Thoughts and prayers after Newtown

Caitlin Michelle-Desjardins: “A Prayer for Newtown”

God, who I believe to be Merciful, who I hope to be Healing: let us know you grieve with us today. Let us feel your tears on our skin, your wailing carried on our wind. Do not, do not be silent today. Nor tomorrow. Do more than hear our screaming. Scream with us, oh God.

Bruce Garrett: “Cold Hearts, Bloody Streets”

I wish we could have this conversation. But no. We will have another bitter pointless argument about guns, and wash, rinse, repeat, until the next time some walking time bomb goes off and kills. And then we’ll do it all over again. And the bullies will still rule the school hallways, young men will still be fed the idea that their manhood depends on dominating women, predators in business suits will still raid and loot the life savings of working people and be exalted as job creators, preachers will still preach that god hates atheists, liberals and homosexuals and that god made man to rule over women, and politicians will win votes by promising to take food out of the mouths of poor people and be regarded as statesmen in their hometown newspapers. And we will go to bed some nights when the news is horrifying, wondering why oh why can’t Americans look at one another and see a neighbor whose life is worth cherishing too.

Ashley-Anne Masters: “All is not calm; all is not bright”

Then a teenage girl stood up and said she would like us to pray for her friend’s family, because her friend had been shot and killed earlier that week. Our hearts collectively sank as she made her very matter-of-fact request: her friend, barely a teenager, died. From a gunshot wound. And she misses her.

Throughout the service I wanted to lean forward and hug her, to tell her that she’s safe, that everything will be fine. I wanted to tell her that she doesn’t have to be scared to walk home from school alone. But I can’t. This is her reality, and the reality of many on the South Side: guns, gangs, drugs and violence. This is the kingdom they encounter daily.

James McGrath: “God and Tragedy in Secular Public Schools”

The shooting in this elementary school was not carried out by some elementary-age child who had rebelled against God and, as a result, decided to kill lots of people. It was carried out by someone who came into a school where children, despite there being no formal religious activity or education imposed on them, were behaving in a civilized manner towards one another (as much as can be expected from children no matter their religious affiliation). And many lives were saved because teachers in that school, teachers who never imposed their religious views on the children, acted heroically to save their lives.

The claim that this has something to do with prayer being taken out of schools is absolute vile garbage.

Andrew Hackman: “Facebook Faith #5”

Within hours of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, talking heads were on TV and the faithful were on Facebook declaring that we should expect nothing else – because we have kicked God out of our schools.

It seems god is impotent.  Like a vampire, he cannot enter a residence unless he has been invited.

… It is a thoughtless position that the thoughtless like to proclaim. Such logic did not hold when an Amish school also experienced this horror. The view they present of their deity is one that no decent person would want any part of.

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  • Fusina

    My comment on facebook regarding this is:

    For the parents of those children in
    Connecticut, I pray peace and healing. For Bryan Fischer, I pray that he
    does not have to go through what these parents have before he learns

    When I found the first article about the shootings, it included a tweet from Bryan Fischer, something about how removing God from schools caused this.  To which I respond, “I
    just have one question regarding kicking God out of school… If God is
    indeed omnipresent, as a lot of people claim, how can one kick him out
    of school? He is everywhere. Schools, offices, government buildings–and
    he doesn’t need a monument to prove he is there. It is like the love I
    have for my children. It is there. No toy, card, or any other thing can
    prove it, it just is.”For atheists, please note that I do say if. Because I could indeed be totally deluded and inviting people to join my delusion. I have no proof that God exists–

  • Jessica_R

    That first essay is a beautiful piece of writing, but it underlines why I don’t believe in God or existence of one. There is no explanation that makes this okay, no reasoning or apologetic that placates my questioning on to why God and God in the avatar of Jesus, who worked miracles left and right, has decided to retire from show business for the last 2,000 years. You can’t have it both ways, either He is with us always or we’re on our own. 

    I ache for Newton, I ache for how preventable it could have been, I ache for the knowledge that for all that somethings you can’t prevent. I ache for the families, the children, the living and the dead. I lit a candle last night and I’ll probably do so again tonight. Sometimes that’s all you can do, light candles and draw close together in the darkness. 

  • Lunch Meat

    I have been responding to that God-kicked-out-of-schools picture with this:

     “Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?If I go up to the heavens, you are there;if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.If I rise on the wings of the dawn,if I settle on the far side of the sea,even there your hand will guide me,your right hand will hold me fast.””And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”That picture implies that tragedies happen because God is not around–because people don’t believe in him–and that’s just not true, nor does it make sense theologically. People have shot up and burned down churches. Public prayer does not protect us from all harm. We are allowed to express faith and talk about God in schools, but even if we weren’t, no one can stop us from having faith and praying in our hearts. Where we are, the Spirit of God is.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve heard it suggested that behind the demagoguery of the Fischers and Huckabees is genuine terror. Not just of shooters in schools but also of natural disasters, perhaps even seeing no distinction between the two. The fear that no one is in control. Blaming these on righteously vengeful gods is simple and convenient, and I can understand the appeal of the idea. But I don’t care how terrified these folks are, it’s still despicable for them to encourage or exploit that fear in others for their own agendas. They seek to sacrifice the liberty of others for a security that’s ultimately illusory. 

  • The most telling element in all of the Fischers and Huckabees was this:

    Kaitlin Riog, a first-grade teacher, said she was in a morning meeting when she heard what sounded like automatic gunfire. She locked her classroom door and herded her students into the bathroom, where she locked them in and blocked the door with a storage unit.
    “I felt that, in the time, I tried to be very strong for my children,” she said. “I said anyone who believed in the power (of) prayer, we need to pray. And those who don’t believe in prayer, think happy thoughts. … I told the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students. … I didn’t think we were going to live.”
    When police knocked later, she said, she told officers to slide their badges under the door, then told them to get a key to prove they were police. Officers then unlocked the door and took the children to a nearby fire department.”I just want Christmas,” she said her students told her. ” ‘I don’t want to die. I just want to have Christmas.’ I said, ‘You’re going to have Christmas and Hanukkah.’ I tried to be positive.”

    In a stressful situation, someone who acted for the good of others without proclaiming their heroism–indeed, admitting to complete and mortal fear–managed to think of the varied beliefs the people around her might have, rather than clinging tightly to her own and attempting to project them onto everyone around her.In what may be fear or anything else: two men who were not at immediate risk, instead suggested that it was the fault of people for not sharing their beliefs.Doesn’t take much to realize whose actions and words are more moral.

  • ReverendRef

    My sermon for today, Advent III, did not get preached.

    On Friday, as I busied myself with laundry and housework, I watched the events unfold on CNN and wept.

    Friday night, Mrs. Ref and I drove up to Portland to pick up one of our daughters coming home for the holiday, the other will come home next week.

    Saturday morning, as I sat in a hotel room while the girls got ready to leave, I was able to write another sermon after processing all that had happened.

    In the aftermath of yet another slaughter of innocents, many people will turn to God and ask, “Why?”

    In the aftermath of yet another slaughter of innocents, God will turn to us and ask, “Why?”

    Here’s a hint:  It’s not because we kicked God out of our schools.  Huckabee and Fischer can STF up (this sentence not in the sermon).

    The whole thing will be up on my blog — reverendref blogspot — after 3 p.m. PST.

    Rachel weeps for her children and refuses to be consoled because they are no more.

    My prayers and tears for all the Holy Innocents.

  • John Edward Harris

    Here is a link to the prayer I wrote December 16 for Newtown.