Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Does One Sue God?

I'm not sure that I have too much to contribute to the debate that's no doubt raging ever since Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers decided to sue God for various natural disasters (after all, insurance companies do call them "acts of God"). Ben Witherington tackles most of the theological issues better than I could hope to, and so I'm going to talk about another dimension of this issue entirely.

Although Chambers has expressed some clear anti-Christian statements, I'm not really all that bothered by his actions. And, given his filing of the suit in response to what he considers "frivolous lawsuits," he probably doesn't expect the suit to get very far (although he does say, and Witherington seems to agree, that "there are very serious issues" raised here). Still, let's assume that he does want to use this case to make a point about "frivolous lawsuits." He has to act like he's taking the case seriously in order to use up enough resources to demonstrate why such lawsuits are a problem. Just getting the publicity about the issue doesn't really accomplish what he seems to want.

So, assuming that one has to take the case seriously, there are some serious practical issues that come up. Chambers makes his case asserting that since God is everywhere, God is in Douglas County (the venue for the case, apparently). OK, granted. But how does one compel God to appear in court? Assuming God doesn't "show up," who represents God in court? What punishment does Chambers seek to impose against God if Chambers wins? How would such sanctions be enforced? Would some church or religious body be held responsible as God's "proxy"? How would the proxy be determined?

Perhaps even more importantly, Chambers has to act like he believes God exists to continue with his case (note: I cannot find a statement asserting Chambers is an atheist. Only that he doesn't attend morning prayers and is known for criticizing Christians). I kind of doubt that we'll hear much more about how this case turns out (assuming, of course, that it even gets beyond the filing), but I'm definitely curious to see how things progress if I can.

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