[now posted over at The Exponent also]
Here is a half-baked thought that has been marinating in the back of my head for a while:
Sermons and lessons in the LDS church have elements in them that condition us to accept a Monster God.
(Probably not LDS alone, but that is the majority of my church going experience so it is where I have seen it the most.)
What I am thinking of here is the numerous talks, lessons, etc that use as their object lessons examples of extreme human suffering to teach about God. Two in particular stand out in memory (and I'm too tired to hunt down more):
1)From elder Monson's conference talk from last year (ironically entitled "Be Of Good Cheer") in which he talked about the German Mother in war-torn Prussia and how she had to bury her children one by one, having only a spoon to dig their graves with, until the very last child died, and at that point, she had even lost her spoon and so used her bare fingers against frozen ground to bury her baby.
2) From a local Stake Conference a few years back; the Stake President, as part of his talk described in great detail, how at a family cookout, the young toddler pulled the charcoal grill full of red-hot briquettes over on top of himself. The Stake President went on in great detail about the extent of the irreparable damage done to the toddler's body. I don't remember exactly what the SP's point was (probably prayer, or faith, or something) because I had to leave the meeting (leave my toddler sitting in the pew with his father) so I could go throw up.
I'm thinking that these gospel teaching elements are included as a coping mechanism, a way to preemptively curtail questions about the atrocities that occur and how an All powerful All loving God fits into this world of carnage. Perhaps, they are included to be intentionally numbing? (activism is frequently downplayed to make place for faith/acceptance.)
We are taught to Pray to the Monster God for protection (for he is mighty to save) while simultaneously being taught to accept that, at His humanly incomprehensible whim, He may chose not to save you. In spite of unwavering devotion, you and your loved ones may in die in a multitude of agonizing ways. Or live in a multitude of agonizing ways. And lesson after lesson in church is constructed to condition you to that fact.
So pray for patience.
Or at least for acceptance.
It is storytelling.
Turning tragedy into faith promoting stories.
My own thought is that reality isn't very faith-promoting.
As an interesting segue: after the Earthquakes in Haiti earlier this year, JohnR wrote this post about suffering, and storytelling, and how we can cope with tragedy without trying to piece an all Powerful all Loving God into the story.
To end with, a little sacrilege.
Have you seen the painting "One Nation Under God" by Jon McNaughton?
In thinking about The Monster God, it occurred to me that the anonymous artist who did this parody of it might have been on to something.