Ron Swanson and the Existence of God
If you’re a fan of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, you know well the unwavering manliness of Ron Swanson. You would also know well his Kryptonite: his ex-wives, “Tammy 1” and “Tammy 2.”
In an episode from season 2, Ron notes his intense displeasure for both, but ends his rant with this line:
Would I get married again? Oh absolutely. If you don’t believe in love, what’s the point of living?
However unintentional, the last part of Ron’s statement is full of more truth than anyone anticipated. In my opinion, Ron made a profound statement about the existence of God, just by uttering those few words.
Now, before delving too deeply into this idea, it’s important to get a few things straight about the qualities of the God I’m arguing for — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who’s One with Jesus & the Holy Spirit. Misinformation is a real devil, so I want every reader to start off from the same place.
First, the God I’m talking about created all that exists. He isn’t a “God of the gaps” who fills in the places science hasn’t been able to go; God was everywhere science is currently before science ever dreamed of starting their search. Not only that, He invented the laws and methods science uses to get there. This God is the Unmoved Mover, the First Cause. The Infinite Force who set our finite universe in motion.
Second, the God I’m talking about placed His image and likeness in each one of us, from the moment we were conceived. We came from God, and “our hearts are restless” until we’re back together with God at the end of our lives, as St. Augustine so famously said.
Third, the God I’m talking about isn’t a “deadbeat dad.” God never leaves us (seriously, never). Many people, myself included at times, take not feeling the presence of God to mean His absence, but are mistaken. I’ll explain why later.
Fourth (and finally), the God I’m talking about loves each person individually and sufficiently. God loves us so much that (I know you’ve heard this a million times (or maybe you haven’t heard it enough)) He gave us Jesus to die for us. And not just die. Jesus died for us in one of the most painful and humiliating ways possible, so that we could enjoy eternal life in Heaven.
While this is far from an exhaustive list of qualities, this is the God for whose existence I’m saying Ron Swanson made an inadvertent argument.
Ron’s statement raises two questions: “Does love matter?” and “Is there a meaning or a point to life?”
The beautiful thing about both of these questions is that both have only two possible answers – “Yes” and “No.” It’s impossible for love to matter and not matter at the same time. Nor can there both be and not be a meaning or a point to life. It does, or it doesn’t. There is, or there isn’t.
So what would it take for both of those questions to be answered with a resounding, “Yes!”?
In short, God would need to exist if love is supposed to mean something, or if life is supposed to have meaning.
If the God described above exists, our creation as humans was intentional, and therefore we were created for a purpose. On the other hand, if our creation was just an accident, a random occurrence stemming from millenia of accidental evolution in a Godless universe, there is, therefore, no purpose for our existence.
If creation were just an accident, that makes it easy–both questions would be answered in the negative. The other option, however, answers the second question outright and the first question with a little more analysis. If we were created for a purpose, there is a meaning to life, no bones about it. If God exists, and we take any stock whatsoever in what Jesus said about love, then we can conclude that love matters, too.
John 13:34-35 has Jesus saying this:
I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
If Jesus is God, like He says He is, then we’re supposed to love each other like He loved us. He loved us by dying (dying!!) for us so that we didn’t have to. Love like that, if what Jesus said is true, matters. It matters a whole lot.
The kicker here is that we can’t see and touch and experiment and prove that God is real. It doesn’t work like that. Sure, there is a profound historical tradition which explains God, and we can use logical proofs til the cows come home to show that God exists, but at the end of the day we still, in some way, need to do one thing.
We need to believe that God created us.
We need to have faith that God loves us and will always be with us. Belief and faith in this sense isn’t like believing in Santa Claus; while faith might allow us to believe that presents will be under the tree on Christmas morning, our reason lets us know real quick that Santa didn’t put them there.
With God, we can use our reason to explain that the ordered universe was probably created by a divine Mind, then use faith to trust that the promises He made through sending Jesus to earth are true.
With God’s existence, love ceases to become a mere accident devoid of any transcendent meaning.
Love matters, and there is a meaning to life.