I wouldn’t have chosen to make any comment on the very sad events that happened at Sandy Hook. It was sad. Isn’t that enough?
That is, until the christian community started to feel the need to make sense of it. I was already irked at the we’ve-taken-god-out-of-the-schools-so-he’s-abandoned-us thread. I tried to ignore it. I knew it would pass. But then Dobson and others came out saying this miserable unfortunate event was somehow linked to gay marriage.
It’s really hard to ignore boiling blood.
It boggles my mind that you could think that a loving God, the author of Love, would decide that because of the moral decay of America he felt it necessary to orchestrate (or at least allow) the horrific killing of those fresh faces that we’ve all seen and grieved over. What do those lovely children (and they were all someone’s children) have to do with gay marriage? (I’m trying to enter into their thinking here. I’m not saying there is epic moral decay or that gay marriage is wrong, I’m saying even if you thought it was, how could you believe that God in all his wisdom, grace and love would see this as fitting judgment?)
Okay. I’m moving on. I can’t make sense of it and I think the majority of christians (both the serious and the wafflers like me) who heard those statements at least cringed if not were completely aghast. These are the very reasons I find it difficult to say I’m a Christian without giving a rapid-fire list of qualifiers in the same breath.
But the more subtle and pervasive commentary went something like this: We’ve been kicking God out of schools systematically for years, we’ve taken prayer out of the schools, we’ve removed baby Jesus from the crèche, put up the Happy Holiday sign and taken down the Merry Christmas sign, removed the Lord’s Prayer and basically gave God the message that he wasn’t welcome anymore more in our schools. This attack is clear evidence that God has received our message and what did we expect?
I have a number of problems with this.
When did we get the idea that God only goes where we tell him to go? Do we control God with our governmental policies? When did we get that powerful? When did we make God that weak? When does a prayer, said over a loud speaker in the morning, trump the prayer (wish) of a teacher heading to work wanting to spread love, care for children and generally be the heart and soul of God (Goodness) to the people around her/him?
I’ll admit prayer is a bit of an enigma to me. I don’t really know what it’s for or what it does. I have a few ideas, but I’m no expert. (If you want to read more of my thoughts on prayer here is a post I wrote last year). However, I really don’t think it’s some kind of magic. Not in the sense that if you say the right words at the right time at the right volume and your heart and life are pure enough, you’ll be protected, or your dreams will come true. I don’t think God is a genie in a bottle anxiously waiting for us to find the right chant to let him out so he can bless us the way he wants to. Until we figure it out he’s stuck.
Also, I really don’t think he needs our invitation or permission to be somewhere if he really wants to be there and I’m pretty sure that where the children are is where he wants to be. And it’s not because they asked, or are even aware of his existence, or because they’re pure enough, or pious enough, or because they devoutly observe spiritual practices. Why is it? I have no idea, but if we’re looking at the Christian bible, it says he loves little children. And if we’re looking for clues in there as to where he hangs out, he likes prisons, and sick people, and drunks, and lunatics, prostitutes, thieves and adulterers. He didn’t avoid them or abandon them. He was there with them.
Who did he get mad at? It was the religious leaders of the day who were hard on the poor, who judged them and made their already difficult lives even more difficult. They were governed by a set of rules not by compassion. Jesus called them a brood of vipers.
Jesus seemed to be drawn to those in the most human of moments. Intimate. Humiliating. Discouraging. Vulnerable. Hopeless and dark moments. He headed straight for the epicenter of the mess that is humanity. He didn’t wait until they were cleaned up and back on track. He came while they were still drunk and crazy.
And when he came, he did not come with condemnation, he did not say ‘I told you so’. He did not add to their suffering. He brought light and love and peace and justice. He didn’t make burdens heavier by adding shame, he spoke words of healing and hope and comfort.
Isn’t this the whole message of Christmas? God incarnate, coming from the ultimate place of wholeness to enter into the messiness that is humanity to bring joy and redemption and healing? This is good news for all of us. We can ALL breathe a sigh of relief about that.
‘Tis the season of random acts of kindness. Go be like Jesus. Find someone who needs a lift and bring some joy, speak some peace, alleviate a burden and please, don’t be afraid of the mess. God isn’t.