When I heard about what happened in Aurora, Colorado, last night, I couldn’t help but think about how I would have responded to a tragedy like this in the past.
First, I would have seen it as evidence of sin and evil in the world. I would have imagined the presence of pure evil that must have pervaded that movie theater as demons and perhaps even the devil himself goaded the perpetrator on. The presence of evil so dare you could feel it.
Second, like many fundamentalist leaders have done today, I would have blamed the secularism and “godlessness” of our society today, including the lack of prayer in schools and the teaching of evolution. I would have argued that without the presence of God, it’s only natural that man should give in to despair and commit atrocities like this one.
Third, I might have seen this as part of God “removing his protective hand” from America. See, I believed that this nation had been subject to God’s blessing, and that God had placed his hand over it, placing a damper on Satan’s ability to wreak havoc. I believed that America’s public turn toward secularism represented a rejection of God and his blessing, and that the (seemingly) increase in evil and tragedy in the nation were a natural result. And I believed it would only get worse
I would also have seen this occurrence as a call to dependence, both individually and as a nation, a reminder that we must turn back to God.
Today? I no longer see people’s tears as a lesson. I no longer see people’s pain as a warning.
I no longer believe that people are inherently evil. Rather, people are just…people. People have a great propensity to do good, and, yes, evil. But it’s just us. There are no demons whispering in our ears. We just…are.
I no longer believe that the restraining hand of God is necessary to keep people from going on murderous rampages. I have seen people do great good regardless of whether they believe in a God, and I personally believe I am a more moral person today than I was when I believed.I am not a psychologist, but I generally chalk this kind of atrocity up to a disturbed mind. What part is genetic or environmental, I don’t know. I’m not trying to make excuses for the shooter – he did make a conscious choice to do what he did. All I’m saying is that normal people don’t do this sort of thing. This isn’t something that, as fundamentalists would have you believe, is something any of us could do “but for the grace of God.” If mankind were intrinsically evil, you would think you would see this sort of thing more often.
Rather than simply blaming this sort of thing on “evil,” we should be working to identify and prevent it. Fundamentalists always simply point to God as the solution, but I want real world solutions. I’m a humanist, after all. The more work that is done on identifying and preventing this sort of thing the better. And I’m NOT talking about metal detectors.
My heart goes out to the victims, but I’m not going to say that this is “all part of God’s plan” as I might have in the past. And I’m not going to blame secular society or the teaching of evolution for what happened either. The truth is, we humans have the ability to do great good or commit great evil. And sometimes, shit happens. But mankind also has great potential for good, and it’s at times like this that we need to tap into this as we pull together.
I grew up hearing that God can bring good out of tragedy. Today I believe that WE can bring good out of tragedy. You know those parents who lose children and then set up foundations to make sure other parents won’t have to go through the same thing? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. And it’s a whole lot more effective that telling survivors and victims alike how much God loves them and that God has a plan for them.
As I sit here looking at my sleeping infant son, I am reminded that the Aurora shooter was once someone’s infant son as well. In the past I would have responded by praying that God would protect my son and help me raise him to be a godly man. Instead, as I sit here, I am simply resolving to do my best to raise him to be an ethical and compassionate individual. As I hold him close I feel the great potential of humanity. And on a day like today, I need that.