It was October, 2012 and the news from Pakistan was a shock.
A little girl had been shot in the head by a member of the Taleban
on a school bus somewhere in Pakistan. It was part of an attack on a bus full of little girls on their way to school.
The girl was Malala Yousufzai. The video showed a beautiful child with a cheerful intelligence wrapped in Muslim clothes.
As I read this story my emotions welled up in me.
And I started to think.
Something about it shocked me in a way such stories hadn’t in a long time.
Was she 15? She was harmless – innocent. Like my own daughter.
Shot? But why? Who could find her gentle existence so threatening?
The attempt to kill Malala and her classmates was so calculating and unfair
its evil seemed to have a life of its own. As I read further, I learned she had been shot in the head at the direction of Allah (according to the Taleban) to prevent her from getting an education. Her condition was not known.
She would likely die.
What?! Shot for going to school?
The picture of her face broke my heart. So beautiful and so brave.
She had to be her family’s light of the world. How could anyone do this?
Though I was a believer in Jesus Christ, I could not pray for her.
Something told me Jesus was irrelevant here. Jesus was not her god. And I did not want to add insult to injury to this brave little girl by foisting my own God onto hers.
Who was I to do that? She at least had earned the right to have her own God!
And I was surprised at that thought, and at myself. Are all gods equally valid?
In that moment, the answer didn’t matter. I was concerned for Malala.
Also, something too unfair had happened – somehow it was beyond gods and devils.
And I was surprised at that thought, also.
I started to type my feelings in a rambling journal.
Here’s a glimpse at the first chaotic pages:
“…my current thoughts on religion as I have read and been very affected by a story about a beautiful young girl named Malala Yousufzai shot in the head this month by the Taleban.
“I can’t stop thinking about the insanity of it.
I am filled with disgust and contempt for the things these religious people are doing in the name of…no, wait… at the direction, of gods. And… I’m somehow stunned that the true God sees no need to intercede to stop any of it.
“I may be done with religion. But I can’t mean that!
Despite praying to God for all these years it feels like something has gone wrong in me. I don’t understand. I don’t know what can possibly be going on with these holy books if attacks on little girls is what it leads to …God? Something is outrageously wrong here.
“None of these religious people seem interested in beauty, human possibility, or practical solutions to life’s problems but instead it seems designed only to focus on power – to push other people around with rules over which self-conflated random interpretation requires death or hellish misery to someone other than themselves.
“We have a world of bullies killing others, hating gays, hating other religions, hating women, hating the thinking process (god-given, MY GOD!)…then begging atonement to a supposedly loving God whose existence and laws of peace, they have paradoxically renounced through their actions!
“What about love and kindness for its own sake? Why bring God into it any of this if this the result? It seems like God doesn’t fit.
“Death is inevitable..it will happen anyway someday…. so why not put it off? Right?
Only these religious people have contrived the insane reasons to hurry death – wishing it upon themselves as well as others.
“I’m sad and confused. Is religion a death wish? What is this?
Faith? Shall I hold to my faith now? That cannot be the remedy”
My writing was redundant and chaotic.
But something was emerging from the fog of it.
And I pondered the mind of the attacker.
“who would try to kill a wonderful little girl? He must have had faith, too.
Like the suicide bomber who might have a doubt but goes through with it anyway.
And then I had a thought which had never occurred to me before.
“Faith can’t fix this. Faith is the problem.”
I felt an urgent need to sort this out.
“How could any God, Allah or otherwise, allow this attack at His direction?”
This was challenging.