Can God Make Something Heavier Than He Can Lift?
Can God Make Something Heavier Than He Can Lift?
By Joe Bodolai © All rights reserved.
The terrifying image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was on the wall above Father Franko’s head as he spoke to Sister Lucille’s Fifth Grade class at Holy Name School in Youngstown, Ohio. Outside, I could see that it was ten o’clock as the stacks from the open hearth at U.S. Steel, where my father worked, and everyone else’s father worked, belched their black gas into the air. “God is all powerful,” said the kindly priest, a reality show version of Bing Crosby in The Bells of St. Mary’s, a movie that makes me cry every Christmas. Except now I think Ingrid Bergman is sexy hot and I imagine her in Saint Victoria’s Secret lingerie under that severe Ursuline habit. I shudder, though, as her image is replaced by that of Sister Lucille, the Meanest Nun in School. We called her “Sister Lucifer.” No doubt she entered the convent because she was an Alpha Female, whose conversations with her fellow Brides of Christ likely included the words “suck my dick.”
“All powerful?” I thought. “Then why can’t He bring my father back to life?” He had taken my wonderful dad from me the previous week and this was my first day back in school, still aching with grief. My father died in the 120 degree heat of the blast furnace, a heart attack no doubt served up as a main course after his usual appetizer of two packs of unfiltered Camels a day. And hefty portions of fatty paprikash Hungarian bacon in the role of the elegant hostess showing him to the Coronary Corner Table.
I couldn’t ask the question about my dad, but by this age, 10, I was really having some serious logical issues with the notion of God. So I raised my hand.
“Father, God can do anything, right?”
“Yes, of course Joseph.”
“Well, if He can do anything, can God make something heavier than He can lift?”
The first of what I recognized as the many awkward pauses that would follow some of my utterances all my life turned the room into a freeze frame. In this momentary absence of time, this was the nanosecond of logic in my brain:
o If God can make something heavier than He can lift, then He is not “all powerful.
o If God can’t make something heavier than He can lift, then He is not “all powerful”.
o Therefore, the existence of an “all powerful God” is impossible.
In my mind, this was a question more legitimate than those discussed by Medieval theologians, Thomas Aquinas, and other scholars, usually expressed as “how many angels can dance on the head of pin?”, a question that made me wonder why the hell they’d want to rather than how many.
Now let us return to the consequences of my sacrilegious syllogism.
After what seemed like as much time as the cold opening of a sitcom, the classroom burst with laughter. As stunning as a lightning strike, the punchline arrived; the metal edge of the wooden ruler that Sister Lucille carried for discipline smote me on the wristbone. A twinge of pain shot up my arm with the osseus equivalent of licking a 12-volt battery. Blood slowly oozed from the slit. All eyes looked at me and the room seemed to spin. Not in the romantic comedy way where couples gambol barefoot in the fountain at Lincoln Center, but more like the when you’re just about to vomit cotton candy, grape soda, and French fries on a merry-go-round way.
There I was, again, a different species. Instead of fingers, their eyes pointed at me in ridicule and pity, and I felt on the other side of the cage, as if I were a baboon scratching my red ass and eating the lice.
Incidents like this have left me with a life-long awkwardness around the blue collar men these boys would become. Especially the religious sort. The way I still feel around these pious men is the comfort equivalent of being three feet away from Jim Belushi after a cabbage fart, psychologically speaking. Although the literal is not far off.
I, of course, felt as if I should more properly be wearing a powdered wig and pumps, my aristocratic perfect lips kissing my manicured pinky. Maybe if I were prettier I might have thought to become a transsexual, but then again, that would mean more contact with these mean men with the scent of Drakkar Noir and Hungry Man Extra Beef dinners imbued in their what surely must be overly ample back hair.
I would continue to have this enormous skepticism about everything related to “God” for most of the rest of my life. Once I started drinking, or rather, seeing what happens when girls were drinking, I developed even less respect for this traditional Catholicism. Like the so-called “Immaculate Conception”: The “Virgin” Mary telling Joseph “honey, it’s a divine virgin birth, I swear! God is the father!” Thing is, I know the Truth: she’s a blackout drunk off in a stable with some badass shepherd boy who’s got a big old donkey and a quart of tequila.
Look, Mary, just because you don’t remember it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!