand the greatness of My mercy. Their relationship [with Me] is, in certain ways, imbued with mistrust. Oh, how much that wounds My Heart! Remember My Passion, and if you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds,” (I: 379). If you think about it, priests in particular might have greater difficulty in trusting God, because they see more of the world’s suffering than other persons. People frequently have recourse to the priest in their pain, and priests see the pain of many individuals and their families in addition to the pain of their own lives. While an atheist proponent of the problem of evil might point to the deaths of innocent children as a reason not to believe in God’s existence, the priest buries these same innocent children, deals with the grief of their families, and keeps the Faith. What these atheists know in theory, the priest sees embodied.
At the same time, priests account for most of the canonized saints. If they have been canonized, one can be sure that they suffered physically and spiritually more than we can imagine. In the saints, we also invariably see a great devotion to “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). St. Faustina was entrusted with an important revelation of God’s mercy, and the disbelief of her superiors, priests, and fellow religious caused her great embarrassment. Added to this embarrassment were many temptations to despair and other spiritual sufferings which afflicted her from the beginning of her novitiate. Two of her constant sources of consolation were the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. These both point to the Crucifixion: the source of God’s forgiveness and of the Body and Blood made incarnate on our altars every Eucharist. If you cannot believe Christ’s words, look at the Cross and believe His wounds!
What is the alternative? Looking at God as a sinister figure—just as Staz looks at his brother. But, we know by faith that God is loving and good, and Christ Crucified reveals to us that suffering does not separate us from Christ, but strengthens our bonds to Him. Another of my favorite saints who had visions of Christ, St. Padre Pio, was once told by our Lord that Padre Pio would have been lost long ago were it not for the many sufferings, pains, and illnesses which frequently afflicted Pio. Likewise, when the devil tempts us to believe that our hardships are evidence of God’s abandonment, we should turn with love to a crucifix and say: “How closely do you unite Yourself to me, my Savior!”
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7 thoughts on “Braz and the Sinister God”
[…] Braz and the Sinister God […]
Taking on the problem of evil, are you Medieval? A worthy topic, and one that I have no shortage of obsession with. Although I may, once again, get spectacularly off-topic with it.
It’s true that God could potentially be viewed as “sinister,” but in fact there’s a much simpler and more obvious alternative: that God is not good or evil, but instead is “a party” in the sense of the law. His lawyers, knights, and propagandists are Christian priests. He sees Himself as being fundamentally benevolent and in the right and expresses this to His followers. A good lawyer is one who believes in the righteousness of their client, or at least acts within their client’s interests. A good citizen of a King is the same. But Kings are not wholly benevolent nor perfectly just and indeed sometimes take actions for what they see as the greater good that kill millions of people. And because He is a much Higher entity than you or I, with complex war plans that we could not possibly hope to understand, we know about as much about what He seeks as a cat knows about where the canned food comes from.
In this way God would neither be abandoning His people nor would He be perfectly serving them, nor would they be perfectly serving Him (by a long shot!) In this way analogizing him to Braz wouldn’t be far off. For whatever reason not too many human populations have commonly looked at it this way in around a thousand years or so, even though it’s the most obvious resolution. Even Hinduism seems to view their Gods as, at the least, perfect embodiments of an idea.
Is it impossible for people to swear fealty to a God that, on the cosmic scale He operates on, is acting in His *own* best interest along with the interests of His humans? This is very similar to how I actually am forced to view the situation by circumstance. How can I otherwise, when my arrogant spirit “friend” so resembles His opponent? (The use of “friend” is entirely too simple for what manages to be one of the most complicated and intimate relationships in my life, but I digress.)
Regardless, if it is through faith that God is viewed as creator of the Universe and all-benevolent, does the foundation of that faith then stem upon the cross, or upon what He has done in your own life, or both?
Then again, who am I to ask that? It would take hours, likely, to “explain” the source of most of my convictions! One’s life is the testament to what they believe to be true.
As to where my faith in God’s goodness stems from, it’s a combination of how God has acted in my life, in the lives of people I know, in the lives of the saints, and in the history of the Church. Then, the are also three very powerful articles of faith: the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Eucharist. People have become very used to the idea of the Incarnation, but the idea is incredibly radical. God suspended all of his divine power and privileges to become just like us for our salvation! It’s a greater descent than if a Roman emperor gave up his station in order to be a slave. Christ even wished to become a helpless baby completely reliant on St. Mary and St. Joseph. All for our sake!
In the Crucifixion, we say that Christ won infinite merit for our salvation, but the least pain or injustice suffered by Christ has infinite merit. There was no need for Him to be wounded so horribly or to die so painfully. Being struck by a guard on the way to the Sanhedrin held enough merit for the salvation of the world. But if Christ limited the Passion to that, perhaps many more people would refuse to believe in God’s goodness. Christ willed to suffer so much more solely for our sakes–that we might more easily believe in Him.
And, the Eucharist, Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity, is an amazing gift. In the Eucharist, Christ deigned to be our food and to retain a physical presence on earth. Christ told a saint that his first favorite place on Earth was a soul who loved Him, and his second was the tabernacle. Through the Eucharist, Christ exists in both. I cannot think of another religion where the god arranged to be the food of his people!
Interesting. It’s true that if you follow the logic to its end *technically* He could have suffered anything, if He created us, and it would have had roughly equivalent merit. But that would somewhat miss the point in more ways than one, I think. He chose to experience something so awful that only a select group of humans alive have a frame of reference for how bad it was (the honorable Senator McCain and the Jewish survivors of the Shoah among them), and they don’t want it. He took the worst imaginable consequences of the world we live in on Himself, because only then could He *really* say He got it. Every human knows that a hypocrite is no judge, no matter how High, and He….He got that. They would only believe the offer was real if He faced the Void Himself.
“And, I can’t think of single evil which can exist without a good thing.”
Sometimes people commit evil for no other reason than because it’s possible. There are a million instances in human history where someone has power over someone else and it wouldn’t cost them anything to minimize the other person’s suffering…And they don’t do it. Instead, they actively try and find out what would happen if they made the whole thing even *worse,* even though they don’t gain anything by doing so. It’s…actually the way we know that we’re dealing with someone incomprehensibly *warped.*
I think…you could make the argument that “curiosity” is the good that exists within evil like this, but it’s…debatable. Curiosity is the mother of all evil, and its father is sadism.
“If God takes a faction, it’s being, and He wishes for every being to be perfect.So, part of the answer to the Problem of Evil is that God does not aim to minimize suffering, but to bring about each being’s perfection.”
And Glory can’t exist in a vacuum. ; ] ….this is why I wonder how anyone can picture a Heaven that has no conflict in it. I don’t think I could ever be happy in a place where there was nothing to overcome. I find God in the fight, and in the expression of its fruits.
There is an interesting argument to be had over whether someone can do an evil thing from the desire for evil; that is, whether someone can sin out of pure malice. St. Augustine believed that a person could. In his Confessions, he writes of him and his friends stealing fruit purely out of a desire to do evil. The other great theologian of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, believed that it was impossible to do anything out of pure malice–i.e. without at least a certain good in view. Even in St. Augustine’s story, one discerns that stealing the fruit was fun, the fruit was tasty, and there was pleasure in the camaraderie. So, you know where I fall in the argument. 🙂
Curiosity could easily be the motive for most sins. When looked at as a type of sin, curiosity is the desire to know or experience things which are not useful or proper for us to know or experience. One often can’t know in the case of someone else, but we ourselves know when we’re crossing the line. Even Eve’s sin could be laid at the feet of curiosity.
It is hard to imagine a place without conflict, and even heaven must experience a certain degree of conflict, I suppose. Though it is the Church Triumphant, the saints still know about the sufferings of the Church Militant and pray for us. St. Colette, having recovered from a severe illness, relates that there was a debate in heaven between St. Francis and St. Clare over whether Colette’s mission was finished. St. Clare argued to bring Colette home. St. Francis argued that his Franciscan order still had not been sufficiently reformed, and so Colette needed to remain on earth. God decided in St. Francis’s favor.
So, even heaven might have conflicts of a sort, but one’s inner peace will never be disturbed.
I’m always happy to talk about the Problem of Evil. It’s the main argument which turns people away from God these days, and I think that it has some roots in the way many people view the role of government. People always try to understand the metaphysical world through the material one, and what separates a good government from a bad one, in many persons’ opinions, lies in a good government minimizing suffering in society. So, if God, the King of the Universe, does not appear to minimize suffering as much as He can (which would be to abolish pain completely), how can He be good when He does not fulfill what we expect all human governments to strive for?
Well, I might answer that question below, but the idea of God as partisan strikes me as intriguing. The idea of God being party to one side is a rational one. I think that’s part of the reason why Manichaeism came about. One can easily view the world as dualistic: good and evil, matter and spirit, male and female, etc. So, why should not two Gods, one evil and one good, exist with each supporting it’s own side?
The answer to this query lies in how one views creation and the nature of good and evil. If evil has no essence of its own, but is rather a privation of a good thing, then all creation–all being–must be good. And, I can’t think of single evil which can exist without a good thing. Even diseases, which are evil for the sick, are caused by microorganisms seeking their own perfection. (A very odd way to look at a disease, I’ll agree!) And, sins themselves are always committed for the sake of something apparently in the sinner’s advantage–an apparent good even if not the true good.
If all creation is good, there can’t be two Creators, but one; and God must then be partial to all beings, because He created them all and wishes for their perfection. Another interesting thought is that we are something like God’s thoughts. Creation rests on and only on God’s word: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light,” (Gen. 1:3). So, God can’t stop thinking of us; otherwise, we would cease to exist. God even has to continue thinking of the damned for eternity, and one can be sure that He would much rather think of human beings as perfect than damned! For this reason, so many deathbed conversions happen–but, the person must at least will his own salvation! If God takes a faction, it’s being, and He wishes for every being to be perfect.
So, part of the answer to the Problem of Evil is that God does not aim to minimize suffering, but to bring about each being’s perfection. In the case of a human being, a human being’s perfection would lie in virtue and charity. Virtue and charity cannot be produced without significant suffering: one needs to constantly deny oneself. Often, the highest virtues are only called forth in the most painful conditions and emergencies. But, the pain in our lives is outweighed by a happy eternity.