December 16, 2012

In Wake of Tragedy, Believers Seeking Gods

DSeek Godan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, co-editors of CNN's Belief Blog, wrote an aptly titled post yesterday about the mass murder in Connecticut: Massacre of children leaves many asking, 'Where's God?' It makes perfect sense to me that religious believers would ask this question following such a tragedy. And even though I arrive at a very different answer than many of them will, I think it is an appropriate question to ask.

Gilgoff and Marrapodi note,
From the first moments after Friday’s massacre, which also left six adults and the shooter dead, religious leaders were among the first people to whom worried and grieving families turned for help.

Over the weekend, countless more Americans will look to clergy as they struggle to process a tragedy in which so many of the victims were children.
It is certainly understandable that people would turn to religion after such an incident. This is what many people do in times of great fear, grief, or other emotional turmoil. And yet, they might be better served in embracing secular alternatives with scientific backing (e.g., mental health professionals with training in helping people cope with such tragedies). After all, the temporary solace they might find from religious authorities is unlikely to resolve much of anything. It will merely distract them from continuing to ask the questions they should be asking.

What sort of god is it that allows innocent children to be murdered? Perhaps it is a powerless god. Maybe it is a cruel god or one that is indifferent to the affairs of humans. Then again, perhaps it is no god at all.

The article quotes Max Lucado, described as "a prominent Christian pastor and author based in San Antonio," as saying,
Every single person who is watching the news today is asking ‘Where is God when this happens?'
He's wrong. I watched the news and never asked such a question. I am guessing many of you had the same experience. How can this be? We have learned that there aren't any gods, and we've moved on to seek human solutions to human problems. This is true even for extremely complicated problems that have few obvious solutions.

It was discouraging to see President Obama quoting the Christian bible from the White House. We have no need for a pastor-in-chief, but we desperately need someone willing to start a productive national discussion on our violent culture and our refusal to adequately fund mental health services in our communities. This is a time for some real leadership.

As religious leaders desperately try to interpret away this crime as evidence of evil or as some sort of twisted tribute to the free will they think one of their gods bestowed upon humanity, we would do well to remember that this is about us. This is a human tragedy, committed by a human against other humans. We are not going to find solutions in the world of fantasy.