By Universal Studios, NBCUniversal - Dr. Macro, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3558176
Sympathy for Vile Monsters A Theological Note on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
The eight foot tall creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is both frightening and poignant. He is born innocent, but he becomes extremely violent, killing many people in fits of rage.
One thing is clear; he does not create himself. He was created by a Swiss natural scientist, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, out of body parts exhumed from human graves. Horrified by his appearance, Dr. Frankenstein expels him from meaningful human associations and never gives him a name except "vile wretch" and "vile monster" and "vampire." The creature seeks and needs companionship, receives none; and becomes monstrous, killing all those dear to Frankenstein, his creator. He lashes out.
Who is responsible for the killing? The title page of the novel is a quote from John Milton's Paradise Lost:
“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mold me man? Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?” (Milton 10.743-745).
The implication is clear. Just as God created Adam, so Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster. Just as God expelled Adam from the Garden of Eden, so Dr. Frankenstein expels the monster from the possibility of human intimacy. Back to the question, who is responsible?
Open and relational (process) theologians are reluctant to hold God responsible for violence we see in our world. Yes, God may have lured the universe into forms of existence (we humans, for example) that can inflict great suffering on one another; but no, God is not indictable for the violence.
For my part, I cannot judge whether or not God is indictable for the violence. Sometimes I wish that, in luring the world into myriad forms of life, God has stopped with the single-celled organisms. They can enjoy what they enjoy, but suffer less.
What I do know is that we humans are here on earth, like it or not;that we do horrible things to one another out of loneliness and isolation; that most people do not choose to be lonely; and that, once we become monsters in the eyes of others, we are expelled from any degree of sympathy.
I take heart from the side of open and relational (process) theology that imagines God as the great companion: the fellow sufferer who understands. I cannot help but think that God understands Frankenstein's monster more tenderly than we do. At the end of the novel, the monster feels remorse for the killing. My sense is that God loved the monster even before the remorse.
In the house of God there are no monsters. There are only fragile, sometimes very angry people, who reach out for love, and sometimes, like Frankenstein's creature, never receive it. Want to make the world less monstrous? Look tenderly into the eyes of monsters; try to understand the fear and loneliness that give rise to their violence; share in the tenderness of the fellow sufferer who understands; and forgive yourself when you can't do it.