Don’t Blame God for Tragedy

“Valley Voice” December 25, 2012

Rev. Kev’s colunmn published in The Desert Sun

As Christians celebrate the birth of a child with divine intentions for peace, broken-hearted mothers mourn their children killed by violence.  Globally, the unexpected arrival of drone missiles, mortar rockets and semi-automatic bullets mute the joy of heavenly songs proclaiming peace and good will.  Still, Christmas comes as it will.  This year, the herald for many is more about comfort than joy.  I hope the messengers will live up to the task.

As a Christian and a full-time local pastor, I am often saddened and sometimes outraged by clergy who speak hate and nonsense, especially this time of year.  In our profession, we have ample opportunity to make public statements.  I am reminded by my training that our job is to not make bad things worse.

Sometimes preachers say stupid stuff.  When they are media personalities and publishing moguls, their rant-manure gets spread widely.  This often infuses shallow thinking with perceived deeper meaning and magical thinking is magnified with false credibility.  The silliness becomes common gospel, recycled from televisions and radios to pulpits and dinner tables.

Saying that children are killed because God is not present in public schools or because gays and lesbians marry in some states and press for the same civil right in other states is not silly.   Flailing for a reason like that is a failing of good sense and theological understanding.  It is evil and hurtful.  It fosters the pathology of a sick theology, granting latent permission to some people to commit harm.  We know better.

To look to God for a reason is to shrink from responsibility for human actions.  When a shooter enters a school, a church, or a shopping mall, the hand of God does not clear a path.  When a shooter carries a weapon meant for combat into a place meant for learning, prayer or commerce, the hands of irresponsible lawmakers are all over the place.

This is how the ancient prophets’ words of “peace, peace; when there is no peace” stay true.  We mouth he words while being incapable or unwilling to commit to act accordingly.  Some will sing that peace begins with us, yet not start for a moment.  As media commentators and elected representatives say this year makes a difference, we can pray that is so and do more.

This time, the candles of Christmas – and recently Chanukah – can move us to live our truth so the lies of hate and bad theology are extinguished.  Rather than twist public policy honoring the rights of citizens into threats, we can hold leaders accountable for the safety of our communities.  When that job is done, future candles will be lit in celebration of peace and good will, not in vigils mourning the loss of innocents.

Citizens of faith and no faith can call upon the Caesars of our day to restore general safety by replacing gun violence with gun safety, war with truce.  Preachers can comfort all with glad tidings that the Divine presence is found in justice and compassion, not judgment and violence.  Mothers near and far do not have to mourn this way.  It remains in the hands of humanity to make the commitments that will protect their hearts.