Meredith Kirkland

4-9-99

The concept of God, or any god, is one that has definite boundaries. There are many questions that arise concerning the nature of God, or even whether or not there really is one. The most common god in today's society is God, the Supreme Being worshipped by Muslims as Allah, by Jews as Yahweh, and by popular Christianity simply as God. Generally, He is thought to be in the image of humans, and in most cases of worshipping this particular deity, He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These beliefs, although they may be canon, are not the beliefs of every person that follows this god. There are many different ways to see and worship Him whom we will refer to simply as God. There are varied points of view on God expressed in Gloria Naylor's Mama Day, the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, and St. Augustine's Confessions. Through these works, one may see several viewpoints on the same deity, prompting the question, Who is God? There is no definite answer to this query. Instead, as we will see, there are many definitions and assumptions that describe God, giving us a complicated and sometimes contradicting view of God.

In Mama Day, a novel detailing the lives of a closely-knit family on the island of Willow Springs, we can see God through the eyes of Mama Day, one of the main characters. Mama Day, whose real name is Miranda, views God as a passive deity. She does not feel that God intervenes with humans as punishment or rewards humans for things that they do. This conviction is clear in the story when a hurricane is coming and Miranda's sister, Abigail, feels that she has done something to make God send a hurricane. To this Miranda responds,

Abigail, stop your foolishness. All God got in mind is to send you a hurricane? It ain't got nothing to do with us, we just bystanders on this earth. Sometimes I think we was only a second thought-and a poor second thought at that (228).

Even though Miranda and Abigail are sisters and were probably raised similarly, they view God in two very different ways. While Miranda's philosophy on God's lack of intervention holds strong, she does believe God to be all-powerful. This is evident when she states, The past was gone, just as gone as it could be. And only God could change the future (138). Although Miranda does not think that what people are doing on Earth will affect what God does, she does believe that in the end God will hold each person accountable for what he or she has done. This can be seen on the Island of Willow Springs where Miranda's thoughts are, That'll be her defense at Judgement: Lord, I called out three times. Miranda thinks this after she knocks on Ruby's house three times before setting her house up to get struck by lightning. This is a prime example of her theology. By preparing the house for lightning, she is controlling where the lightning goes, a feat that some people, such as her sister, would attribute to God.

Had Augustine, the author of Confessions, been there he would have likely believed that God caused the lightening. Augustine, in contrast to Miranda, believed that God had a purpose in mind for everything that happens on Earth. This is apparent when Augustine proclaims, It was, then by your guidance that I was persuaded to go to Rome and teach there the subjects which I taught at Carthage (Book V, Chapter 8). Augustine goes on to state his belief that God has sent him to Rome to convert him to Christianity. This is indicative of Augustine's belief that everything that happens on Earth is God's will. This is directly contradictory to Miranda's view that is that God does not intervene with people while they are still on Earth. Augustine also depicts God as being merciful. This is clear when he refers to God as God of mercy (Book V, Chapter 9) and again when he proclaims, God, let me acknowledge your mercy from the deepest depths of my soul (Book VII, Chapter 6). Augustine sees God as having a purpose for everyone on Earth and as being merciful to all. He even states,

And yet Lord, even