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A God Without Order? (Or, the Mixed Results of a Poll)

I took an exit poll of my graduating seniors. On their final exam, I asked them five questions about their experience of Catholic education. The only requirement was that they answer honestly. Most of them trust me, and I them, so I can attest that the results are probably quite accurate. Of the five questions, I found two in particular to be most telling. They were the first and last questions listed: 1) “Do you believe in God or an ‘Ultimate Transcendent Being'” and 5) “What is your least favorite thing about Catholic education.” A comforting 92% responded to the first question in the affirmative. Of the remaining 8%, they were divided evenly between agnostics and atheists. So far, so good. The last question, however, proved to be surprising in light of the preliminary response. Nearly 50% said that, though the believe in God, they do not enjoy all the structure and complex arguments surrounding Him.

Now, this last response would not have been terribly surprising on its own. It is no shock to me that half of the young population is turned off by regulations and argumentation. What did surprise me was that 46% of those who believe in God believe in Him without believing in reason and order. Perhaps I am only speaking for myself here, but the reason it shocks me is because I have never been attracted an Arbitrary Deity. That is to say, God attracts me because He gives me rest, refuge, constancy and solidity. Rest, refuge, constancy and solidity can only be given if God Himself is at rest in His own Divine Order. I am NOT saying that His order is always readily apprehensible: I am merely saying that it is. I am merely commenting that Divine Reason and Order do exist. There is a structure to the Godhead, a method to Divine Madness. If there were not, there would be little for me to take any objective or subjective refuge in. If God were merciful one day and angry the next, if He were concerned about me at one moment and then neglectful of me at another, why would I even exist at all?

Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I feel that this exit poll reveals an underlying attitude in our culture concerning the nature of Divinity. On the whole, people really do want to believe in God. That is to say, I think that most people are smart and kind enough to realize that atheism is both a despairing and debilitating choice. Therefore, the grand majority choose to believe in Him. But their faith is immature. It is not the “solid food” of Hebrew 5. It is a vague notion that there is a loving Big Daddy out beyond the fringe of the Universe who is nice, powerful and wise. We can occasionally pray to Him if we want, but really there’s no point in trying to get to know Him. It would be all too complex an enterprise. Live and let live. I believe in Him: that should be enough. God will do His thing, I will do mine.

The trouble is that the thing God does is everything. God can indeed have a live-and-let-live attitude toward us, but it isn’t reciprocal  In other words, if God does exist, then everything we do should find its source and structure in Him. The problem with religions isn’t their structures: they have to be structured if they are truly seeking the Grand Architect  Rather, it is when their structure is arbitrary and unreasonable that they prove dis-satisfying. For some reason, my seniors feel that the religious structures of their youth have been arbitrary. And while their feeling that way certainly doesn’t make it true, it does raise the question: what forces make it seem as if the Church’s decisions are arbitrary? I have my own opinions (as does everyone) but the fundamental thing is not opinions. The essential question is relationship. Why is it that people abandon a mature relationship with God, founded in Divine Order and Goodness, and settle for an immature one? That is the question I want to seek going forward.

For the fact of the matter is, while religion can have bad rules or arbitrary structures, it can never abandon order and structure. They are what make a religion a religion. I could never wish for nor follow a religion without them. I seek the Infinite God according to my human lights, which are necessarily limited and temporal. They may be small, as long as they are not sinful. I will build my structures, my towers, to God, as long as they do not become Towers of Babel. But, only if He helps me…

About Daniel Lacourrege

Daniel Lacourrege is a 20-something year old theologian living in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is the best place in the world to be a 20-something. It is the third best place in the world to be a Catholic (Rome & Jerusalem claiming first & second).
His life has become one adventure right after another. Most of them start in a classroom or library, but very few of them finish there. He likes most things, but usually must be in the mood for them. The only thing he is never in the mood for is traffic.
If you feel so moved, you may email him at lacourrege4@archbishopshaw.us.

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