I have abandoned my first take on this post.
For one thing, there are at least as many ways to be an atheist as there are to be a Scottish Presbyterian. And my initiative for writing is not to argue with atheism - nor Presbyterianism - in all their many forms. My goad is to write about what still nags at the "faith" I seem to still have.
I am also today weighed down by the news of the slaughter of 19 children and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, Texas.
What, in the name of a trustworthy, good, God can one say? I wonder how I would re-present Jesus at any of these funerals. What could one say that wouldn't be offensive; not be off the mark. (Learning how not to be like Job's friends is a start.)
Let's begin by remembering that Christians do not believe in God. Christians do not believe in a singularity; they believe in a Community; a foundational Threesome that underlies and infuses all realities. If there is a "god", that "god" is relationship; not a separate, single, self.
And, if there is a "god" who is relationship, Christians assert that this relationship is epitomized by love. Love that holds nothing back. Love that is totally committed to the good of the other. Love that gives with no strings attached. Love that has no pre-conditions. Love that never forgets; never looses attention; never looks away; never falls asleep. Love that is all in, everywhere, all the time. Love that has all the power that love can have. Love that aches to be loved back; to be seen; to be known. Love that is not coercive.
These are relatively easy words to write as I sit at peace and comfort at my desk. And relatively easy to proclaim following a long life, well lived. But what does one write following young lives blown apart by several hundred rounds of assault rifle ammunition?
That they are held in the eternal memory of God? Personally, I am not comforted by the thought that the best that Love can do is hold forever the last moments of pain and terror that these children experienced.
I wonder how much of our theological reflection is fatally flawed by the race, class, and gender of those who have the luxury of the time, money, and education to safely and securely ponder deep thoughts?
For example. Lure. I like Process Theology's choice of "lure" as a way to describe how Love is present in each moment of concrescence, in each moment of coming-into-being. An attraction; not a law. "Lure" presumes, no, requires the freedom and agency and choice of the other in their responses. But I also wonder if "lure" isn't a word choice that arises from a privileged life experience of freedom and agency and choice. Would "lure" be the word choice arising from a life experience of oppression, racism, sexism, or grinding poverty? Is "lure" the best that Love can offer while the bullets are flying in the classrooms of Robb Elementary? And frankly, I am not confident that "lure" is going to get us where we need to be with climate justice, for example. Or Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association for two more. Or Pierre Poilievre to bring it closer to home.
What I am looking for is a word choice that is more proactive. More declarative. More pissed off. More sad. More worried. Still not coercive. Still not hectoring. Still unshakably, inescapably relational. But way more explicitly taking a stand for what is good and fair and just. Way more calling out all the entrenched structures of power and privilege that are killing our planet and harming the lives and dignity of people right here, and all over the earth.
What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? NOW!
That's the tone of voice; that's the urgency I am looking for.
I am also somewhat puzzled by the assumption that process and relationality end with death. I am more inclined to go with what John, not John Cobb - the other John - writes about this:
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water;
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
In John's vision we don't just die and Boom! That's it. Held forever in the memory of God. End of story. Full stop.
No, in John's vision, the blows of oppression: hunger, thirst, tears, scorching heat as peasant labourers which our bodies bore here on earth - these all are ended, healed, transformed. We are guided - not lured - to springs of living water. We are guided - not lured - into the fullness of the relationship that is our origin, our ground of being, and our end.
I trust that this is the experience of the children and teachers of Robb Elementary.
Their killing and the NRA lead me toward atheism. The unspeakable dearness of their lives - and the unfinished right relationship their deaths demand - leave me still trusting.