Monday, May 09, 2016

God's eye view

Another amazing final project for "Performing the Problem of Suffering." (I've only the write-up, since the student isn't in my discussion section.) A student asked several pastors why God permits the suffering of the innocent, and found each answer an evasion. This made him wonder about a system in which God has absolute authority and can choose when and when not to address questioning sufferers... so he set up a mock-religion, modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, where someone named Colin (played by himself) promised to give people the "answer for your suffering."

People (presumably friends of his?) came to the meeting, "Colin" addressing each one intimately, often hugging and looking deep in people's eyes. "You've come to the right place," he told them, "I have the answer to your suffering." Then he withdrew behind a translucent glass door where people could see him... but for 20 minutes he did not respond to calls, knocks, phone calls. At the end, he came out and explained the project and what he had learned: the answer to the question of suffering must be found in yourself. I'm getting together with him to learn more about it - I know he has religious questions but also vocational ones, as someone interested in art therapy for trauma survivors. In his report he writes:

I did this performance because I wanted to experience and maybe feel God’s perspective in the power structure that I see. I wanted to know what it would be like to play with people’s hope and belief. I wanted to know if I feel any guilt for leaving people behind unanswered while they are calling out my name. 

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. The greatest reward of teaching, and the most humbling, is when you somehow create the conditions for things to happen you could never yourself have imagined.

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