Screwed Up, Now What?

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I was told not to wander into the Roma slum alone. I was a single, Canadian woman and it was not safe for me to enter this community without invitation. Being the curious privileged person I was, I ignored the warnings and wandered into one of Bucharest’s slum villages. I was going to take pictures of real poverty. I was going to show those rich Canadians what the real world was like. That was the plan until I realized I was being surrounded by a group of angry, large Roma men all yelling at me in a Romani dialect I didn’t understand. If it wasn’t for one lone man in the crowd who fought off the gang, hid me in his hut, and finally ushered me to safety, I really don’t know what would have happened to me that day.

How do I pray here? Help me, God! Help me, God! Help me, God! Throwing myself on the empowering and over-powering nature of God can certainly come instantaneously, whether I believe in God’s ability to help me or not. Fear has a peculiar way of designing our prayers to the divine, don’t they?

God could be omni-causal. That is, since I felt I had an ordained calling to enter the village, surely whatever was going to happen to me next was also ordained. If rape or murder was ordained, I certainly deserved said ordinance (so saith the Lord). I would call this a nihilistic prayer of submission.

I suppose I could have also given a prayer of confession: the Roma villagers were rightfully responding to a threat. I was the aggressor even though they were acting violently. If God is essentially self-kenotic and the Roma people were addressing threats to their beings in the best way they knew how, I could confess that I had trespassed. I had done wrong. I created poverty porn. I had dehumanized. I had been the power in the situation even as I was at the mercy of the gang of men.

I’m still unsure about what I believe regarding God’s providence. What I will say is that I am grateful for prayers of confession and lament. Without space for repentance, I would still believe that I have the right to go wherever I want to, when I want to, and appropriate whatever I want to — including the suffering of others.

 

6 comments

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  1. Dr. Kayko

    Thank you for your reflections, Erin. It is interesting to me to notice that in your opening paragraph, you describe your actions in a way that implies that you are responsible for what happened to you. If we consider ourselves to participate in multiple systems of power (Canadian, woman, young, student), are there way we might see God has with us in different and yet simultaneous ways, as well?

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  2. Kate Z

    I find it interesting what model of theodicy we turn to in the moment of need. Here you turned to the omnipotence of God, and trust that God was for you. In my example, my first instinct was to go to God’s plan. It’s only later, when we are under less stressed, that we consider other possibilities.

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