More on God in the Newtown tragedy

Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, writes on these 6 things he’s sick of hearing concerning the Sandy Hook massacre, describing them each in a paragraph:

1. “It was God’s will.”

2. “Jesus called the children home.”

3. “After death, there is the resurrection.”

4. “This was God’s judgment.”

5. “This happened because America is too secular.”

6. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Diana Butler Bass writes in “Where was God in Newtown?”

Generally, the answers fall into one of two camps. The first, proposed by many clergy, insists that God was present in the horror. The second, pronounced most starkly by Gov. Mike Huckabee, says that God was not there, “banished” as it were, by human sin. There is a raging argument on Facebook and on religion, spirituality and theology blogs between those who insist that God is with us and those insisting God has left us. Is God the Immanuel (“God-with-us”) of Advent or the Judging God of violent apocalypse?

Answer 1: God Was Present.

Answer 2: God Was Absent.

After exploring those two answers, Butler Bass writes and explores:

A Different Possibility: God Was Hidden….

And that’s my answer: God was beyond Newtown, the God of lament, of loss, of anguish, the God hidden away.

As answers go, the hidden God will not completely satisfy and can never get to questions of motive. Isn’t that the point? Somewhere, deep in our souls, we know we cannot know. The hidden God, I think, is the only God that makes any sense of Newtown: One neither and both present and absent; One in the hands of rescuers but not the hands that wielded the guns; One in the midst of murdered but not the act of murder. This is the God who is in all places and nowhere….

The God Hidden is oddly discomforting yet somehow touches some truth of human experience — we do not know where God is in the midst of evil. This is the answer of agnostic theology, the doubter’s prayer, a possibility for those of us who are less than sure. I do not think many pundits will be talking about Deus Absconditus in the coming days, but I suspect this God is the one weeping for the children of Newtown.

Category : The Lead

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3 Comments
  1. Peter Pearson

    How about we all just stand in silent solidarity and prayer with these suffering people? The sacrament of presence is needed here.

  2. Pete Haynsworth

    Here is a commentary by a Brown Univ philosophy professor which expresses mourner sentiments similar to Prof. Prothero’s. I suspect that, if either of these folks were approached at a funeral home with an “I’m so sorry …”, the response would be “No you’re not!”

    But Prof. Ackerman _does_ impute a more straightforward answer to why there are mass slaughters: There is no god.

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