WASHINGTON, D.C.-Galvanized by a tsunami that wrought incalculable devastation to villages, homes, and resorts, and claimed more than 160,000 lives when it swamped the coastlands of southern Asia, a multinational consortium of renegade theists has filed a class-action lawsuit against God. Opening arguments in the case are provisionally scheduled to begin in early 2006 in an ad hoc court in the nation’s capital. The aim of the suit, according to Barry Dirkowitz, attorney for the plaintiffs, is twofold: “to compel the defendant to restore all property and lives lost in the tsunami, and, secondly, to obtain a writ of interdiction barring further acts of God.” The plaintiffs, said the attorney, would not seek compensatory damages for their own vicarious suffering while viewing raw footage of the calamity.
Reverend Harvey Culbert, president of Word Ministries, an interdenominational organization for the promotion of Biblical literacy, has criticized the suit. Characterizing the plaintiffs as “irrational and ill-informed,” Culbert issued the following statement on behalf of Word Ministries: “Since God is the Creator of all that exists, it necessarily follows that He has proprietary authority to dispose of life, limb, and property in whatsoever manner He deems fit. Moreover, contrary to the allegation of the plaintiffs, the tsunami took no innocent lives. ‘Innocent victims’ is an oxymoron. Owing to Original Sin, we are all culpable in the sight of God.”
Similar strictures were voiced by Imam Ali al-Badr and Bishop John Newland, spokesman for the Vatican. In a prepared statement, Newland said: “While we mourn the tragic loss of lives and grieve with the grieving, we must recognize that our heavenly Father always transmutes apparent evil into good. They err who doubt His providential wisdom.” Outside a mosque in Jakarta, al-Badr said, “Glory be to Allah, the eternal fount of all good and all ill. The pot doesn’t dictate to the potter.”
Interviewed in his Washington, D.C. office, Dirkowitz gave short shrift to the “proprietary-right” defense. He said it lacks standing in secular courts of law “when felonious acts have been perpetrated or threatened.” He cited as a relevant precedent the recent case of Dudley vs. Dudley. In response to a harassment suit brought by his wife, the court ruled that John Dudley, an inveterate bully, had no legal ground to make good his recurrent threat to drown Mrs. Dudley and their six children even though the existence of the children was, as Dudley argued, contingent on his procreative acts. The court found no merit in Dudley’s contention that since he had brought the children into the world, he “could take them out.” No civilized society, the judge said, could tolerate such a brute axiom. The court issued a writ of mandamus enjoining Dudley from all contact, “distant or proximate,” with the aggrieved wife and children. Dudley was later committed to a mental institution for the criminally insane.
Dirkowitz said the defendant would be tried in absentia. “Given his exalted status,” the attorney said, “his presence in the courtroom might be unsettling for all concerned.” The attorney questioned “whether habeas corpus can be applied to an incorporeal litigant.”
According to Dirkowitz, the plaintiffs do not wish to circumscribe the legitimate uses of divine power. “God can continue to heal the sick, comfort the weary, bless the virtuous, chasten the wicked, answer prayers, and what have you. Miracles are fine if salutary. What my clients seek to interdict are gratuitous exhibitions of indiscriminate mayhem, depredation, rapine, and annihilation.” The attorney said the demands of the plaintiffs were feasible: “Since God is omnipotent, he can easily undo the damage done by the tsunami and curb further catastrophic intrusions into human habitats.” Should the plaintiffs win the case, Dirkowitz added, “they will have to rely on the defendant’s voluntary compliance with the judicial directives. Enforcement is inconceivable.”
Contacted by phone at a seaside resort in the Bahamas where he was vacationing, Merv Bailey, God’s attorney, previewed the line the defense would take. “While one empathizes with the outrage of the plaintiffs,” said Bailey, “my client cannot possibly satisfy the stipulated mode of redress. Contrary to folklore, he isn’t a miracle worker. He can neither suspend nor modify the laws of nature. For eons, he tried without success to do so.”
According to Bailey, the universe in which we live was the first of several created by his client: “Having had no previous experience in this sort of enterprise, our universe, you might say, got away from him. When he set the initial conditions, he neglected to incorporate a manual override parameter. As a result, when things began to go awry, he was unable to intervene in the universe as it automatically unfolded. Unwittingly, he had created a monster he couldn’t control.”
Bailey said his client had noble intentions: “He meant to create a terrestrial world without pain, anxiety, conflict, and death. In his blueprint, nature was temperate and tame, devoid of cataclysmic irruptions, arctic cold, desert heat, and infertile soil. Humans were to be a contemplative species dedicated to the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, untainted by base passions, foul imaginings, and savage impulses.” In a second universe, said Bailey, his client had eliminated the flaws of the first. “Cold comfort to victims of the tsunami, but the gospel truth nevertheless,” Bailey added.