The Newtown shooting was a tragedy, the kind of thing we hope never happens to anybody. In the aftermath of such horror, our minds are blasted with questions. The shooter: Who was he? Why did he do this? The weapons: Should we ban all guns? Should we change the Second Amendment? The families of the victims: How can they ever process this? Will their pain ever subside? The list goes on, but something that’s come up here on CelticsBlog—and elsewhere, I’m sure—that’s really stood out to me are the questions about God: How could He allow this? What kind of God is He?
I’m a Christian, which some of you already knew. My ears perk up whenever I hear God/the Bible/religion/spirituality being discussed. As my eyes scan forum threads here on CB, they come to a screeching halt on such key words. The same was true as I read through the CB thread on the Newtown shooting (though I wasn’t looking for this subject to arise; it just popped up).
Let me say, before I go further, that I’m not here to name names or call attention to any individuals, skeptics or otherwise. I’m also not here to berate, or lecture. This is a sensitive topic, and I don’t wish to offend, just offer my thoughts and observations based on the fallout of an awful situation. I also want to say that it’s important to realize that not everyone thinks of the same being when they hear the word "God." As a Christian, I believe in the Judeo-Christian God (Yahweh) of the Old and New testaments, so that’s the God I’ll be talking about.
The first CB comment I saw pertaining to God stated that a god who would allow such a thing as Newtown is a crappy one. I’m sure this individual isn’t alone in that sentiment. I also read most of the discussion about Mike Huckabee’s comments. Then there were comments about religion in general and its various influences.
Can God stop tragedies from occurring? He sure can. And I believe He does stop some. So why doesn’t He stop all tragedies?
We live in a world where we have freedom of choice, and where our choices, good and bad, bring consequences. How could we ever comprehend the importance and necessity of making right choices, and the utter disaster our bad choices can lead to, if God were to stop every potential tragedy? How would we then learn responsibility? I’m not saying (a la Jerry Falwell) that tragedies are some type of punishment from God, just that if you decide to get drunk and then get behind the wheel of a car, God’s not responsible for what happens next. You are.
I don’t know why God intervenes in some situations and not in others, but I believe that the God I serve is loving and wants only the best for each of us—the Bible states this repeatedly, and I’ve seen His goodness in my life—and that having the ability to make decisions means that people will make not only "dumb little mistakes," but tragic ones as well.
Not to mention that God’s continuous intervention would violate His own rule of allowing us individual freedom. God could’ve made us all robots, free from tragedy—but we’d also be incapable of loving or being loved, incapable of personal relationships, incapable of knowing true joy. So there’s a trade-off, a calculated risk. There is no way to have freedom of choice and freedom from tragedy.
Now, if God allowed tragedy without also offering eternal comfort and redemption, I’d agree that He would be a crappy god. But that’s not who He is; instead, despite our screw-ups, he continues to offer us love, for this life and the next. That may be of little or no comfort to some of you, and to some of those involved in Newtown, but I’ve known plenty of people who experienced tragedy—even repeated tragedy—and didn’t blame God. They understood the fallen world in which we live, that it comes with diseases and accidents, that people can make bad decisions and sometimes even be downright evil—and that it’s the fault of those people making bad decisions, not God’s.
I do feel the need to confess to what you might call a "spiritual pet peeve." During my adult Christian life, I’ve come across several people who do not live their lives committed to God, who want to do things their way, never asking God’s input, never caring what He thinks, for all intents and purposes acting as though God doesn’t even exist—and that’s their choice to make—but when something bad happens, they blame God. Some people have a hard time with God allowing tragedies, but I have a hard time with God-excluders only addressing Him when they feel He’s wronged them.
I once worked with a man, who was a nonbeliever, who had a believing wife who died of cancer. In speaking with this man about it, he said something that set off a red flag for me.
With great tact, I asked him, "Are you saying that you believe that God actually killed your wife?"
He looked straight into my eyes and said, "Yes."
That was shocking to me. I’d never heard such a thing. Here was a man who wanted nothing to do with God—even when his wife was alive—who’d probably never thanked God for all the years he had with his wife, never asked for God’s input on how to live his life, but he blamed this same God for his wife’s death. And it wasn’t as though I was speaking with this man in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s death, when his pain was fresh and his emotions raw; it was at least a couple of years after the fact.
I understand that this is a difficult issue, and I don’t claim to know all the answers. No human does. I do think, though, that whether we’re talking about God or guns or any other sensitive, potentially divisive topic, we need to proceed with caution and think things through.