"A Beautiful World"
- Sunset in the Desert -
Yesterday morning, a sleepy, little-known town in rural Texas became the object of the world’s attention. As the small congregation of the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church gathered together for Sunday Morning Services, a demented gunman toting a military-style assault weapon entered the church, shooting most of the congregation, killing half of them, seriously injuring many others. Among the dead were children as young as 5 years old.
This morning’s online New York Times featured a YouTube link to the Sunday’s Service at the Sutherland Springs church. It showed poignant images of the people quietly listening to the pastor’s sermon as small children fidgeted in their parent’s arms. The pastor was telling his congregation that they should take all their problems and give them all to God, take all their concerns in life and place then at the feet of Jesus, and that “God” would take good care of them. Moments later, many who were listening to that sermon would be dead or wounded.
This morning, as I watched that YouTube link, I found myself in tears at all the senseless carnage. I also realized that there will be many people who will blame “God” for it all. Why didn’t God take care of all those poor people who had trusted in “Him” and given their lives to “Him?” Maybe there is no God after all? Some others may think that perhaps God was angry at that congregation and so “He” allowed or even sent a gunman to destroy them. As I see it, “God” had nothing to do with what happened in Texas yesterday.
I am reminded of something I read a while ago by the theologian, Daniel Maguire:
It is an alluring and adolescent temptation for the likes of us
to imagine that “God”
is a divine superbeing with parental passions
who is both omnipotent and all merciful
who will make everything ‘right’ on earth as it is in heaven
I think there is great wisdom in this observation.
As I see it, it is indeed “adolescent” and perhaps even dangerous to imagine “God” as a super-parent who looks over this earth and takes away all the problems of "his children" who place their trust in “Him.” Yesterday morning, a crazy gunman shot innocent children in a church because we human beings have created a society of violence and retribution. We have created a world in which we hardly think twice about “throwing away” our fellow human beings. We have shirked our own responsibility for the welfare of one another; instead, many of us have placed all that responsibility on the shoulders of an “omnipotent superbeing who will make everything right.”
When I look at the teachings of Jesus (and the wisdom of most of the great world-religious guides), Jesus never told his disciple that he would take away all the chaos and make everything better; rather, he empowered his disciples to carry on the work he had first begun, to work at building a better world, a more compassionate culture, a “just” society in which the dignity of every human being would be valued and respected. Jesus promised that his spirit would abide with the disciples though all the chaos in life but it was up to them to do their part to change this world and make it a better place. This very same commission has been passed down to all the followers of Jesus over all the ages, it’s a commission given to all people of goodwill regardless of their faith beliefs. That’s why I say that it is adolescent and even dangerous to imagine that if we trust in “God,” he will take care of everything for us.
After yesterday’s shooting, many church and civic leaders once again called for “thoughts and prayers” for the families and children massacred in that little Texas church. Thoughts prayers are fine (I guess) but I’d much rather that yesterday's horrific violence would urge all of us to assume our own responsibility for the welfare of world in which we live. Beyond thoughts and prayers, I would hope that yesterday’s unspeakable tragedy would motivate each of us, believers and non-believers alike, to commit ourselves to practice greater compassion, to show more kindness, to be more welcoming and less judgmental so that we might create a world in which it would be “unthinkable” that someone might come into church with a loaded assault weapon and commit such a horrific mass murder.
The Buddha taught:
However many holy words you read,
however many you speak,
what good will they do if you do not act upon them?
God isn’t a “Super Daddy in the sky” who is going to make it all better.
“God” is the energy of Love who abides among us through it all but it’s up to us to heal this broken world.