Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Light overpowers darkness
God is present despite horrors of Newtown
The terrible killings at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn., elicited a torrent of words as people tried to make sense out of the inconceivable.
Among those speaking out were people of faith. On Dec. 21, religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim faiths gathered at Washington's National Cathedral to call on Congress to reform that country's gun laws.
"Remember the 28 who died in Newtown," prayed Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. "We pledge to honour their memory by doing what we all know is right."
Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, reminded the group of the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where seven were killed.
"Those bullets that hit Sandy Hook have hit the Sikh community again," he said, adding that people should "continue to raise their voices to stop this violence."
Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, spoke about the need for conservative Christians to get behind gun law reform.
"We need a conversion," he said. "American evangelicals need to be born again on this issue."
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was also at the event. Earlier, he said that "the immensity of the tragedy and the strong religious mandate to protect the innocent and the children clearly have created conversations in the religious communities all across America about 'What can we do?'"
One thing the faith group leaders want to do is get members of their congregations to call Congress on February 5 to press for an assault-weapons ban.
Achieving that goal won't be easy, however; Americans of faith aren't united on the issue of gun control. Among Christians, for example, stricter gun control is supported by 62 per cent of Catholics, 42 per cent of white mainline Protestants and only 37 per cent of white evangelical Christians.
Other religious commentators also weighed in on the shootings. In a provocative blog post, Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books on religion in America, wrote about the things "I am sick of hearing" after the killings -- such as some people saying it was "God's will."
Said Prothero: "There may or may not be a God, but if there is, I sure hope he (or she or it) does not go around raising up killers, plying them with semiautomatic weapons, goading them to target practice, encouraging them to plot mass killings and cheering them on as they shoot multiple bullets into screaming six- and seven-year-old children.
"Much better to say there is no God or, as Abraham Lincoln did, "The Almighty has his own purposes," than to flatter ourselves with knowing what those purposes are."
He also was sick of people saying that "Jesus called the children home."
"I don't want to hear that Jesus needed 20 more kids in heaven on Friday," he wrote. "Even the most fervent Christians I know want to live out their lives on Earth before going 'home' to 'glory.'" Those kids, he said, "deserved more than six or seven years."
Other things that angered him were hearing that the killings were "God's judgment" on America for becoming too secular, or for not allowing God or prayer in public schools.
Prayer, he stated, is no protection in a country where anyone can buy automatic weapons.
Another provocative blog post was written by Rachel Held Evans, an American Christian and author, who addressed the idea circulating in American churches that the killings were the result of keeping God out of schools.
Noting that the killings took place during the season of Advent, a time of light breaking into darkness, she stated that "if the incarnation tells us anything, it's that God can't be kept out."
Specifically, she addressed comments by former U.S. presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee that the children of Sandy Hook school were killed because "we have systematically removed God" from public schools."
She wrote: "Brothers and sisters, let's call this one for what it is: bull****. God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn't 'systematically remove' God if we tried."
The lesson of God's coming to Earth at Christmas, she noted, is "God can be found everywhere," including "every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai."
We don't have to know why God let this happen, she continued, but we can know "that God was there... for no amount of darkness can overcome the light."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 J15
Updated on Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 9:06 AM CST: edit
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