Can God Make Something Heavier Than He Can Lift?
I Asked This Question in Fifth Grade and Even the Pope Hasn’t Answered It. Maybe I Should Have Asked “She”?.
By Joe Bodolai © All rights reserved.
I just stared at the terrifying image of the burning Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall above Father Franko’s head as he spoke to Sister Lucille’s Fifth Grade class at Holy Name School in Youngstown, Ohio. I stared. It looked like an extracted human heart surrounded by thorns and flames. What does that mean?
Out the window, I could see that it was 10:00 a.m. at the stacks from the open hearth at U.S. Steel, where my father worked, or rather, used to work. The stacks belched their black soft clouds of gas into the air. They carried on without him. My dad. He died five days earlier.
“God is all powerful,” said the kindly priest, a reality show version of Bing Crosby in The Bells of St. Mary’s, a movie that makes me cry every Christmas. Seriously. Except now I think Ingrid Bergman is sexy hot and I imagine her in her Saint Victoria’s Secret lingerie.
Her mental image was replaced by the scary real presence of Sister Lucille, the Meanest Nun in School. We called her “Sister Lucifer.” No doubt she entered the convent because she was an Alpha Female, with her psychic tool belt. Her conversations with her fellow Brides of Christ likely included the words “suck my dick.”
“God is all powerful?” I thought. “So why can’t He bring my father back to life? Why did he kill him?” “He” had taken my wonderful dad from me the previous week and this was my first day back in school, still confused and aching with grief. My father died in the 130 degree heat of the blast furnace, an uninsured no previous condition heart attack no doubt served up as a main course after his usual appetizer of two packs of unfiltered Lucky Strikes a day. And hefty portions of fatty paprikacs Hungarian bacon in the role of the elegant hostess showing him to the Coronary Corner Table. Okay, but why now? He was just 42. Even Hitler lived to 56.
I couldn’t ask the questions I wanted to ask about my dad, but by my age, ten, I was really having some serious logical issues with the notion of God. I assumed that God’s power was for “good”, and was baffled why He was not winning in His apparent struggle against Lucifer to make our world a peaceful, happier place. After all, He was “all powerful” and should be able to cover any point spread. It seemed as if the battle between good and evil was way too evenly matched, about as evenly matched as the epic conflict between shirts and skins. If God is all powerful, shouldn’t Satan be coaching the moral equivalent of the Washington Generals?
Then it hit me. Catholicism, or any religion, has nothing to do with earthly reality or a struggle between Good and Evil. It is basically a real estate ad for an imaginary gated community called “Heaven.”
Life is bad. Heaven is good. Sign up now. No money down. Offer requires certain conditions including costumes, rituals, and political and social behavior. And then money every week in the collection plate.
So I raised my hand.
“Father, God can do anything, right?”
“Yes, of course Joseph. He’s omnipotent.”
“Well, if he can do anything, can God make something heavier than He can lift?”
“Can God make something heavier than He can lift?”
The first of the many awkward pauses that would follow some of my utterances all my life turned the room into a freeze frame. In this momentary absence of time, this was in my brain:
- If God can make something heavier than He can lift, then He is not “all powerful.
- If God can’t make something heavier than He can lift, then He is not “all powerful”.
- Therefore, the existence of an “all powerful God” is impossible.
In my mind, this was a question more legitimate than those discussed by medieval theologians, even Thomas Aquinas, and other scholars. It was often expressed as “how many angels can dance on the head of pin?” a question that made me wonder why the hell they’d want to do that rather than how many of them would sign up. And why was god a “he”? Did I miss that day? Moral heroes in my life were and always have been more women than men. I was just curious.
As stunning as a lightning strike, the punch line arrived. The metal edge of the wooden ruler that Sister Lucille carried for discipline smote me on the wrist bone. A twinge of pain shot up my arm with the osseous equivalent of licking a 12-volt battery. Blood slowly emerged from the new slit of flesh on my wrist. All eyes looked at me and the room seemed to spin. Not in the romantic comedy way where couples gambol barefoot in the fountain at Lincoln Center, but more like the way when you’re just about to vomit cotton candy, Sam’s Club grape soda, and French fries with gravy on a too-fast merry-go-round at the Possum County Fair kinda way.
My classmates’ eyes pointed at me in ridicule and pity, and I felt as if I were on the bad side of a cage, as if I were a baboon scratching my red ass and eating the lice. I would continue to have this enormous skepticism about everything related to “God” for most of the rest of my life. Once I started drinking, or rather, seeing what happens when girls were drinking, I developed even less respect for this traditional Catholicism or religion. Like the so-called “Immaculate Conception”: The “Virgin” Mary telling Joseph “honey, it’s a divine virgin birth, I swear! God is the father!”
Thing is, here’s what I believe: she’s a blackout drunk off in a stable with some badass shepherd boy who’s got a big old donkey and a quart of Johnny 3:16 distilled Tebow Tequila. I’ll bet if we go on Maury the result would be… “God. You are NOT the father!”
Look, Mary, just because you don’t remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
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