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I got into one of those ridiculous Facebook kerfuffles today when I failed to restrain myself from responding to a woman I don't know who had written "Thank God!!!" in response to a meme about Royal Caribbean cruise lines sending one of its boats to Puerto Rico as part of the tardy aid effort to that stricken island. I thought that maybe God wasn't the benefactor deserving of thanks in that particular case since it was, in fact, some corporate CEO who found public relations value in doing the right thing, and then chose to do it.

Hurricane Donald

As for God's role in the suffering there, it seemed to me that He had been responsible for it in the first place. Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma are, after all, called "acts of God," so thanking God for a tardy cruise ship docking amid the devastation seemed like misdirected gratitude.

The woman who had originally expressed her thanks to the Big Guy in the sky was not pleased with my comment. "Are you serious?" she wondered. "Absolutely," I replied. "Are you?"

Just another day in the wonderful world of social media.

I meant no disrespect to her, or to anyone else who doesn't share my agnosticism, but some part of me isn't easily restrained from quibbling over who's to bless and who's to blame, especially in cases where believers want to give credit to an all-powerful deity for efforts made to counteract the damages an all-powerful deity had the power to prevent in the first place. And yeah, I know they always wriggle out of that contradiction by saying that the Lord works in mysterious ways. They're sure right about that because it's still a mystery to this particular church-raised old man why an all good, all wise, and all-powerful God would inflict cancer on innocent children, or wipe out entire populations with flood, famine, or disease. If He means to teach us stuff, I would think there could be wiser and more merciful ways to instruct us.

What all-knowing, all-powerful force for good in the universe would ever have allowed such a sorry specimen to hold such awesome power over the fate of so many human beings and assorted other living things?

And, while I'm on the subject of "natural" disasters exacerbated by human carelessness, I should register a burble of complaint against Almighty God for not protecting the critters he made in His own image from their own reckless stupidity in electing (sorta) Donald J. Trump as the leader of the "free world" and the custodian of the world's largest nuclear stockpile. What all-knowing, all-powerful force for good in the universe would ever have allowed such a sorry specimen to hold such awesome power over the fate of so many human beings and assorted other living things? Hell, what kind of deity worthy of the name would even have permitted so many fallible human beings to be misled by such an obvious liar, swindler, and swine (with all due apologies to actual pigs everywhere)?

There are, I suppose, people who would argue that history comes replete with lots of disastrous leaders, from Caligula to Pol Pot, so many rotten bastards who turned up damn near as regularly as flood and famine, making them just about as "natural" in their way as earth, wind, and fire. And water. But most of those human abominations have not been the result of democratic elections. Even Hitler, everyone's favorite poster child for Evil Incarnate, was elected, but not at a time when Germany was even remotely as powerful or as capable of doing harm as the U.S. is now. Then, too, if God had given us Hitler as a lesson meant to teach us what happens when good countries go bad, you'd think the so-called "greatest nation on earth" would have learned that lesson since it cost us so much just a few generations ago to stop Hitler from doing any more damage that he had so successfully managed to do before we, along with other countries, put a stop to it, and to him.

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And yeah, the pre-Hitler world had been treated to the lesson of toxic megalomania in the guise of Napoleon Bonaparte, so maybe even 20th century Germans were meant to have gotten God's subtle teachings about the dangers of nationalism, star-struck populations, and the charismatic lure of megalomaniac leaders who make vague promises, bigly. Europe and the world had more than a century to forget the Bonaparte lesson, however, and the guys who fought Hitler ain't even all dead yet, so you'd kinda think the moral of that God-told tale would still be rather fresh in our minds, fresh enough at least to keep damn near any powerful country with half a brain from falling for an unnatural disaster like Donald J. Trump, an even more clownish version of pure rottenness than der Fuhrer.

Did God not hear the prayers of the faithful, and even some of us heathens, when we implored Him to "deliver us from evil"? And if He didn't hear those and other assorted prayers--for peace, for mercy, for justice--where was He when He should have been attending to important matters at hand? Golfing from cloud to cloud, perhaps? Or did he hear the prayers and just have more important matters to take care of in His universe of responsibility? But how, pray tell, does that square with His reputation for being omnipotent and omnipresent?

It's a conundrum Robert Frost raised in "Design," one of his better-known poems. Perhaps you read it in school.

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth --
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth --
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

In this context, we are forced to ask ourselves if Donald Trump is a natural or an unnatural disaster. Is "the Donald" part of God's great plan for us? Or is there a plan for us at all? Just what sort of God would put even an insignificant part of His creation in the hands of such a one as Trump, if there is a God at all?

Guys like Hitler, Stalin, and other assorted monsters and madmen who preceded Trump, triumphant and unrestrained for however long, are enough to make us doubt God, especially when something like divine intervention seems to be so urgently needed to spare us from such appalling darkness in the design.

jaime oneill

Jaime O'Neill