Ah, you say, but that’s just the problem of pain, a conundrum of faith you’ve already contemplated to your satisfaction. Some people—perhaps you included—resolve the paradox by saying God is infinitely wise and knows that goodness is possible only in the presence of its opposite. How can anyone, for instance, be judged righteous, who hasn’t recognized and overcome evil? To this you might add another, supremely comforting, idea: While mortality is pain-filled and subject to corruption, it’s but a blink of an eye compared to the eternal reward that awaits the just. Fairness will come in the hereafter.
But do you see the problem with that notion? I’m not referring to the inexplicable narrative of how God creates a world and populates it with children He loves, only to watch them kill and brutalize each other. Rather, I speak of the license it gives the living to do likewise, to simply witness the evil and say: “Thank God, for the pain is only for a moment and He will right these wrongs.” This shining article of faith serves as a salve on the conscience and a boast to all who hear it, but it’s also an excuse to do nothing. The living could mitigate life’s unfairness, but too many abide by a tainted premise: While shit rains, I can wait for God’s will to manifest itself, there’s no need for an umbrella.
And so faith waits.
We pray for peace—just like we pray for the hungry, the naked and the sick—but rarely do we become the miracles we seek. Help for the displaced pales beside the wars, pogroms, class boundaries and other weapons of alienation that displace even more. All the while our faith waits for the end times, or a miracle, or some other divine response to prayer’s equivalent of kicking the ball into God’s court. I would rather we had no faith in a hereafter at all and worked to bring heaven here. Maybe our world would be more caring and sharing then.