Faith depends on context
The other day, I was watching a documentary about Sam Berns called Life According to Sam. Now, for those who don’t know who this young man was, Sam Berns was one of only about 110 kids on Earth, as of 2013, who had Progeria, a rare disease (affecting only 1 in 4-8 million newborns) that causes the child to age prematurely and typically die of heart attacks or stroke around their thirteenth birthday.
This is caused by the mutation of LMNA, which makes the lamin A protein that’s the structural scaffolding of a cell’s nucleus and holds it together; within lamin A is the protein progerin, which causes aging. But in the case of kids with Progeria, the progerin has mutated and left the nucleus of the cell unstable, leading to the premature aging that these kids experience.
The documentary follows Berns and his parents, doctors Scott Berns and Leslie Gordon.
The film spans three years, and the documentary aims to show the viewer what life was like for Sam and join in experiencing the beautiful way in which he saw the world. He always maintained that he strove to lead a happy life despite the limitations placed on him by the disease.
I got to see the process of Doctor Gordon’s discovery that FTIs (or farnesyltransferase inhibitors) would serve as a treatment for Progeria. While the drugs were helpful in prolonging Sam’s life, he died of complications caused by the disease on Jan. 10 of this year.
Despite how positive Sam and his parents seemed throughout the documentary, there were a few moments (as there are bound to be) where they were extremely shaken. At one point, Dr. Gordon said how she didn’t understand how God could willingly give a child Progeria, and it got me thinking about my own sort of feelings about religion and illness or grief.
I’ve had a lot of trouble with my beliefs for a long time, so whenever I hear about kids dying of some horrible illness or getting really sick in general, it makes me further question the God that I was raised to believe had a plan for everyone.
If God has a plan for everyone, and creates everyone for a reason, then what possible reason could he have for taking a child from this earth so soon after they were born? How could a being so loving cause a child to suffer for their entire life? Some say it’s because he takes those he loves the most first, but that is very hard for me to believe and accept.
It’s a big reason why I have very little faith in religion in general anymore.
I think faith in God kind of waivers depending on the situation people are in. Context directly impacts the strength and type of relationship people have with their spiritual side, not to mention what God they choose to believe in.
From what I have noticed, some people have faith when things are going extremely well, but when crap hits the fan, people start blaming things on God and saying that he is merciless and cruel. Even someone who has little faith in religion can say that I don’t think that God would do that to anyone if he had a choice.
Much like Progeria, it comes down to biology and the makeup of human beings. Since the beginning of time, people have experienced a constant battle raging within them between their bodies and disease, and whenever anything bad happens, people look for a source on which to place their blame.
It’s never the fault of their lifestyle choices or the fact that our bodies are quite susceptible to disease (even healthy people). It’s always the fault of some sort of exterior source, and who better for people to blame than an absentee God who is credited with the creation of people and the plans for their lives.
In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis discusses the relationship between God and human pain/suffering, and even just reading quotes from it, I think he got it right.
Lewis wrote, “We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.” I think there’s something to be said for that.
In times of need, we turn to God to save us from whatever it is that would cause us harm. In times of happiness, we thank God for giving us what we have; but in times of sorrow, we blame God for causing problems in our lives and question our faith in him.
People treat God very much like a parachute, and kind of like Lewis said, we expect him to save us when things get tough but blame him when things go wrong and he is not there to catch us as we fall.