Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary: "Where was God?"

The Sandy Hook Elementary mass murders shocked and saddened me like nearly everyone else in the country.  It also exposed once again some of the ugly sides of our society.

For one, it bared the media's obsessive-compulsive need to report first, rather than report accurately.  There's simply no excuse for this failure; especially the colossal failures in those first few hours.  Is it no wonder that many Americans distrust the media nowadays?

For another, the predictable bunch of ideological opportunists seized  upon this tragedy to once again harp on their beliefs about gun control.  I will say here that yes, I do agree that there should be discussions about gun control and how easy or difficult it should be to obtain firearms.  However, there is the matter that the ones who speak loudest about the need for more gun control are curiously silent when it comes to our own government's failure of its own "gun control".  In order for these gun control supporters to have a decent level of credibility, they should be as outspoken about the failure of Fast and Furious as they are about the need for gun control in the private sector.

Then there's the matter of the NRA's silence once the shooting began.  The NRA often paints themselves as victims of aggressive propagandizing from their opponents, but then go silent during news events that involve mass killings.  The NRA could be adding to the discussion on gun control and how to keep firearms out of the hands of mass murderers such as what we saw last week, or at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater earlier in the year.  Their silence, as the saying goes, is deafening.  I'm not on either "side" of the gun control debate, and I won't get into my personal views on the issue right now.

Another ugly side that was exposed last week was our country's failure to locate, contain, and aid the mentally ill.  While there are different reasons as to why this occurs, there are at least two main ones: a lack of funding, and because certain people on the left are more concerned about the "rights" of the mentally ill than the safety of the society that must accommodate them if they're not institutionalized.  I know people on the left that are influenced by the reports of very real abuses inflicted upon the patients in mental institutions, but the solution isn't to set these people free, it's to reform the kind of aid and assistance that they're given.  Leftists must understand that the mental institution portrayed in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is not representative of how all mental institutions are run.

But the main thing that I think is exposed in tragedies like this is when people bring up questions such as "Where was God?"  Both believers and deniers of God ask this question, but they're asking the wrong question.  First, let's ask why these people ask this question in the first place.

For believers of God, they'll ask "Where was God?" because their faith has been shaken by these kinds of tragedies.  This indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of God, and what he can and can't do.  God is not a genie, granting wishes left and right.  I use the example of a parent giving a child every single thing he or she wants to explain why God sometimes doesn't answer our prayers (or as it is sometimes said, "God answers all our prayers, but sometimes, the answer is 'no'").  If a parent gives their child everything they want, and when they want it, will that child grow up to be a mature and well-adjusted adult?  I hope you said "no". 

So if a human parent telling their child "no" once in awhile helps in their growth and maturity down the road, how much more does that apply to God, the "ultimate" parent? The point here is that a mature understanding of God will be that believing in God isn't going to shield us from the ugliness and evil that exists in our world.

If anything, believing in God will make you more aware of just how much ugliness and evil there is in the world.  But a mature understanding of the nature of God will help you to recognize the ugliness and evil in yourself, and from that, gain a strength in fighting our dark sides, because you can't fix what's broken in your soul if you aren't aware in the first place that it's broken.  So believers in God who ask "Where was God?" during such times demonstrate their lack of strength and faith.

For those who don't believe in God, when they ask "Where was God?", they aren't looking for an answer, because in their minds, they know the answer: He wasn't anywhere, because he doesn't exist.  So why then, would they ask "Where was God?"  In their case, it's a rhetorical question; they ask because it's a validation that he doesn't exist, for if God did exist and he's supposed to be kindly and wish us well, then why didn't he save those children from that murderer last week?  In a sense, it's a form of mockery - why otherwise bring up a deity that they don't believe exists?  It's basically an opportunistic seizing of the moment to promote their own views - which doesn't reflect very nicely of them.

Accepting that a loving God would allow tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary was probably the toughest part of believing in God that I had to overcome. Why does God allow such evils to happen?  Indeed, why does he allow wars, such as WW1 and WW2?  Why does he allow pestilences such as the Black Plague, or the smallpox epidemic that decimated a great majority of the Native American population when the Spaniards came to the Western Hemisphere?  Those other questions will be for another discussion; for now, let's stick to Sandy Hook Elementary.

The murderer was able to take advantage of a perfect storm of failures on the part of 1.) how he obtained the guns, 2.) that he wasn't institutionalized much, much sooner, 3.) that the school's system of defense was insufficient, and so on.  Before I go on, let me say here that the blame for this mass murder belongs solely to the murderer himself.  You will notice that I haven't said his name yet - and I won't do so now.  He wanted his name out there, I will deny him that.

Getting back to my discussion, the question of "Where was God?" is not the right question.  The correct question is, "Where were we?"  Where were we, when we had the chance to spot him, and then to stop him?  Granted, even with better methods of spotting and stopping mass murderers, some will still slip through the cracks.  No system of stopping mass murderers is ever going to be perfect, but that should not stop us from trying, and we as sure as heck can do a lot better than we're doing now.  But first, we have to come to accept the following:

When we ask "Where was God?", it's to keep from asking, "Where were we?".  It's blame transference, in other words; God is a scapegoat for our failures.

But if we really, truly, want to do a much better job of stopping mass murderers, then we need to put the focus on where it belongs:  On us.  We owe it to future generations to have the courage to ask the right questions so that we put ourselves on the road to find the right answers.

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