Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/26/2012

Bethlehem – Theodicy set in cement

Bethlehem wall






A Rant for which I should probably be ashamed—and which will drive away the very people I’d like to convince my position is at least plausible, if not correct.

Is it possible for an apostate – well, perhaps an apostate – to have a theological take on Christmas? Probably not. At least it’s hypocritical at best.

I begin with’s definition of “theodicy” as “a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil.” I know that’s a weird place to begin when we’re thinking about “Away in a manger” and “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

Christmas is the time of year when we are confronted with the little baby who teaches us that the question why there is evil in the world is a vexed question that even Christians cannot answer. Does God allow (or create) evil?

Here’s my take on whether or not God (or Higher Power or Consciousness or The Ground of Being or whatever symbolic name you want to use for your particular belief about the eternal or the ultimate good or the lawgiver or however you think about God, etc.} “establish[es] or allow[s] the existence of physical and moral evil.” If “God” allows physical and moral evil, then I, for one, want nothing to do with that “God.” OK. I know how sophomoric and tired and non-intellectual and all of those things that statement is. I know also that it is one of the most common excuses non-believers use for proving the non-existence of God.

My reasons for my take on theodicy are pretty simple. Actually, I can reduce the reasons to one. Bethlehem. The world’s three great monotheistic religions, the ones that talk about “God” with a capital “G” rather than “gods” with lower case “g’s” who inhabit lower positions in their pantheons, have each taken their turn mucking around with Bethlehem in the name of God—the same God ultimately.

Since the time of Constantine (or some other emperor or ruler of some sort) Christians have flocked to the little town of Bethlehem just outside Jerusalem because that’s where Jesus was born. Not so, says a team of Israeli archeologists. They’ve found the real Bethlehem up north in The Galilee well away from the apartheid WALL.

I’m not one of those Tea Bag people who doesn’t believe in science. Maybe it is the real birthplace of Jesus, but –how convenient! Get those Christians to flock to The Galilee instead of the place where Israel is building (has built) an Apartheid state with a wall that, were it anywhere else in the world, would be anathema and the object not only of scorn but of open hostility from the United States. Does anyone remember, “MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL.” You see, most of the people who live on the wrong side of the wall are Muslims. The Christians are embarrassingly in the way of the complete subjugation of the Palestinians by Israel.

I know that, and you would, too, if you had any interest in a reality check. But Americans are so brainwashed with the idea that Israel can do no wrong and – laughably – that Israel is a “victim” of some sort that they (we—O, my God I don’t want to have to include myself in this) are willing to let them use Bethlehem as a weapon to hold an entire people in thrall to their understanding of God. If god “allow[s] the existence of physical and moral evil,” this is surely the one place on the earth where that is most obvious. Because the Israeli government and their allies among fundamentalist christians in the United States say so.

It’s God who is making them do these awful – and they are hideous (go there and see instead of taking your Congress person’s word for the opposite) – things to an innocent people. That’s what they say. It’s the most obvious example of theodicy in the world – except perhaps for North Korea, but the dictatorship of North Korea, as far as I know, does not claim they are acting on behalf of God.

So theodicy is unnecessary. God does not “allow” evil in the world; God demands it. Is that the meaning of Christmas? One does not need to study theodicy. Go to Bethlehem and see it.

I know how shrill this is. I don’t know any intellectual or philosophical or theological or kind way to say it.


  1. […] which was able (in the lull between the Second Intifada and the struggle for dominance between the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas) to tour Gaza, including the Refugee Camp at Rafah. In 2008 I was a member of a group […]


  2. […] For once I don’t have to participate in my church’s parade of kids in bathrobes and littler kids in white choir robes with gold Christmas tree garland halos and cardboard wings. I don’t have to cringe as the children’s choir sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” […]



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