God and Newtown

By | December 18, 2012

To my fellow Christians who are posting that “Newtown is God’s judgment on America for taking prayer out of schools”—

I’m not speaking for God here, for my church, my religion, or anything official. I’m just speaking for me.

But I want you just to stop. Stop. Right. Now.

God doesn’t kill 20 kindergartners to prove a point. He didn’t cause bullets to rip through their bodies in order to “show us what happens” when we take God out of our schools. He didn’t put Victoria Soto in the way of death to prove to us that only the Christian religion could save us.

A man with a gun did this. A man with a gun that is designed to kill lots of animals, lots of people, quickly, is the one who took this action. He was not “disturbed” unless you think people with Asperger’s Syndrome are disturbed. He had access to an extremely powerful weapon, a weapon far too powerful to be used in our public, civil society, and he killed those kids, those teachers, those school officials, and his mom with a gun that anyone with enough money can buy at Wal-Mart, no questions asked. Ammunition, too. Sale prices for Christmas. A weapon used on the battlefield, but now ready for you to use on those predators who might want all the stuff you have piled up in your houses. Because, you know, stuff is worth more than people.

When you Christians tell the world that “God did this as judgment,” my non-Christian friends and my non-believing friends ask me to explain how I can worship such a wicked God who would kill children in order to “prove a theological point,” as if education can’t take place unless he kills the innocent.

Twenty children went to school that morning loved by their moms, hugged by their dads, holding hands with their brothers and sisters and friends, innocently believing that the Friday before Christmas holidays would be full of fun and excitement, along with the usual events of kindergarten such as staying in line, tying your shoes, or learning to keep still while the teacher read Charlotte’s Web.

God didn’t walk into that room spraying bullets to tell America that he was pissed he wasn’t in school anymore, and I am frankly ashamed at you—and I am speaking DIRECTLY TO YOU, MR. HUCKABEE AND DR. DOBSON—that you would say such evil, wicked things about the God I love and worship.

My God left his throne in heaven and became a baby in a world that was full of wickedness and sin and danger. He took the chance of being slaughtered along with all the other innocents by Herod, but he took the chance with us. He took the chance with us, the people who were his direct enemies, and loved us, completely and thoroughly, to the point where (according to my faith) he laid himself down on that cross himself. Now he works through us to reach a world full of pain and hurt, through us who were his enemies. And we who have nothing so much as mere disagreement with our fellow citizens are using our holy God as a weapon to further wound and shame and separate them from our loving God, teaching them that God is cruel and wicked and perverse and capricious.

Bad things happen. Sometimes they’re hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes, and I can’t figure out why God allows those things to happen. They are awful, they are destructive, they make us all wonder if God hears us—but they also are opportunities for us to reach out and help one another. God can use those awful events as we take up the responsibility to reach out and heal.

But this that happened at Newtown—and at Columbine and Aurora and Portland and Oakland and Virginia and some twenty-five more towns across this nation—this thing is something we ourselves can take action to stop, because it is something we ourselves are doing to ourselves. God is not behind this crazy worship of death we have with our love of guns and ammo and shooting and killing. God is not the one that drives us to fear and frantic searching for more and more powerful guns. God is not the one driving us to fear our neighbors and hate the stranger. God is not the one that is turning us to hate our opponents or our friends or our families simply because they don’t hold to our political opinions.

God is not doing this. We are. We are doing it to ourselves. We are listening to cruel, awful men (and it is mostly men doing this speaking) who are, for whatever purpose, whatever reason, whatever design, driving us to craziness. We live in one of the most, if not THE most, prosperous, safe, and happy country in the history of this planet. We are rich, richer than any other nation or time or land. We are healthier and more able to nearly anything we want. We have shot our rockets to the moon and to the edge of our solar system. We have through the prodding of men and women such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and even Mother Teresa learned to accept the poor and the weak and the unwanted among us; we have as our nation made very difficult progress to allow many more of us to become “us.”

We are rich and happy and confident and smart, and yet we are letting these small men with evil purposes speak to us daily, through our radios and TVs and newsletters and websites, words of poison and hate and distrust. We who have every opportunity to succeed are told to be afraid of the stranger who might take our jobs, our homes, our families, our riches. We who are richer than our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents ad infinitum combined are convinced that we are one step away from being robbed and that we must hoard and suspect and hate. We who have every opportunity to speak our minds, out loud and on the internet, and to freely choose our leaders, are being told that our government is evil and wrong and against us, and that we must hate those who are our leaders.

I do not understand you, my Christian friends. You claim to believe in a God who created the worlds with a word, who breathed life into dust to make man, who conquered death of his own volition—and you are running scared for the next thing that will save you, whether it is gold or guns, and you are being taught to hate your neighbor and to suspect the stranger.

I am being asked, over and over, by my non-Christian and non-believing friends, to explain. How can I worship a God who is cruel? How can I fellowship with believers in a loving God when they are so full of anger and distrust?

I can’t explain it. I can’t explain  you. I can only do this, I can only say this: you are just like me. You are lost, and broken, and dysfunctional, and only the cross can fix you—can fix me. We are all strangers and aliens on this journey. We are broken and we want to be healed.

That’s what I tell them. But it is so hard to tell them this when you have so little joy and love, and so much hate and fear, and so much dependence upon your guns and not your Jesus to save you. I have to tell them that they shouldn’t look at your actions, because they don’t represent Christ’s mercy, and they shouldn’t heed your words, because they do not represent Christ’s message, but then they ask me: what can they look at? What can they listen to? If you—and I—are the representation of Christ, we are showing them—the people God came to save—that he is out to kill them unless they become just like us—fearful and angry and divisive. Hateful and bristling with weapons. Preaching a Christ behind a wall of guns.

We are doing these awful things because we have lost our way. We have forgotten our Lord. We have lost our faith.

We need to stop this reliance on the weapons of this world and we need to return to our reliance upon the weapons of our Lord. We need to stop the words of hate and divisiveness to the stranger among us. We need to stop thinking that our things are more important than human beings.

And I understand you want to argue for guns and self-defense and the Second Amendment and all the things that will keep you safe in your silos. I just don’t care anymore to listen to it. Your way of life is dead and gone, and no one but people exactly like you want it anymore. The rest of us—the rest of us who love life, who want our kids to live in a world safe from gunfire, who want to walk the streets unafraid that someone walking beside us is packing a gun because he’s scared of us—we are going to change our country and our world. We are going to see a future where we are as free from the terror of guns as we are free from the terror of polio. Your ways are past. Our ways are the future.

And if you disagree and want to rant about your guns—just don’t. Do me a favor and unfriend me now. I have nothing more to do with you. I don’t recognize you. I probably just don’t even know you at all.

  • bread and roses

    That was beautiful, Stephen.

  • Tommia

    Well said, Stephen.