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God’s People in the World

by Anthony Egan SJ

It is a strange thing to hear many religious people – particularly Christians – claim that the world is not really ‘our’ place, and that our focus should be on heaven. A variation of this, that we should focus our attention primarily on God, is also a little strange. Why do we think this? What should we think?

Why many think this way is rooted in a worldview and where we think God is. Many think the world is a bad place, a place of suffering. Partly it is. At very least, it is imperfect. Another more positive way at looking at it is to say that the world is a work in progress. The world – and the universe – is evolving into something we know not what. Nor can we know: any human life is but a split second in a long cosmic history, and we can only experience the world as it is in that ‘split second’. And I think (with a nod to Augustine and Calvin) that our natural instinct is to accentuate the negative: poverty, injustice, violence, natural disasters and the ceaseless scrabbling of people to defend their interests and personal space. This may lead us to long for the perfection of utopias and, for religious people, the perfection we call in many names God. We want to escape into God.

Conversely, those who benefit from the imperfect, manifested in injustice and inequality, often encourage the rest of us to…

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