This fall semester I am teaching a course on theology and suffering. The course is titled “Sin, Suffering, and the Silence of God.” It is a course I teach every few years, so it was on the schedule for this fall long before Covid-19 swept across the world. The students in this class are amazing–they always are. It is a seminar for upper-level Religious Studies majors and it is cross-listed for Counseling students. The students who take it want to be there; the class gives them a space to ask questions they want to wrestle with.
This year, as we have begun the fall semester in a hybrid format, meeting in small groups, once a week only, masked, and socially distanced, a course on suffering takes on a different level of meaning. We began the semester acknowledging our individual and collective losses. We have, in only a few short weeks, lamented and grieved together.
Our class meets in the evening; we started on the prayer labyrinth but have had to move because the cicadas are so loud in NC this summer and fall that they drown out our conversations. One Monday evening we were discussing various theological responses to the problem of evil–ways theologians have tried to address the question of why bad things happen if God is good. One of the quieter but deeply thoughtful students in the class said, “I don’t know. But last week I took a casserole to my mom’s friend. Her husband just died. I couldn’t say anything. And I felt awkward. But I handed her the casserole and told her I was sorry.” Continue reading