Shooter, not God, caused Newtown tragedy
January 4, 2013 · Updated 10:23 AM
I don’t doubt Don Wiens is well meaning (“Reaction to school shootings in Newtown,” page A4, Dec. 28 Herald). But when he implied that God didn’t prevent the Newtown shooting because we’ve legislated God out of public life, he parroted the standard conservative “Christian” line from the likes of James Dobson, Franklin Graham, and the American Family Association.
They’ve been touting a vindictive God for decades, stating mirrored threats at every national tragedy to scare and manipulate the populace to buy into their warped theology: the nation has fallen away from God (pushing prayer out of schools and permitting gay marriage) and divine judgment has prevailed. I know. For 25 years, I was a part of that movement and trace my spiritual evolution out of it in my book, “Confessions of a Bible Thumper.”
Wiens and his national counterparts overlook the heart of the very God they claim to serve. Jesus condemned public displays of religion, told his followers to pray in secret, and taught the reign of God is not about Old Testament-style retribution, but rather cultivating a kind heart, loving your enemies and fighting for social justice.
Wien’s citing a C.S. Lewis book as proof of divine judgment is also misguided. A loving God may not always be “safe” because His justice is restorative — He has a knack for winning over renegades — not because He’s vindictive.
The truth is, the Newtown shooter was a home-schooled, mentally ill loner whose mother had an arsenal of guns. His deranged act wasn’t God’s instrument of justice for our rejection of fundamentalist religion. There may be underlying reasons for violence in our society, but God’s revenge isn’t one of them.
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I thought the Existential philosopher Kierkegaard clarified the issue of God’s responsibility, as far as what we are doing is concerned. Don Wiens must have missed the Kierkegaard lesson, for he brings up the old “blame somebody else” argument.
Wiens writes that “we have legislated God out every public area of life, especially schools ... then we are surprised when He does not prevent what happened in Newtown.” That is quite an accusation: God punished grade-school kids for our policy of separation of church and state.
If that is a fact, why then, when church and state were one from the Early Middle Ages on, when God was omnipresent and secularism wasn’t even a word, and when the revealed truth was the only guiding light, why then did Europe experience incessant killings? During those centuries, when God was the Alpha and Omega in people’s lives, constant warfare over territories and faith and Black Death devastated whole nations. And the more people suffered, the more they prayed, went of pilgrimages, went on crusades, whipped themselves as flagellants, burned Jews and Cathars and Waldensians and Muslims and Huguenots and Lollards and Hussites and Lutherans and other sinners and non-conformists.
Why then, Mr. Wiens, did God not prevent those horrific disasters during the years when people lived and died embracing God? When church and state were one and popes declared kings as the “Defenders of the Faith”?
Maybe, just maybe, the separation between church and state was a wise decision. While religion can be a unifying force, how many people have died in the name of the various religions competing for supremacy? And people still die because of their faith.
The blame with the shooting at Newtown does not lie with God, it lies with us.
You owe God an apology, Mr. Wiens.