I read an opinion piece on CNN today that got my heart pounding. Perhaps you saw it , too? The author posed the question “Why Must the Nation Grieve with God?” In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I’ve seen heated debates on gun control, mental health, and violence in the media. I’ve heard it said that God didn’t protect those children because we’ve banned Him from schools. We are grieving and desperate to assign some blame in the attempt to right our wrongs. I think this search for answers is healthy and needed, however unhealthy and unnecessary the words we might choose to prove our point.
But the piece I read today came from quite a different angle and got me thinking. The author, Lawrence M. Krauss, a Canadian-American physicist and professor, asked why we have to bring God into our grieving on a national level, citing our president’s quoting of Mark 10:4 (“Let the little children come to me…”) when addressing the nation, and clergy across the country publicly stepping forward to offer words of comfort. These actions are hardly helpful to atheists and people who don’t hold Judeo-Christian beliefs, he says. I can see that. I am a Christian and found the President’s use of scripture comforting, but many people wouldn’t.
Let me cut straight to the part that really disturbed me about this opinion piece. After making his main point, which I’ve summarized above for you, Krauss goes on to ask why on earth anyone would want to pray to a God that would allow this to happen:
“Television host and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee suggested that because we are keeping God out of schools, the Deity chose not to stop the slaughter of these young innocents. (Or, to put it more bluntly, “If you don’t invite me to the party, I will kill your kids!”) If this were remotely believable, who would want to pray to such a fickle and pompous deity?”
What disturbed me is that I’ve heard many Christians communicate this very thought, if not more gently. “Horrible things are happening because we’re systematically kicking God out of our country.”
Can I just call B.S. on this one?
As a person with a severe disability, I’ve spent many years asking God why bad things happen. Why would God allow me to be so crippled? Why won’t He fix me? I’ve been angry with Him, blamed Him, begged Him for mercy, tried to find a reason — any reason — for the pain I feel.
“And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Genesis 3
Adam and Eve didn’t drop dead that day, but they began to experience death in a broader sense for the first time. Death, the absence of the good God intended, is in our world because of sin. Eve’s. Cain’s. Mine. Yours. The world is unjust not because God is absent or because we’ve refused Him admission into particular buildings, as if we have that much power. In fact, I can’t help but think of the unjust, tortured death of a completely innocent young man 2000 years ago. God was as present as could be and the most tragic thing happened… We killed Him in cold blood. This same God was Emmanuel, “God with us,” in the middle of a government-sponsored infanticide. Sin in our world twists, perverts what once was pure. It sucks the life out of us.
But in His birth and in His death, Christ shows us that He is very much present in human pain. He is with us in the injustice, the questions, the crying out for mercy: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
He is “with us always,” as we sin, as we hurt each other, as we rage our fruitless debates, in death and in life. He mourns with us. He laughs with us. He takes every bullet, feels every betrayal, suffers every disease.
Blame whatever you want for this tragedy. Grieve how you must, but don’t accuse God of being absent when He gave everything to be with us.