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.

  • Jessica

    Al, the link you posted is lovely. Unfortunately, not everyone who shared the “Star Trek” meme shared both pictures. Doing one good thing, or even many many good things, does not mean that the “Star Trek” meme was not horribly misguided and wrong. If I’m mostly good all day and “only” sin once or twice, my sins are still sins.
    Calah wasn’t cherry-picking quotes out of context: she found it disturbing that anyone would make this picture, and that that people would share it.

  • Krista

    Oh, you couldn’t be more right! I have been begging my FB friends to show compassion and kindness – to quit trying to prove they’ve been “right” this whole time others have been “wrong.” It breaks my heart that a tragedy that could unite us so closely is already deepening the divide. So, a friend and I teamed up to try and change that cycle. It is small, it is inadequate, it is written to be more ecumenical and less Catholic (she’s an atheist), but it is helping me and my friends. We have dedicated 28 days to doing better – being kinder – as a very small token of the least we can do. I’m just sorry it can’t be more, but I tie it to the suffering of Our Lord on the cross and pray for his healing mercy. You can join us too, if you want: or #28DaysForNewtown. God Bless You All.

  • Dawn

    I totally disagree with the fact that people that share this thought that taking God out of schools causes issues and sadness are saying they deserve it. It’s arrogant to shove those words and thoughts into people mouths.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      Then what, pray tell, are you trying to say?
      It sets up dominoes “God out of school”, “Evil in”, and pushes them down, the inevitable next domino is “kids die”. It’s a causal chain that absolutely implies, “How are you too stupid to see this is inevitable? Guess you’re the kid who just had to grab the electric fence, huh?”
      It’s arrogant to ignore the implications of your words.

  • Donald McBee

    Not to mention that it is inaccurate, prayer isn’t banned in schools, state sponsored prayer is prohibited. I don’t understand why this is so difficult for people to understand. The funny thing is that one of the first cases against school prayer and Bible reading in public schools was forwarded by Catholic plantiffs, in Wisconsin, against mandatory readings of the KJV Bible in Wisconsin public schools. The ruling in question was only on the state level, but was later used as precedent future cases.
    The case in question is this one:
    Weiss v. District Board (1890)

  • Byran

    I agree with the sentiment expressed in that Spock thing but I agree that this is not really the appropriate for it. It seems just as cynical and exploitative as those immediately calling for more gun control.

    And yet, perhaps because I don’t use facebook, I’m more concerned with the crimes against spelling and grammar. If this was intended as a volley by home/private schoolers against public education then it badly misfired. “Abhors” has no ‘e’ in it and there should not be a comma after “schools” unless one is placed after “logically,” in which case there should not be one after “so.” And the phrase “by definition” is not correct in this context. “By definition” is applied to single words or compounds. “Nature abhors a vacuum” is a phrase; a complete clause. It has a meaning but not a definition. Apparently

    “So logically, when God is removed from schools evil will, by inference, take His place”

    didn’t have the same punch to it. I think my version sounds better but I still wouldn’t be using it in reference to the Connecticut tragedy. God help us all.

  • Byran

    ..and of course the universal law that one will always make a grammatical error in a writing which attempts to correct another’s grammar proves inviolable once again. So of course I meant “…not really the appropriate time for it.”

    I give up.

  • pagansister

    This whole horrific, sad, terrible, unbelievable incident had nothing to do with whether anyone “prays” in public school each day or not, or whether there is GOD in school or not….absolutely NOTHING! IMO, there is no need to have automatic weapons for “target” shooting or hunting. “W” and crew allowed the automatic weapons ban to expire—one of his many contributions to this country. Perhaps that would help–reinstating the ban forever–not just 10 years as the old one was. May all those beautiful children and those that died trying to protect them rest in peace. Their spirits will live forever in the universe. I can only try and imagine the grief of their families—-my heart goes out to them—-their sorrow is being felt by all.

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  • Anthony S. Layne

    Totally, totally, totally agree with this post.