Where God Weeps: Sandy Hook and the Myth of Redemptive Violence

A Sailor puts away a Hellfire missile.

Bow Before What We Worship

God weeps.

That, if anything, has been the primary theological response of Americans in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre where 20 young boys and girls were murdered.

Indeed, in the wake of such incomprehensible tragedy, perhaps this is the only theological response that makes much sense. It’s not that God is absent, whether through lack of care for humanity or lack of prayer by humanity. Rather, God is with us, weeping with us, sharing in our sorrow.

That is after all, as my friend the Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons noted, the radical promise of Advent and Christmastide, that God is with us in the midst of violence, tragedy and injustice.

God weeps with those who weep. Jesus wept at the death of his own friends. Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane.

There is power in a God who weeps.

My fear, though, is that in our understandable anger at those who will blame the Sandy Hook tragedy on gay people, atheists and progressives, we will miss something about our God who weeps.

That God has been weeping.

For a long time.

God weeps for the thousands (270,000 from 2001-2010) who die with little notice each year from gun violence in the U.S.

God weeps for the young men and women shot and killed in our cities, but forgotten and ignored because, no matter their age or circumstance, the color of their skin makes them thugs subhuman in society’s eyes.

God weeps for the scores of innocent men, women and children obliterated in American drone and missile strikes — and the people who carry them out.

God weeps for the five million children who die each year of starvation and hunger-related diseases in a world with enough food to feed all.

God weeps for the 10 young girls who die after stepping on a leftover landmine while collecting firewood.

God weeps for the exponential spiral of violence that births only more violence.

God weeps, too, for our indifference.

God weeps for our complicity in it all as well, for our deaf ears and blind eyes, that it is only just now, because of the Sandy Hook massacre, we have begun to hear God crying.

Why does it take something like the mass slaughter of innocents in a wealthy suburb for us to begin to hear God’s cries? Indeed, perhaps the reason why God’s voice seems so muted so much of the time in our world is that we are listening for God in the wrong way. We hope, self-centeredly, for a word, a sentence, a sermon of inspiration to make us feel better, when we should be listening for the sorrow of God instead.

And, maybe, if we begin to follow God’s weeping where it leads, we will finally begin to follow God as well, to follow the way of peace, nonviolence and justice Jesus announces with his birth and life.

Because if we are honest, we are a nation that believes passionately in the exact opposite of Jesus’ way, the Reign of God.

We believe instead in Reign of  Violence.

We do not believe that the meek inherit the earth, that the sorrowful are blessed, that the peacemakers are the children of God.

We believe might makes things right, in explosions, assault rifles and Hellfire missiles.

Think about that. We believe in Hellfire, not the kingdom of heaven. And we believe such violence is redemptive, a part of our birthright and manifest destiny. Much of American Christianity, in fact, is built on this myth of redemptive violence. It is our religion, that God needs innocent blood to bring about salvation. This is what we worship and it is a monstrosity.

Toys of Mass Destruction.

And the law of prayer is the law of belief.

We believe not just in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We believe in a decade of missiles, drone strikes and all-out war around the world in exchange for one day of violent tragedy on our own soil.

God weeps for Sandy Hook?

Most assuredly. But it is a continuation of God’s long, mournful wail at our ability to kill those made in the image of God with an efficiency bordering on the pathological.

God weeps, too, because we believe it is our right and bounded duty so to kill those we believe deserve to die.

Whether by the needle, by missile or by gunfire.

We believe we are the violent justices of peace in this world.

We believe we are the false God we believe in.

God weeps for that too.

God has been weeping.

But we have only just now begun to hear it.

_____

For more on the Myth of Redemptive Violence, please, please, please listen to this podcast from The God Article’s Mark Sandlin and Zac Bailes of Crazy Liberals and Conservatives.

About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • Abril

    Well said, David. We need more people bringing the theology of Girard, Wink, and others who explode the myth of redemptive violence to the Christian base.

  • http://www.facebook.com/restoration.community Tom Batterson

    Beautiful… I don’t think there is anything I can add.

  • Vasnun45

    well said!

  • Firefly1081

    Wow! God help us all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-Kellam-Scott/100000580213713 Barbara Kellam-Scott

    Thank you, David. I’ve named the Myth so many times these last days, I’m almost afraid it’s become numbing. At least no one has dared to protest. I will offer you in return the word I have learned to substitute for the domination language of even “reign” of God: kindred. Once you’re talking about aspiring to or relating in any way to the kindred of God, you’re almost close enough to taste the salt of God’s tears.

    • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

      I struggle with the domination language, to be honest. For one, you are right in your critique. But on the other hand, it can sound so foreign as to be ineffective rhetorically in a piece of writing. Thanks for writing. I will continue to struggle with it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-Kellam-Scott/100000580213713 Barbara Kellam-Scott

        Just discovered your response, a day after leaving a Facebook “church” because another member prayed that God “cover Boston with the blood” (and no, he didn’t indicate until challenged whose blood he meant). We struggle together.

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    And, God weeps at the 1 million innocent lives that are snuffed out each year all in the name of a woman’s right to choose. God has been weeping for a long time. And, this travesty last week only adds fuel to the fire we call violence. I am convinced Americans are a uniquely violent people. It’s in our movies, books, TV, military, mythical heroes, and in our own lives. It’s in our blood. America was established from violence and it will likely cease to exist due to some form of violence someday. It is because of events from last week, and America’s quest for more violence in the form of war, guns, abortion, etc. that I am ashamed to be an American. But, that is where God chose for me to be born, and it is where I will likely die. And, I will have to live with that.

    May God have mercy upon America and its people.

    • Kathleen Smith

      Have you ever thought about helping women learn about other choices they could make instead of abortion? Or maybe help an adoption agency. Many Americans are kind and caring people. Hope this helps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lock-Ledger/100003358636615 Lock Ledger

    This writing would pass of poetry class, or creative writing. A lot of heart, but there needs to be deeper thought with the Sandy killings. Lamenting a drone toy doesn’t do much.

    • David R. Henson

      If what you got out of that post was that I was lamenting a toy drone, let me suggest you have either missed the point of the article, are not giving it a fair read or are only looking at the pictures. I wonder, too, if you have taken the time before commenting to read the previous two essays on this subject I have written here.

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