When bad things happen to good people one might ask, “Where was God? How could God allow such a thing to happen?” The slaughter of twenty innocent children and six adult staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, is a case in point. How can anyone begin to bear the pain born by parents, families, colleagues and friends, and the nation as a whole?
The news media has given us full coverage of this tragic event last December. And now people are trying to answer their own question: “Where was God?” Various answers are given even from the religious community. Some believe that God is always in charge of the world so that if bad things happen it is God’s will even if we don’t understand the reason. Others say that God, like a good parent, has given us free will to make decisions on our own – some resulting in good works and others bad. We are not God’s puppets. The strings have been cut. That’s the risk God took. Taking the risk, however, was the only way that we could truly learn to love. Being forced to love is not love. Love requires free choice to be true. It must come freely from the human heart and mind.
Blaming God for the slaughter of innocent people in Newtown turns God into a monster not worthy of worship. We can be grateful that kind of God is not taught to our children in public schools. It provides good reason why we uphold the separation of church and state in government and in our schools. Religion that equates God with Evil is a travesty.
The God of love is more likely to be crying with us when bad things happen on our earthly pilgrimage. Just as we have shed tears for our losses and those of others, so does God feel our pain and cries with us while extending loving arms. Love, God’s name, takes no pleasure in the tragic choices that we make whether intentionally or as a result of mental illness. God is certainly not the guilty party in these situations.
There is much in this life for which there are no satisfying answers, but a god who inflicts evil on his children as an act of retribution for who knows what, is not the God of the Christian gospel of good news.