What The Hell Is God's Problem?
A reader puts God, the Book of Job, and Ask Matt in the dock
Editor’s Note: Ever question yourself? You should. You have a lot of explaining to do. But if you’re too busy living in denial, Ask Matt a question, any question, at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who’ve been reading Slack Tide for a while, you know we cover the waterfront. Since I’m easily bored, and a professional generalist/dilettante besides, one day, I might go thundering on about how a certain brand manager/former president of the United States shouldn’t be wearing an orange spray tan, but an orange jumpsuit in a minimum-security facility. Though one without internet access so he can’t egg on the Q-ballers. The next, I might be enthusing about fly fishing or fireflies or bluebirds. I always enthuse about music. I make no apologies for the schizophrenia. As I indicated at the outset of this enterprise, life is large, and we seek to inhabit all of it. I do plenty of politics here. But show me a man who dines on politics alone, and I will show you a man who is slowly poisoning himself. (These days, maybe not so slowly.)
One of the subjects I buzz by sporadically is religion, usually interwoven into pieces about something else. Though since I dislike the connotations of the word “religion,” let’s go with the G-word instead, “God.” Or as some of my Jewish friends prefer, “G-d.” (Sorry, Q-Ballers, hate to disappoint, but I have some Jewish friends. And precisely none of them own space lasers that start wildfires.) I do this often enough that Slack Tide is now ranked number five in Substack’s “Faith and Spirituality” category. It’s hard to get too uppity about being number five. Which is why I hope we never climb to number one. It might swell our heads. And as my pharisaical friends will (happily) remind me, pride cometh before a fall.
But a weird thing has happened in the course of me writing this column with periodic God-references. I have attracted a lot of atheist and agnostic readers, who often tee off in the comments section, respectfully, of course, since I’m a pretty ruthless bouncer when it comes to incivility. I don’t know why they’re drawn here. Maybe they’re God-curious. Maybe they smell weakness, and are moving in for the kill. I just think of myself as a lukewarm Christian kid who tries to keep his nose clean, even if he does so by sometimes blowing snot-rockets on other people. (Which isn’t very Christian, come to think of it.) But I welcome all here, even skeptics, a group in which I sometimes claim membership. There’s plenty to be skeptical about. Which is why I’m running this Very Special Ask Matt ⟨™⟩. My latest piece was a meditation on the front porch, a sacred space to me. I didn’t intend for it to come off as a God-centric piece, because it wasn’t. But by the end, I made several mentions of yelling at God from the porch when I needed to have a stern word with him, and made some extensive references to the book of Job. I won’t rerun those passages here. If you care to revisit or to visit for the first time if you missed, it’s near the end of this link.
But a reader named “Chuck E’s In Love” (not his real name) took serious and extended issue in my comments section. Being a huge fan of his cousin, Chuck D, I decided to elevate his mini-essay-length commentary into a question. Generally, I discourage readers from going on this long in Ask Matt features, you should know. If you want to write essays, start your own Substack. If you want me to answer your questions here, keep them tight. Listening to readers for too long takes away from valuable time in which I could be doing more talking. But I like the Job-like wrestling match of all this, so let’s let Chuck E have his say, and then I’ll meet him on the other side:
I continue to be somewhat baffled by your belief in the Biblical God. Maybe it's your relative youth and the scales have not yet fallen from your eyes. Or maybe I stopped believing because I have given in too fully to reason (although I'm prepared to accept the possibility that the God I do not believe in might be stronger than my disbelief). But given your belief, the Book of Job should trouble you deeply.