Friday, August 04, 2006

Good luck

I was posting a message on a blog this morning, and ended with the phrase "good luck". It's a common figure of speech, but one I don't feel quite comfortable with. In the end I deleted it and put something else instead.

I guess I feel that the phrase doesn't fit with my Christian beliefs. How can I, knowing the presence of an all-powerful and all-loving God, wish someone "good luck"?

I'm not the kind of person who believes that everything that happens is the will of God. That's what Muslims believe (so I understand). I think the Bible teaches that sometimes bad things happen which God doesn't want. I think they happen directly or indirectly because of choices we make. God always works for the best in the things that happen. That doesn't mean that he made them happen or he wants them to happen; but he's an expert at making the best of a bad situation, and he does intervene in our lives for our benefit. That being the case, it seems inappropriate to attribute someone's future welfare to "luck".

The other reason I guess I don't like the phrase is that it smacks of fatalism. I think to a large extent you "make your own luck". Jack Nicklaus was criticised once by someone who said he was just lucky. "You're right," he replied. "And the funny thing is: the more I practice, the luckier I get."

I suppose I shouldn't get so tetchy about a phrase. Lots of stuff happens without me knowing why. I don't know how my actions will affect other people, what serendipitous meetings might arise from me stopping off for a bagel on the way home. From an individual perspective, it feels a lot like luck.

Maybe instead I should explain what I actually mean. I should wish them: "I hope you make all the right choices in what you're about to do, that other people help you on your way, and that you can see God's hand at work around you."

It's not quite so snappy though, is it?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The difference between Qana and Haifa

Something unusual happened to me yesterday. While listening to an interview on Radio 4 (the BBC), I found myself agreeing with something that the Israeli government spokesman said. Giving a partial apology for the Qana bombing, he said that the Israelis only bombed civilians by accident, whereas the Hezbollah guerillas often deliberately targetted civilians.

For once, I genuinely believe that is true. But I would reject his implication that this represents a real moral difference. The dead of Qana are just as dead as those in Haifa, the bereaved just as bereaved.

In one of the set confessions used in many Christian churches, we admit that we have sinned "through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault". The confession makes clear that although the causes may be different - negligence and weakness on the Israeli side, deliberate fault by Hezbollah - the sin is nonetheless morally equivalent.

Lest I be tempted to take the moral high ground, the confession continues: "in the evil that we have done, and in the good that we have not done."