To the Unknown God


Truly you are a God who hides himself. (Isaiah 45:15)

To Whom It May Concern,

I’ve heard it said that the earth is filled with your glory. Now I don’t  claim to be a master of insight, but it seems to me that your glory is anything butpervasive down here. In fact, I’d say it’s downright difficult to find anything remotely qualifying as glorious, at least these days. Sure, there are those every-so-often sunsets and the relentless shush of the ocean shore—and, okay, a starry starry night’s pretty cool too—but if that’s what they mean by God’s glory then I’d have to say it’s a pretty limited concept. At best it’s an impressive backdrop where, as poet Matthew Arnold wrote, “ignorant armies clash by night.”

I’ve heard it said that humankind is your crowning achievement. I find this flattering, but even less convincing. It’s not so much that our species is demonstrably wicked (the Fall implies we can’t hold you accountable for everything); still, even among the so-called “saved,” the power of carnal inclinations seems far more influential than the “imparted righteousness” mentioned in your promotional material. Perhaps this righteousness is more of an ideal than a working principle. At any rate, the human landscape suggests many things, but divine glory isn’t one of the things that comes to mind.

I’ve heard it said that you answer prayer, but your record seems somewhat spotty. I myself have a file cabinet’s worth of disappointments. Wasn’t it you (or someone pretending to be you) who said, You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it? Some true believers tell me that my faith is faulty. I’ll say. I had assumed it was you who answered prayer, not my faith. Your more philosophical defenders tell me that you have indeed answered my prayers, just not in a way that I can recognize. Okay, but what’s the point in that? If I ask for some bread now, how can a stone next week convince me of your credibility? Maybe, as yet others have kindly enlightened me, your frequent answer to my requests has been “No.” Gee, thanks. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but coming up with excuses for you is harder than doing without.

I’ve heard it said that you are love. That’s a reach when I see photos of bulbous-eyed children squatting in their own excrement waiting to die or note the ease with which cancers claim victory or read of children abused beyond healing. It could be that you will make it all better someday, but what good is love after the fact? If suffering is love’s calling card, your affections do indeed fester in the human heart. Perhaps all is well in heaven; down here love gasps for breath.

Forgive me if I speak amiss. I claim little but ignorance of your affairs and welcome a rejoinder should you find the time. And if by chance you do not exist, I’d appreciate a reply nonetheless.

Kindest Regards.



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