Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Conservation of good & bad

I was thinking more about the National Day of Prayer, and how the disastrous cyclone in Burma (Myanmar) has followed so closely on its heels. New York Times report, Aid Flows to Myanmar as Death Toll Rises to 22,500:

The death toll from a powerful cyclone that struck Myanmar three days ago rose to 22,500 Tuesday, with more than 40,000 people still missing, the government said, and foreign governments and aid organizations began mobilizing for a major relief operation.

The storm hit land around 18:30 on 2 May, Burmese time, with winds over 120 miles per hour. That’s some six hours after folks went to bed in California at the end of the National Day of Prayer.

Now, I don’t know any more than the next guy, here, but I propose a little thought experiment. Suppose... just suppose... that God’s master plan involves some sort of balance of good things and bad things. And that maybe the plan doesn’t call for a one-for-one sort of thing, but just an overall kind of balance, on a large scale. If we accept the notion — quite well shown by what we see around us — that both good and bad things have to happen, this seems like a reasonable possibility.

All right, now what happens when hundreds of thousands of Americans pray, as on the NDoP, and beseech God for good things for America and America’s leadership? What happens when such a concentrated focus of prayer pulls God their way? What happens when all these prayers come at once and God answers them with little intercessions, many, many little intercessions, here, there, all over America? Is it possible that they all add up to a great deal, collectively?

Is it possible, then, that to counterbalance the sum of all that and not have the master plan collapse, something has to give someplace else? Perhaps what we’ve just seen in Asia is the natural consequence of our drawing God’s wisdom and goodness and mercy so strongly our way. Who’s to say that’s not the case?

Now... bear with me, here... if that be the case, here’s the key question, then: Is it ethical? Is it moral? Do we have the moral right to ward off a bridge collapse in Georgia, an outbreak of measles in Wyoming, a CHiPs-style pile-up in California, a bad judicial decision in Illinois, and a few more of those sorts of things... and in exchange, have a storm flatten the Burmese coast and kill as many as sixty thousand people?

We think that a successful prayer here has no negative consequence elsewhere, no Newtonian sort of reaction. But what if it does? What if every prayer is actually a request not to eliminate a bad thing, but to move that bad thing elsewhere, and make it happen to someone else?

It’s something to think about.


lidija said...

It says God does not like us burning up fossil fuels too much. It says that there are way too many people (mostly poor)living in flood-prone areas and they will suffer much with the effects of global warming.

Paul said...

Butterfly wings and all that jazz... One answered prayer here turns into millions of unanswered ones elsewhere. Good thing they were foreigners, and so not really human.

Dr. Momentum said...

That's easy: yes. Because if you believe in god, then god dictates morality.

You have to think like a theist.