The recent theatre shootings in Aurora, Colorado have generated the entire spectrum of human feelings and reactions that come with such senseless tragedy. Emotions like anger, sorrow, confusion and emotional/spiritual numbness have all been expressed at varying levels by thousands, if not millions, of people.
There has also been some very unhelpful religious rhetoric shared as well. In an opinion piece published on OneNewsNow and an interview broadcast by the American Family Association, Jerry Newcombe, spokesperson for Truth In Action ministries, made essentially two points: 1) Tragedies like the Aurora theater mass murder happen because people no longer believe in hell, and 2) Unless the victims of such tragedies “know Christ” or if they “knowingly rejected Jesus Christ,” they’re on their way to hell (Kevin Miller, Huffington Post, July 24, 2012).
These shootings have also revived the gun control debate. Gun control advocates are calling for tighter restrictions on the sale of large quantities of ammunition as well as on the sale of assault weapons. Others, like Townhall columnist Doug Giles are calling for more guns. Giles says he carries at least one gun everywhere he goes just to stop some James Holmes wannabe: “the good citizen is to get equipped with a gun—a fire-breathing dragon of a weapon…[m]ake it like a cell phone….” (Lara Riscol, Alter Net, July 23, 2012).
Then there are the folks who mix the gun control debate with unhelpful religious rhetoric, like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who blamed the latest slaughter on “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs,” and wondered why theatergoers weren’t packing heat to stop the bloodshed (Lara Riscol, Alter Net, July 23, 2012).
Gohmert went on to say, “People say … where was God in all of this? We’ve threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed … I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.” In the OneNewsNow article mentioned earlier, Newcombe is quoted as saying, “I can’t help but feel that to some extent, we’re reaping what we’ve been sowing as a society. We said to God, “Get out of the public arena.” Lawsuit after lawsuit, often by misguided “civil libertarians,” have chased away any fear of God in the land — at least in the hearts of millions.”
So where was God during the Aurora tragedy? Indeed, where is God in all the mayhem we witness—and sometimes even experience ourselves? Humans have been wrestling with this question throughout our existence. And the answers to this question are as diverse as humanity itself.
It should be no surprise to anyone that I do not share the views of Jerry Newcombe, Doug Giles and Rep. Gohmert. They are certainly entitled to hold and share their viewpoints—and so am I. To me, the god of Newcombe and Gohmert is a “Spoiled Child god” who demands we sacrifice the use of reason, intellect and respect for diversity of viewpoints and trade them in for guns to keep the peace.
I guess they’ve overlooked Jesus’ opposition to violence and rebuttal of the old “eye for an eye” law. As a matter of fact, for self-proclaimed Christians, their failure to mention Jesus at all in their responses to the Aurora tragedy is a rather glaring omission to me. So who knows? Maybe they remembered Jesus’ teachings on violence and decided to bypass him and “go to the top,” so to speak. Their god—to me—is a retro god who demands we turn our plowshares back into swords—or else.
And I have absolutely no interest in that kind of god…
Still, my disagreement with this concept of God doesn’t answer the question at hand, does it? I often speak of “the God within,” or “the Light within,” or “the Divine Presence within.” That is, for me, God is not “out there somewhere” allowing innocents to be slaughtered because he/she/it/they aren’t getting enough attention. When we express our highest selves—like the young man who lost his life protecting his girlfriend in the Aurora theatre, or the 13 year-old who unsuccessfully tried to save the life of the six year-old who died in that same tragedy—we are expressing light, love and selfless compassion. Some people would say those and countless other less publicized–but just as important—acts of love and light committed every day are expressions of the nature of God.
So that is my answer as to the whereabouts of God. God—or whatever you choose to call it—resides within each of us. Some of us access that divine potential more often than others; and unfortunately it seems that—for whatever reasons—others are unable, or unwilling, to live into their fullest and highest potentials.
You may agree with me, or you may not. In the end, it doesn’t matter all that much to me whether we agree or not; what matters to me is how together people of all faiths–and of no faith–can bring hope, healing, peace and love to a world with far too many weapons and far too many people—including religious people—with itchy trigger fingers.
Blessed be, namaste and amen.