Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?

On April 13, 2008, the Compassion Forum was held at Messiah College, my alma mater. The three major candidates were invited, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama accepting. Hillary was asked the following question:

Meachem: Senator, we’ve heard about HIV/AIDS. Many people here are concerned about Darfur and a number of other humanitarian issues. Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?

The following was her answer:

Clinton: You know, that is the subject of generations of commentary and debate. And I don’t know. I can’t wait to ask him. Because I have…I have just pondered it endlessly. But I do want to just add that what that means to me is that in the face of suffering, there is no doubt in my mind that God calls us to respond. You know, that’s part of what we are expected to do. For whatever reason it exists, it’s very existence is a call to action.
You know, in my Judeo-Christian faith tradition, in both the Old and the New Testament, the incredible demands that God places on us and that the prophets ask of us, and that Christ called us to respond to on behalf of the poor are unavoidable. And it’s always been curious to me how our debate about religion in America too often misses that…So maybe, you know, the lord is just waiting for us to respond to his call, because this despair, this impoverishment of body and soul is what we are expected to be spending our time responding to, and so few of us do.
Even those who are doing wonderful work with organizations represented in this audience, we are just not doing enough. And it’s a personal call; it’s a family community, religious call; and it’s a governmental call. And we’ve got to do more to respond to that call.

To that I say: Amen. She’s not the first to say something like this, but very well said.

Now, I don’t even like Hillary. I don’t trust her. But you know, some of the things she said at the Compassion Forum were very well thought out, and, well, challenged and inspired my Christian faith.

In this case, there is evil in the world, and we sometimes feel so insignificant and helpless that we don’t do anything about it or simply don’t care (not that we’ll readily admit this). I’ll admit it though. As much as I’d like to, I often get caught up in the world I live in and forget that I can actually respond to the suffering in the world beyond. It’s so easy to get caught up in the enormity of the task too, and forget that I have to start with the neighbor I pass on the street…