“God willing”, some readers reading this will realize that He doesn’t really exist . . .
The pious tag is tacked onto just about anything, however incongruous or absurd it may be to make it dependent on God’s will. It can be a prefix or an affix or stuck in the middle of a sentence, but wherever you put it, it makes just as little sense : “God willing, it will not rain during the parish picnic”; “He will, God willing, not be killed or wounded”; “I intend to become a doctor, God willing.” Surely the examples are enough, but just in case some may not have appreciated just how silly all this is, consider the following :
Christians may or may not know that the expression is found in the New Testament, in the Epistle of James, 4:15 : “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that”. But even Christians know of its constant use by Muslims (for them it is in fact obligatory); “Inch Allah” is sometimes heard coming, in ordinary conversation, even from non-Muslims. In whatever language, it is most often a sincere expression of faith in the inexorable, ultimate reality that God’s will is constantly at work in the world. Things don’t just happen. They happen because God wills them to happen. This is, naturally, something of a problem for parents mourning the death of their infant. Somehow it is supposed to be a consolation to them that it is part of God’s plan. True Christian believers request in the Lord’s Prayer that “Thy will be done”. The clergyman, called in to console, will usually come out with the not terribly helpful “God works in mysterious ways”, an admission that he, the parents and the rest of us haven’t got a clue why God would want babies to die like that.
The implications of “God willing” are far-reaching. Many believers not only pray that God’s will be done, but they claim to know what it is, and are ready to help Him out in making sure that whatever they believe He wants to happen, does. A current example in the press is the Israeli-Palestinian war in Gaza. Colonel Ofer Winter, in charge of one of Israel’s infantry brigades, recently gave his soldiers a text in which he wrote that they were on a divine mission against the “cursed enemy terrorists” who “challenge and insult the God of the armies of Israel”. After a particularly bloody battle he publicly thanked God for allowing his brigade to kill five Hamas militia men, and in a later interview stated that God sent the clouds he needed to launch his offensive. By the time you read this the Colonel may be out of a job. (His faith is, in fact, no different from that of General Patton who ordered his chaplain to get God to provide the fine weather he needed – which, of course, he therefore got – to win one of his battles in the push to Berlin (see my “From Illusions to Illumination”, page 134).
In another Middle East war-zone in today’s news, Maan, a town in Jordan under the control of the jihadists, is covered with graffiti, including “The Islamic State is here”, “Apply the charia”, and “Very soon – if God wills it (!) – the government will be crying”. The trouble, of course, is that combattants on both sides believe that God is on theirs. Inch Allah, Deo volente, God willing, one day victory will be theirs. Whose ? God knows !