Friday, 24 August 2012


According to The Irish Independent, Katie Taylor, Olympic boxing gold medallist, hangs her favourite psalm - Psalm 18 – on the wall of her gym in Bray (53 degrees North, 6 degrees West).

It contains the words 

It is God that has equipped me with strength, and made my way perfect. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war.

The Olympic champion boxer's invocation of God at the time of her great Olympic triumph heartened theists, particularly Christians, throughout the world.

Letter writer Henry Counihan, from Dublin (53 degrees North, 6 degrees West),  noted that

While the games were taking place approximately 400, 000 people died from hunger in the world.

Is this a problem for Christians like Katie Taylor? 

What is God doing, when allowing/witnessing/enabling/observing hundreds of thousands of his loved ones – equal in His eyes to the marvellous athletes who invoke Him – to grimly perish in want and desperation while abundance is evident all over the globe, particularly in London (51 degrees North, 0 degrees West)?

Is it the case that these 400, 000 are the victors, their challenge to survive the days, months and years of destitution, anguish, pain and malnutrition en route to the white tape of death, their reward a coffin finish and a one-way golden ticket to an after-life of eternal bliss in the presence of the God who allowed/witnessed/enabled/observed their degradation and death?

When it comes to God's work and ways, human language is weak and uncertain. Or bombastic and tortuous.

In this sense, if the desperate are the victors, is Katie Taylor the loser?

Or is the God of gold, frankincense and myrrh simply interested in the gold, never in the silver, bronze, not to mention the brass, tin, lead and ash of the lives of the desperate?

Does any of this present a problem for theists?

The great monotheistic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – experience vulnerability and threat from non-believers. And also great tensions, often schisms, within. 

For Roman Catholics, abuse of authority, manifest in specific instances of the abuse of children, leads to deep questioning by the faithful. For Anglicans, acts of physical intimacy cause confusion and conflict. Muslim states and citizens struggle with sectarianism across the Arab homelands as Sunni and Shia adherents to the faith come to violence.

And yet sects, Churches, cults, groupings, study groups, madrasi, temples, and missionary projects expand and proliferate across the globe.

At the heart of schemes like this, there's always something of the unreasonable, the explanation of which is that human beings are involved.

Is the particular support God offers to Katie Taylor – including training her hands for war – not offered to other, less successful, boxers whom she defeats?

Or to the 400, 000 cited in Henry Counihan's letter?

And if not, why not?

Every pillar of belief the world rests on may or may not be about to explode.

The Irish Times: newspaper; Letters to the Editor; 14.8.2012
Canada:  novel; Richard Ford; Bloomsbury; 2012

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