by Liso Zenani
“I’m starting to think that it is naïve of us to trust uThixo to save us. He is a man, He has no business of protecting womxn. We are on our own. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit abanaxesha lethu mtshana!”– Khululwa Mthi
The rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana left South Africa reeling. Well-founded anger mounted against the masculine culture that perpetuates the blatant objectification of women bodies in our society. Among other things, it highlighted the everyday struggles of South African women, as well as brought to light the decrepit state of gender politics in the country. It left us a great obligation of self-introspection, along with some important questions to answer, such as the definition of masculinity and why its toxicity persists. Most emphatically, however, it left us pondering the question of God’s silence. If God exists, why does He not care? If He cares, why permit such evil?
Swiftness to point out the devil and tell of an ending world is neither sufficient nor satisfactory, and nowhere is this clearer than in Epicurus’s classic question:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?”– David Hume, SEP
There are many who sympathise with Epicurus’s argument. They argue quite sensibly that if an omnipotent God exists, but is unwilling to prevent evil, He must be complicit in human suffering – for mere negligence, if not outright malice.
This past month alone, where was God when Uyinene was fighting for her life and dignity at the hands of her rapist and killer? Where was God when a man raped and bashed Janika Mallo to death?Tweet
Where was God when a man was chopping Lynette Volschenk to pieces? Where was God when a man was shooting Leighandre Jegels to her death?Tweet
Where was God when Jesse Hess was getting murdered in the confines of her home? Where was God when six-year-old Amy’Leigh got kidnapped from her own mother’s car?Tweet
Where is He when African souls are axed and torched to death in xenophobic attacks? Indeed, where is He when police forces fire rubber bullets at students protesting for safety in our very own campus? We might also ask, what is the point of praying “Our Father” when our image of a father is that of a rapist and a killer? If God exists, what has He done regarding human suffering?
The question of evil and suffering is a very sensitive and delicate one. It is not to be considered abstractly, neither should it be employed to further political ideologies: real people, with real lives, are affected each day. Moreover, it is a universal problem. Everyone, whether theist, atheist or agnostic, has encountered it at some point in their lifetime. The past month alone exposed us to the magnitude of human cruelty and the extent of suffering those it affects are made to endure. Consequently, many turned to their respective worldviews for answers, and many a theist who believes in an all-powerful and personal God was left with the gaping question of God’s silence.
Liso Zenani is a law student at Nelson Mandela University.