These past few days have been difficult days for many. Last Friday, in Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT., darkness fell upon many hearts and shattered the bright light in the eyes of God’s youngest hands and feet. Since that time there has been much talk and lots of debate about what to do, how to respond, and of course is there a way to prevent this from happening ever again.
Oddly, at least for me, in the past few days especially, many of the conversations in the United States have turned to greater armament for the general population. I just watched a piece on CNN that highlighted the call of some Republicans to get guns into the hands of teachers. The one senator said, (I am paraphrasing here) “This would not have happened if that principal had been armed. She would have taken him out at the door, meeting lethal force with equally lethal force!” I have to confess that this sort of logic sounds like lunacy to me. More guns? There are 9 guns for every 10 people in America – including Children here. More guns, more violence, and more vigilantism is not the answer.
Sadder for me still the Christian population is embracing the same logic. I cannot for the life of me see how anyone who is a follower of Jesus would espouse a message that calls for more violence. I was dumbfounded as I listened to the words of yet another Christian on the news, buying up weapons in a hurry before the government removes their ‘God given right to bear arms’ [as an aside – I know the Founding Fathers are revered in the US but ‘God given?’].
On the day of this tragedy I summed up my feelings with a poem. My last post was titled – Words are Hard to Find. A friend and reader took my words to be a shying away from dialogue and conversation about the sadness of it all. The poem was, in fact, first a use of words to encourage further conversation and dialogue and secondly a call not to say the most inappropriate things in the face of such a senseless situation. On the first goal, there was much good conversation with people about what we were feeling because of my post. Folks at St. Aidan’s chatted with me over coffee after church expressing their feelings about the pain of this time. Emails from people expressing their gratitude for opening a conversation were heartening. But I am saddened to say there was never an hope that my second goal would be achieved For instance, I am baffled by the words of the Christian Right who have suggested that God is unable to get involved. People are expressing the notion that the God of Light for whom we wait in Advent is responsible for this. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the first to jump in suggesting that God is unwelcome in our schools and this incident should be no surprise to us. Then there is Brian Fischer – head of the American Family Association. He offered these words on his radio program.
“The question is going to come up, where was God? I though God cared about the little children. God protects the little children. Where was God when all this went down. Here’s the bottom line, God is not going to go where he is not wanted.
Now we have spent since 1962 — we’re 50 years into this now–we have spent 50 years telling God to get lost, telling God we do not want you in our schools, we don’t want to pray to you in our schools, we do not want to pray to your before football games, we don’t want to pray to you at graduations, we don’t want anybody talking about you in a graduation speech…
In 1962 we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963 we kicked God’s word out of ours schools. In 1980 we kicked the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey, I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentlemen.”
Facebook was rife with people sharing pictures and graphics wherein God answers a student’s prayer about violence in schools with a trite “I am not welcomed in your schools.” This stuff is not only not helpful – it is nonsense. These folks actually believe in a passive aggressive God. If this God they speak of can be anywhere, and does not show up when these things happen because of a lack of prayer in schools, this God is either powerless or must be passive aggressive. It is just ridiculous and frankly embarrassing that a Christian would espouse such foolishness.
Christmas is that time when we declare that God decided to come and dwell among us –This is a God who did not need an invitation to show up then and does not require an invitation today. God was, is, and always shall be present to us – even though tragedy happens. God is abundantly present in these dark days. In this season of Advent we talk a lot about preparing for a Light to come into the world that would dispel all darkness. I think we need to be reminded to be Light for the world and not just wait for it. We can look into the face of darkness and be light and be hope. Last Sunday was Gaudate Sunday – a Sunday we talk about Joy. Rejoicing was hard to embrace – but Joy sometimes is an act of faith. I talked on Sunday about how my family in 2008 had to embrace the Joy of Christmas shortly after laying two little girls to rest in less than twelve months. At times we were walking through the motions, but we needed to embrace Light even though we all felt pretty dark. There were other children in our family who needed Light, needed hope, needing joy that came with Christmas. Then there were the many who were Light for us in the midst of our darkness. The face of God was present to us in many and diverse ways. The Light of God is present to the people of Newtown today in many and diverse ways. Sometimes we can choose to be Joy for those who cannot. We can choose to be Light for those who sit in darkness.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” So we cannot reduce guns with more guns. We cannot lighten the darkness with rhetoric about an angry and passive aggressive God who would love to help but is busy licking wounds. We cannot lighten darkness by retreating inside of ourselves, removing lights and forgetting Christmas because we all feel dark. We will dispel darkness by bringing Light, by being hopeful, by working to make change, by seeking to love and serve, by striving to heal.