Thursday, November 05, 2015

What Not to Say: "God needed another angel/heaven needed them more than we do/God called them home"

A.Hanson, Minnesota, 2014
Today's post in the series of "What Not to Say" looks at the phrase, "God needed another Angel" and many similar phrases including, "heaven needed them more than we do", "God called them home", "Jesus needed them."  This phrase is often used in the moments and days after a death, particularly a death that is unexpected or exceptionally tragic, like the death of a child or of a young adult.

In my work, I have found that parents who grieve the death of a child sometimes express comfort in thinking of their child nestled into the loving arms of a God in heaven. I support them in finding whatever means can bring them comfort in unimaginable moments of pain.

But linking the death of a beloved person to the activity of God by anyone else is problematic.  It places blame on on God for the death, and creates a god who takes people from their loved ones at will.  This particular platitude can absolutely ruin any sort of comfort that someone can find in their belief system in the arduous days, weeks and months to come. It opens a crack of disbelief in an already fragile grasp of meaning-making, and makes room for the intrusive thoughts of, "What is wrong with me that I don't belief God actually needed my child/sister/father?"

Saying, "God needed another angel" denies the very human needs of love, care, nurture, and relationship.  It implies that God's need for something (which to be brutally honest, we can never actually know, although God never NEEDS anything, that is why God is God) is greater than ours and that our needs should always be subservient to those of a temperamental deity off in the sky. This is crap theology.  Every single major world religion has precedent in their holy texts for arguing with their deities and for lamenting pain and suffering.

Finally this platitude ignores the experience of those who do not ascribe to theological systems that have a deity and an understanding of life after death. Or who are atheist or agnostic or have belief systems that are outside a very specific expression of Christianity.

Instead of saying, "Heaven needed them more than we do", say, "I can see how much you love them.  Tell me about your child/partner/parent."  Or share a story of why their life matters to you.

Or bring a damn casserole over and say, "bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes."  That's infinitely more comforting than claiming God swooped in like some vulture and took someone's beloved.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Amen and again Amen!!! That is so true,my Co worker said that this morning about his grand baby asking a question about someone who passed and he said "God needed another flower for his garden in heaven and plucked one from earth.., I'm like oh no! But I let it go, cause some people who call themselves pastors are really just disasters filling people's and especially children's heads with nonsense, but you really hit the nail on the head with this one! You're awesome!!!����