Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cancer or Salt

One of my favorite Bible stories is the saga of Moses, but it also features my most hated part of the Bible. Towards the end Moses, after all the things he has done, has been reprimanded severely and failed to reach the Promised Land. The last we saw him (or at least in the Charlton Heston movie which I must have seen a hundred times), he’s been sitting stranded on a rock at the top of a mountain with the Promised Land just a stone’s throw away. He has become instantly white-haired after seeing the burning bush, led a cantankerous, horny lot through the desert for decades on end, and even risked drowning by walking through a parted sea to the tune of Mariah and Whitney’s When You Believe, and he still never reached his destination. This has always depressed the crap out of me, and even in my Zesto-powered, grade 3 brain I knew that this couldn’t possibly be right. Over the course of my elementary and high school years the nuns would always come up with some explanation, but I still don’t buy that it’s punishment for giving in to the people’s clamor for water by using his magical staff to produce water without the proper authorization papers from God.

Runner-up for most depressing story is the story of Hegar, who after getting knocked-up by Abraham upon the prodding of Sarah fell victim to the menopausal tantrums of, who else, Sarah herself, leading to her banishment. I remember asking one of my elementary religion teachers why Hegar was treated so poorly, and I got some metaphysical-tautological explanation that after two sentences my brain switched back to constructing my fantasy X-Men Blue and Gold teams.

Of course the underlying explanation for all these rather strange and somehow morally contradictory stories is that: God has his reasons. This has sounded like a total umbrella reason/excuse, which has quite annoyed me, but now in my old age I kind of realize that things aren’t very different in the modern era and that indeed God has his reasons which we couldn’t even begin to understand. A good person suddenly develops weird cancers with very rare histology which requires very expensive palliative chemotherapy that has been proven to extend life by only 9 days but has been approved by the FDA because of some statistical loophole (i.e, the p value). We just accept this rather annoying luck of the draw and try to come to terms with it, because who are we to complain, at least it’s just cancer and not instant transformation into a pillar of salt.