How Not to Respond

The news out of Connecticut yesterday was terrible.

And even that sentence seems trite, cliched, nothing even close to capturing what happened and how I feel and my God, how wretched it is to think of those poor little kids, about the same age as my Sienna, dying in fear and confusion and far from their parents. And their parents…honestly, my mind keeps blocking me there, as if it won’t let me travel down that path of what they must be thinking and feeling, wandering around their houses, picking up a discarded sock from their dead child, a shoe, a toy, a stuffed animal, a shirt…anything tangible to hold onto now that they can’t hold their children. And maybe for a second they manage to get ahold of themselves, take a deep breath, and then they turn around and see a present under the tree, picked out carefully and wrapped early, that precious little hands will never unwrap. God. God. Honestly, what can I say but that? God. Where were you, where are you, and why, why, why?

I don’t know the answer. I never will. There are lots of sections in the catechism that talk about the question of evil, books written on it, even blog posts about it, but all those are cold comfort next to kindergarteners, shot dead in their classrooms. On the tragedy itself, I have nothing to say. My thoughts and fervent prayers go out to the victims and their families.

On the response to the tragedy by people who call themselves Catholic, I have a whole hell of a lot to say. I’m so angry about certain things that keep popping up on facebook that I want to scream. But I’m trying to keep in mind that we’re all doing this, a whole country of people enraged by the killing of children and lashing out at who’s nearest because we can’t last out at the nameless, shapeless evil that motivates these hideous acts. People furious about gun control or the lack thereof, about those who don’t homeschool or those who say it would have saved these kids, about access to mental health services and oversight for afflicted individuals…it goes on and on. There’s no one left to punish for the crime, so we pummel each other in frustration. I get it.

Yet still, there are some responses to this tragedy that are truly wrong. Not just misguided, but wrong. I came across one on facebook last night and have been stewing about it ever since. I deliberated for a while about writing this post before deciding that it needs to be said. There are good people on facebook who will share these links, like these links, and pass them on, not because they’re malicious but because they’re not thinking. At a time like this, you need to think about what is being said and all the implications it bears.

This is the meme that showed up in my newsfeed. I shared it to point out how awful it was, and the Anchoress responded with, “This is why people hate Christians and misunderstand Christ.”

I could not agree more. This sentiment is being expressed in a million different ways all over the internet and airwaves today, and every person saying it, liking it, and sharing it needs to stop. Right now. It is one of the most reprehensible things I have ever seen Christians do.

Leaving aside the outrageous fact that someone made a Star Trek facebook meme about the slaughter of kindergarteners, it’s reprehensible because this is smugness in the face of the death of children. It’s saying, “this is exactly what you get when you take God out of schools.” I wouldn’t be surprised if someone added, “haha, you deserve it, atheists”, because that is exactly what is meant by this meme.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but this is not how Christians should behave. Reveling in the death of children because it proves that you were right all along about a law to ban prayer in schools? No wonder people hate us. If this is our attitude, they should.

This isn’t how God works. People make laws about religion all the time. You can pray here, you can’t pray here, you can only pray to this God or that one, you can only pray at this time or that…it goes on and on. No laws can stop God from being present with us. No laws can stop God from anything. God was there, in that school, with those beautiful little children. I don’t know why he didn’t stop it. There’s a lot about free will and evil I will never understand. But God wasn’t sitting outside the school like some spurned teenager, sullenly saying, “I could have stopped this if you hadn’t kicked me out.” Are you kidding? That’s not God, who made us, and then loved us so much that he let his only son die for our salvation. That’s not Christ, who allowed himself to be beaten, humiliated, tortured and slaughtered by us, for us. That is not Christianity. That is not what we believe. So stop sharing it, and stop saying it.

For the innocents slaughtered in Connecticut yesterday, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

  • Charlene

    I don’t think the people who posted it are saying, “Ha, this is what happens.” I didn’t read it as an affront to atheists or people who would rather not pray in school. I see it as a statement of how important God is and how wonderful prayer is. I don’t think anyone sees God out in the parking lot like a spurned teenager. I think we all know that God was with each and every child, along with their guardian angels. Bad things happen. Evil does exist. But, it is hard to fight evil when one doesn’t even know they are at war. It would be a beautiful thing if, as a response to this tragedy, people quit worrying about talking about Jesus/prayer/faith and started saying and praying what is in their hearts. Maybe there are young people right now, headed down the wrong path, who would be set straight if only we were allowed to talk about virtues, character, Jesus and His incredible love for each of us. We are called to share His word and the ACLU tries to stifle that. I think that is what is in the hearts of those who share that message. I don’t believe, at all, that these individuals are being self-righteous. We are ALL mourning together!

  • Alexander Vernon

    I think we fall into the same trap if we interpret their posts in the worst possible light. To be fair, I think what those people mean is they think that a lack of prayer in schools makes for children that commit these sort of acts…NOT that God somehow withheld help because he was spurned. For what it’s worth my bet is that the shooter was probably very ill. Anyway, I’ve been biting my tongue at the very uncharitable stuff I’ve seen people posting (yeah, usually Christians and Catholics in particular, just because of my circle of friends.)
    Here’s what I posted in reply:

    Here’s a helpful thing I’ve learned about when terrible things happen. Sometimes its best to make up your mind to translate everything people say, write or post as “I’m very upset, I care very much, and I don’t really understand even if I’m talking like I do”. I’m willing to bet 9 times out of 10 that is closer to the truth than what you’re actually hearing or reading.

  • What Can I Do With A Philosophy Degree?

    My thoughts on this: While I do overall agree with you, as a product of public school who was raise Catholic but left agnostic and about 2 steps from atheism, I think that what such picture are trying to convey (poorly and tactlessly, perhaps) isn’t so much that God himself wasn’t there, but that having been removed from the lives of the students (all students who go through the system), they lose touch with objective right and wrong, and relativism fills the void. My wife taught at a public school, and the difference between getting those kids to behave (good luck) and kids at a private/Catholic school is generally night and day, because with the latter you can appeal to the objective moral realm, and at worst the “fire and brimstone” that you simply cannot even discuss in a secular institution. That, I believe, is the real vacuum to which Mr. Spock was alluding above.

    That doesn’t mean that that there shouldn’t be a civil understanding (especially amongst fellow Catholics) of when “too soon” is.

    But I also understand that so many people respond to grief in various ways. Yes, this is more or less tactful than other approaches, but c’est la vie.

    • Karen

      I agree with this. This whole tragedy is hitting very close to home. Until recently we lived next door to people who thought their 2nd Amendment rights meant they could set up a target range 10 paces from our house and fire handguns and rifles at the target. Right behind the target, and in the line of fire, was our childrens’ play structure (our lot extended farther back than theirs did). They allowed their adult son to come out whenever he pleased, bringing his young son, and they would fire and fire and fire and it was like living in a war zone. Not to mention that they were firing towards trees and should the bullets have ricocheted they could have hit our house, possibly penetrating the walls or windows, and killed us. Our kids were literally afraid to play outside. We tried talking to them, even asking them to just please let us know when they’d be coming out, but they refused. My husband even offered to pay for a family membership to a very nice gun range. They refused and said they were doing nothing wrong, that kids in our block grew up shooting BB guns. These were NOT BB guns. He was using .44s and at one point a hunting rifle, and the target was woefully inadequate according to experts we talked to.

      We ended up having to move, since the ridiculous township laws meant the police could do nothing. My kids could have DIED because of an idiot’s “need” to fire a gun. That is relativism and the “life is cheap” mentality. We live in a society where people are afraid to talk about God and treat life cheaply.

  • Theresa Jackson

    Dear Mrs. Alexandar, in my previous comment I addressed you as Mr. Shea, I am so sorry. I had picked up Mr. Shea’s name from a different post and applied to you. Forgive me. Thanks again for such a well written post.

  • Dave Hahn

    I think you are judging these people wrongly when you say “this is exactly what you get when you take God out of schools.” I wouldn’t be surprised if someone added, “haha, you deserve it, atheists”, because that is exactly what is meant by this meme. I don’t look at it that way. Why do you. I once had a friend say I called him a womanizer. The thought never entered my mind it was in his mind. I think these people are just trying to say that when we turn away from God and refuse his help we are lost. Didn’t Jesus say if you deny me my Father will deny you. These people are not laughing at them. How can you judge people that way. You are judging them. Maybe at one time you acted this way, thought this way and you think these people are doing or acting the same way. People often get upset at people because they see themselves in the others action. Don’t judge them. For all you know they are trying to get people to open their eyes and turn back to Christ. You are right to say that no law can keep God away but people can. Whole nations fall because they turn away from God and unfortunately it becomes a societal sin. We all suffer from one another sin.

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  • joseph muthuri

    people should that pray and be ready alwalys for they do not know the hour when the son of God will come.Nice xsmass and a happy new year

  • Lilith

    MS Alexander, bravo! Well put and thought out. I was pointed to this blog by a friend of mine who is a pastor, who posted it on his FB page, we are great friends and I trust his judgement. As a Pagan Witch I find what you say to be true in my experience as well. I hate those posts, NOT because I am Pagan, but for the exact reasons that you stated. As a Pagan I honor all spiritual paths and religions equally, but I have no time for intolerance, and that is also what these people are: Intolerant. The young man that was the shooter was Autistic and very likely did not go to public school (depending on his abilities), so making the Christian God ever present in school, or not, had no real effect in this case, and in any other mental disorder that brings people to do things like this. It is a multifaceted problem, and religion is not one of them, sorry to say so, but religion and spirituality is in the end personal and individual. Morals and ethics are learned first in the home, not in school, so to blame the schools is cruel, considering the teachers that gave their lives to save their children. What could be more godly then that?

  • Marie

    I think it is crazy to say a mentally ill person is that way because God has been taken out of the schools, or to try and say the parents/home life was not Godly. first of all, we do not know what his home life was like, but, people, he was obviously mentally ill!!! His mother could have been a saint, and he was still mentally ill!!! Losing touch with right and wrong sometimes goes along with the delusions of being mentally ill!! You cannot blame lack of God on that! I am sure his Mom did her best with what she was dealing with.

  • hope

    2 things atheists- you dont like us pushing our beliefs on you well guess what we dont like you pushing yours onto us. religious people who post stuff like that spock thing- come on!!! you are only making us look bad