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.

  • Stephanie

    It’s interesting how people can read the same thing and take away from them different meanings. When I read those things, I took it to mean that we as a society lost a lot when they banned prayer from schools, and the public sphere in general. We lost a sense of decency and humanity over the last few decades when we don’t include God in our lives. And I think they are pointing to how lots of people haven’t been raised to know God, which has an impact on how they treat other people. The shooter in this tragedy was mentally ill, and he was described as weird and nervous and socially awkward, which makes me wonder about how he was treated growing up. Did the other kids at school bully him? I would be willing to guess they did. So then the other thing I think these posts about God are saying is that those other kids would possibly, hopefully, have been influenced by being raised to know God, both at home and at school, so that maybe then they wouldn’t have bullied this kid. Which then it’s possible that maybe this shooter wouldn’t have committed this atrocity.

  • Niemand

    If God wasn’t outside the school sulking, where was He? Certainly not in school saving the lives of the innocent. Certainly not changing the heart of the shooter. Certainly not changing the heart of the shooter’s mother and convincing her to get rid of her guns before her son did something drastic with them. Where was He? Perhaps nowhere at all?

    • pagansister

      Amen, Niemand.

  • Denise

    I have to agree with Ms. Alexander, first of all using a star trek meme in that type of context is wholly inappropriate…secondly, schools are NOT where children of years past learned everything they needed to know about Christianity and God. It was taught in the home. I loved having prayer and the pledge of allegiance in our schools while I was growing up, however, as our country has become more integrated with so many nationalities and religions, it is reasonable to see that Christian beliefs should not be shoved down the throats of others who have different beliefs or that the other religions should be ignored with preference to Christians.

    Using prayer and Godliness or lack thereof in this horrendous situation is truly also inappropriate because there is always the freewill that God has given us that will utimately control our actions. Our God is not one who steps in front of anything to prevent consequences as history has shown, it is the managing of these consequences that he helps us with if we are open to it.

    I was raised Catholic and have not considered myself Catholic for a very long time…there are many other belief systems out there that are just as rewarding and helpful to their participants in this life right now. None of us really knows what the afterlife holds –everlasting “life”, 72 virgins?? We all have our “beliefs” (hopes) but it is getting through our present lives that is what counts now with our morals and beliefs intact and making a positive difference in others’ lives that is important. I believe that it is the whole “village” that teaches this: family, friends, communities, and the schools with the “Golden Rule” albeit with out “God” references.

    Heaven and afterlife will be the icing on the cake of a life charitably and well lived if it is there at all…

    God bless those poor families and the town of Newtown, please give them the strength that they will need as time goes on, in the name of Jesus…

  • Pete Howard

    I’m worried that there is a basic assumption in so many comments that public schools are amoral and purposefully exclude all spiritual and moral thought. The aforementioned “Spock” post certainly does assume that. As a high school teacher I trully say that this is not the case. Public schools, maybe more than other institution are places where we do our derndest to teach tolerance and remind students and ourselves of the addage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” For me this the essence of the message of love common to all religions. Among my colleagues, I can think not one out of more than a hundred that isn’t in the business of hoping and caring and helping these kids to grow up to be good to each other and create a good future transformed by hope, wisdom and love. I don’t throw the word “God” around because I believe in the constitutional seperation of Church and State. If it were not there, the self-righteous, who want to blame all the ills of the world on those that don’t believe as they do, would gladly step in and impose. Public school teachers might well teach kids to be critical thinkers and that scares some of the self-righteous, but we don’t do not practice religion bashing. If anything I encourage the conversation of how all spiritualities should be working in tandem to build great hearts and minds. By the way, the more important question is how to deal with the dark power that makes people drawn to guns.

  • Teresa Roberts Logan

    Amen and amen. I’ve shared this with my friends on Facebook, and they are now sharing. Thanks for stating this so clearly and so eloquently. Thoughts and prayers. peace, trl

  • Mindy

    This needed to be said. Thank you for saying it so bravely and eloquently.

  • Megan

    Thank you so much for this post, my Facebook has been full of comments and memes that make me cringe even though I often agree with the posters basic beliefs, so I can’t imagine how upsetting they’d be if I didn’t. Thanks for the well done post.

  • Joke Vermanen

    All I can say is that I totally agree with you. We need to watch out what we say because it can cause a chain of bad reactions. And as we are Christians we need to watch out even more because we represent the love of Christ.
    Thank you for pointing this out so clearly!

  • Dan F.

    Good post Calah. I have a coworker who’s niece was among those killed and it has been difficult as a father to really process what happened. Here’s my (rambling) take on it if you’re interested:

  • Al

    What Calah forgot to mention in her rant is that the person who made the Spock meme, also posted this meme earlier that day–full disclosure please.!/photo.php?fbid=462034690525428&set=a.160213980707502.42421.125416170853950&type=1&theater