At the end of time billions of people were scattered over a great plain before
God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them, but
some groups at the front were talking heatedly, not with cringing shame but
with belligerence. Can God judge us? "How can he know about suffering?" snapped
a pert young woman. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number
from a Nazi concentration camp. We endured terror, beatings, torture and
death. In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?"
he demanded showing an ugly rope burn, lynched for no crime but being black.
In another crowd a pregnant school-girl with sullen eyes murmured,"Why should
I suffer, it wasn't my fault?" "What about me?" cried an old man. I worked
over 30 years for a firm and then they flung me out. What does God know about
being unemployed, rejected and useless?"
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint
against God for the evil and suffering that he had permitted in his world.
How lucky God was to live in heaven where all is sweetness and light, where
there is no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred? What did God know about
all that men had been forced to endure here in this world. For God leads
a pretty sheltered life they said. So each group sent out a spokesman, chosen
because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a Negro, a person from Hiroshima,
a deformed arthritic and a starved Ethiopian. And in the centre of the plain
they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their
case. It was rather clever. Before God could be qualified to be their judge,
he must endure what they had endured. They said that God must first come
to live on earth as a man. Let him be born a Jew and know continual unjust
persecution. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work
so difficult that even his family will think he is out of his mind. Let him
be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges and be tried
by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured
and at the last let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let
him die; let him die in agony, and so that there can be no doubt that he
died, let there be a host of witnesses to verify it. As each leader pronounced
his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval when up from the great
throng of people assembled.
And when at last they had finished pronouncing their judgement, there was
a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved, for suddenly everyone
knew that God had already served his sentence.