After a rough day at work, I came home, opened up Facebook and saw a seemingly endless trail of comments beginning with Praying for the families of Newtown, CT. “What the heck happened today?” I asked myself, turning over to a newsie website. And then I saw the headline. 1 shooter, 7 adults, and 20 children at some elementary school.
My heart sank.
I was angry that the news was affecting me, but honestly would have been appalled had it not affected me at all. I was angry at the shooter, scared for the children, mourning as if my own children had been shot. Even though the headline occurred so far away, to complete strangers, and had absolutely nothing to do with me, it seemed as though it certainly had something to do with me. After all, you’d have to be heartless and without conscience to not hurt.
The Twitterverse sparked with random messages. Religious zealots asked that since we don’t allow prayer in schools, why we are surprised that God was not in Sandy Hook. Other freaks championed that “Gods will” had been executed for our sinful society. Another dared to ask why pro-choice supporters are so appalled when the killing is done to elementary school kids. And yet others screamed that this is why we need stronger gun control. At least, it sure felt like they were screaming…hard to tell inside 140-character blurbs.
My stomach turned.
In our church lifegroup Saturday morning, someone suggested that this could have been prevented had someone prayed for the shooter on Wednesday and Thursday…that perhaps he would have found peace by Friday…or that, perhaps, if we were more disciplined as a society to pray some magic blanket-statement prayer to prevent these tragedies, God would take action.
My faith shook.
For a moment, I felt that God was simply helpless against evil in this world. And then following the prayer logic—that God takes action only when enough people pray the right prayer—I felt less that he was helpless, but more of a jerk. But I felt that way for only a moment. I don’t buy that logic. And I simply don’t believe that there is some blanket-statement prayer that would magically rid the world of everything bad. Sometimes, God’s will simply isn’t done.
But, could God have prevented this tragedy? Pastor Dave suggested that God could have taken away the shooter’s free will, but in order to do so he would have to take away everyone’s free will. But I can’t buy that either. I also think it would be unnecessary. Just as he closed the Red Sea on the pharaoh’s army to let the Israelites escape, God could have put barriers in the way of the shooter…without taking away his free will.
He could have made it so his car stalled, crashed, or otherwise kept the shooter from his mission. He could have had the gun jam. He could have had the right person cross the shooter’s path to steer him down a better path. There are any number of road blocks God could have put in place. But God didn’t.
But last Friday wasn’t about God any more than it was about guns or gun control. Madness simply doesn’t require guns. It was about the human condition. In particular, it was about one human’s condition—a young man so ill, so angry, so desperate, and hurting so much that for whatever reason, what he did made sense to him. And 27 teachers and children, and countless others, have paid a horribly high price for his decisions.
We can’t go back and change his mind.
We can’t go back and save the victims.
But we can control how we react to what happened. Pastor Dave offered some pretty sound advice in Sunday church services. He suggested that we remember what is important, allow ourselves to feel grief, lean on one another, refuse to be bitter, and to depend on God.
I’m not usually one to quote scripture, but quite often, scripture says it best. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. This quote is what stood out most to me from Dave’s message. Maybe random tweets, Facebook rants, and even soap-box blog entries are just another way we mourn these days. But I would challenge us to find one another face-to-face—to express our grief, so that we may truly lean on one another.
And feel comforted.
For no matter how insane the events of last Friday, and no matter how insane it should seem to be relevant to us—so far away from the headline—trust me, Sandy Hook has something to do with you.