Reckoning With Tragedy Does Not ‘Require Faith’

Last night, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy saw fit to ruminate on the “power of faith” at a memorial service in Newtown. During times of strife, he declared, we are “required to be invested in our faith,” which is a “gift from God.”

Presumably, Malloy’s intent was to console the anguished families. But that such generic spiritualism could legitimately aid in anyone’s grieving process seems doubtful; the notion of “faith” he invoked is so nebulous as to be completely devoid of substance, alienating both devout believers and secularists. His assertion of a “faith requirement” was particularly bizarre, vacuous, and wrong. Perhaps the governor is unaware that many among us are capable of absorbing tragedy without appeals to supernatural authority.

When a community congregates to grieve after collective trauma, there is room for accommodation of various religious traditions. And indeed, one need not affirm the doctrinal truth of Christianity in order to glean wisdom from priests or appreciate a Bible verse. But Malloy’s lazy invocation of religious primacy was misguided, much like his proclamation on Friday that “Evil” had “visited” Newtown. In all likelihood, what really “visited” Newtown was a young man with a deranged mind. Pretending otherwise — and falling back on empty superstition — does no one any good.

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