Where Was God in Sandy Hook?

I’ve waited for a few days to comment on the tragedy in Connecticut because it is so easy to jump to conclusions and write about such things without due consideration. The result is usually pious platitudes and insulting cliches.

Where was God in Sandy Hook? Just where he always is, in the midst of the mess. He’s there suffering with the victims, bearing the horror with us and weeping with those who mourn and raging with those who rage. Do you feel righteous rage at the insanity and senselessness of this evil? So does God. Now you understand what God’s wrath is like. Do you feel helpless sorrow, pity and nameless frustration in the face of such terror? So does God. Now you understand his frustration and anger at humanity’s inhumanity. Do you feel compassion and heartache, and don’t you want to do something for the people who are hurting–do just anything you can? So does God. Now you know how much he longs to come in to our lives and help us and do something for us to heal and reconcile and make things right. Don’t you feel rage and frustration and confusion and fear for the poor sick boy who pulled the trigger? Don’t you ask what made him do such a thing? What turned him into a murderous monster? God is in the middle of all the emotions–in the middle of the mess with us.

Why doesn’t he step in and stop the evil? Because he’s God and he created our race with free will. He allow us to do what we will. He does not impose his will on us–even when he sees what horrors we have planned. He did not deliver his own son from torture and death, but instead brought out of that darkness a new light for mankind. That’s how he handles it. He works endlessly and eternally to bring good out of evil, to bring light out of darkness, to bring life out of death and hope out of despair. This creative work of his is something he calls us to share in. We co-operate with this creative work of reconcilation. He has given us the ministry of reconciliation–to somehow fashion out of the horror–hope–to somehow keep on struggling against all odds to overcome the tsunami of evil that threatens to sweep over.

Where did the evil come from in the first place? You can’t blame it on a broken family. There are many kids from broken families who do not go on a killing spree. You can’t blame it on video games. Millions of kids play video games and don’t go out with guns to kill kindergarten children. You can’t blame it on guns. Millions have guns who do not kill babies. You can’t blame it on learning disabilities or being shy. There are many shy people with learning disabilities who are not killers. You can’t blame it on the devil unless there is evidence of demonic activity. We will probably never know what caused that boy to snap and go an such a senseless rampage.

However, I know one thing: our society is broken. Our world is broken. Our families are broken. For the last few decades we have indulged in evil. The evil of broken families. The evil of sexual promiscuity, and the subsequent violence of abortion. The evil of greed, and the subsequent violence of stealing from the poor. The evil of war. The evil of drugs. The evil of crime warfare. The evil of organized crime. The evil of a war mongering, world conquering mentality. The evil of forgetting God. The evil of materialism. The evil of complacency. The evil of forgetting that there is such a thing as evil. The evil of living a superficial selfish and pleasure seeking life and thinking that it is simply a nice, cheerful, “successful” American thing to do.

What I’m getting at is this: our Western society is sick–sick through and through with an insidious cancer. Just beneath the smiling surface of America there is a cancer of sin, and the symptom of this sickness is violence. I am just as horrified as the next person at the senseless murders in Connecticut, and I truly hope I am wrong, but I predict more of the same. The sickness is deep down in our culture, and it will continue to poke out it’s monstrous head (like that incubating beast the Alien movie) and ravage the land whenever it gets the chance.

This violence (and the other recent violence) has burst forth from our collective psyche. The boy who pulled the trigger is our son. He is our offspring. Beneath the surface our society is deeply unhealthy, and unless something is done to correct that sickness, the symptoms will continue to surface.

And it ain’t gonna be pretty.

  • http://jessicahof.wordpress.com/ Jessica Hoff

    Thank you for this, Father. It is the most helpful reflection I have read on this tragedy.

  • Deacon Dorothy Vuono

    Thank you for helping me decompress. I am a Chaplain at a local hospital and on Thursday stood by attending to a mom who’s 14 month old went down for a nap and died. Her screams are still in my head. Then I administered to a family of a 55 year old who had died while taking a nap. Then came home to the news of CT. As an ordained clergy person I try to envision what those parents and other families are experiencing. Your words are all true. I continue to pray for the mother and families I attended to and for those too many to mention one by one. I believe God is holding them in His healing embrace. Thank you.

  • Thierry P Wersinger

    Yes Father, I am afraid you are very ight

  • Jerry Woods

    Thank you, Father. I greatly appreciate and admire your fighting spirit, and your call for us to work with God as “He works endlessly and eternally to bring good out of evil, to bring light out of darkness, to bring life out of death and hope out of despair,” instead of offering passive platitudes. I wish more Christian leaders had your passion in realistically facing evil!
    JW

    • Teresa Smithson

      There are a lot of people in this nation who are turning against this God who is being represented as the One who sent the terrorist attacks, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. Religious leaders publicly attribute these things to the judgment of God. For example, Hurricane Katrina was attributed by some religious leaders to be the judgment of God. If the Lord started judging, He wouldn’t have stopped at New Orleans. Hurricanes and other disasters are not the judgment of God. They are simply part of living in a fallen, sin-scarred world. As for Hurricane Katrina, the senseless plan of building a city below sea level and then building a large lake above the city held back by levies contributed to this catastrophe, too. It certainly wasn’t God’s fault. And a crazed killer definitely not in his right mind (aka evil spirits/demon) killing innocent women and children is not God’s fault either. Man has free will and in this case a monster decided to use it for evil and not good. May God’s embrace and Holy Spirit comfort all the families and children at Sandy Hooks in the midst of a day when a person was trying to bring hell on earth to Sandy Hooks.
      The shooter had to be demonized to do something so horrific and unthinkable!

  • http://commentarius-ioannis.blogspot.com/ Paul W. Primavera

    Thank you, Father! Sharing on Facebook and at my blog.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    A gun is only an inanimate object unless animated by a human being. And human beings have both free will AND are part of a culture. And, as is obvious, our culture in many respects is broken. How can we kill millions of babies in the womb and not expect such callousness and contempt for human life to negatively affect our culture?? How can we let big corporations drown our culture in bloody video games and not expect some to act out those evil games??? How can we let Hollywood violent creations be our cultural mentors and not expect horrors to jump from the movie screens into our schools.
    But, as anyone knows, to say that the cultural issue is the key issue in all this is to open onesself to ridicule from those who are on a crusade against inanimate objects and are already exploiting this tragedy across the media before its victims are even buried .

    • Stephen Monette

      Quite right, Deacon John. I think those inanimate object crusades are an insult to those who are victims, to their grieving family and friends. It’s also an insult to our intelligence. You, Fr. Longenecker, and others who have commented here are correct. They were exactly my thoughts on the matter.
      I witnessed a beautiful response from Fr. Dan Leary at St. Andrew’s in Silver Spring, MD this past Saturday morning. He told us (I’m paraphrasing): “From now on, when this sort of tragedy occurs – and we can expect many more from our sick society – look to the parish website. There you’ll find announcements on how we as a parish will respond to and help out with the tragedy or emergency: an all-night adoration or a 10 PM Mass, for example. We will respond with deep faith in God who thirsts that we thirst for him.” He went on but I think you have an idea of how he is leading us to get down on our knees when something like CT occurs instead of shaking our heads and wringing our hands and saying things like, “what a horrible thing.” Of course we can recognize that situations like CT are horrible tragedies, but unless we do something along the lines of prayer and sacrifice we are missing God’s point completely. We would merely return to our broken lives and fail to recognize that the cause of such tragedies lies in our boredom and rejection of God. Anyhow, I could go on and on, but I think you have all said what needs to be said. Now I must get back down on my knees.

    • Sven

      Your post is self-contradictory. You decry blaming “inanimate objects”, and then you go off on this tangent about video games. Which is it?

      The “inanimate object” in question was literally designed to kill many people very quickly. Yet we act surprised when someone uses it to kill many people very quickly.

  • Kate

    Yours is sick religion. You say that those who extract a different message from the shooting are on a crusade–an ironic choice of a word for a Catholic, but you are the one banging on about your hobbyhorses, like abortion and sex. Do you really think our 21st century Western culture is worse than any other culture? What about the 1930′s and WWII in Europe and the gulags of the USSR, or middle ages at the time of the plague, or the enslavement of Africans? Were these a better times because more people prayed and there was no gay marriage and Planned Parenthood? There have always been sick, powerless, broken individuals who strike out at others–it’s not unique to our times, it just takes different forms. The sooner the sickness of religion fades away, the better.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You put words in my mouth. I never said our society was any more or less sick than any other.

      • Stephen Monette

        You’re right Father. It’s a pity most people in our society so completely misunderstand reality. Religion does not dictate and demand. It does not impose. Society cannot possibly understand the Church. The words we use go over their heads. Whatever the Church proposes (note, the Church “proposes” not “imposes”) is a truth society wants to ignore. The truth is too painful. That’s why people of our society will wish the Church and God to disappear. A society that fails to see that the murder of the most defenseless of our citizens in the place where they should be the most protected – i.e. the mother’s womb – is too sick to see its own cancer. That sort of cancer is far more dangerous than that of the Hitler, Stalin, or Mao Tse-Tung. Their mass murders were out in the open. The sickness is undeniably evident. A society that kills off millions and millions of its babies and believes there is nothing wrong with it is a blind and terminally ill society. Viva Cristo Rey!

    • Paul Rodden

      Hi Kate.

      There’s no argument that will help you see otherwise, but I would suggest that those who think religion is so nasty would be setting us an example with their exemplary lifestyle, their graciousness in speech, and compassion towards others, if that’s what atheism embodies in it’s worldview (which is what I presume you’re trying to argue because we’re the opposite).

      What puzzles me is the bitterness, hatred, and sarcasm, from those who claim to be, and know, better – like nearly all atheist posters on religious forums. Do they think we’ll find their behaviour compellingly attractive and convert? Do they think they’re putting forward a knock-down argument in their rage?

      From my experience, I can find no benefits from being atheist (not that I would consider benefit as being a criterion of truth) unless I wanted to be bitter, sarcastic, and generally nasty towards other human persons…

    • janet

      t God is everywhere, he always knows what we are doing, and why we are doing it. You know, religion HAS to have an answer for this, but the answer never makes since. Just faith…..Religion has caused more harm than good. I was raised catholic, My mother did not want any more children after my brother. She askd the priest if she could use birth control, he said no. She would not, from what my sister told me, mom would not let dad touch her till one night , my mom screamed and I was born 9 months later. I don’t think God has anything to do with crimes.

    • Ryan

      Kate, I am not a Catholic, but I have realised that the messed up people that commit these crimes are the way they are because of the very stuff these Catholics are trying to oppose. Our loose attitude towards sex and morals is destroying the family unit. The destruction of the family unit leads to an abnormal upbringing for children resulting in all kinds of emotional disorders.

  • veritas

    Just a couple of comments Father, from a distant land.

    I totally agree with you that our world is sick. I also totally agree about the list of sicknesses you went through.

    I am more and more convinced that the number one problem is disobedience of God’s commandments. The sin that caused the Fall is the same sin that is ravaging our present world – the sin of Pride. People have decidec they know better than God. They know better than God about marriage, divorce, promiscuity, homosexuality, pornography, contraception, abortion and every other moral or social issue that you can name.

    The result of all this is increasing descent into chaos.

    However, I must also mention, from a distant land, where we years ago had one of the worst gun masacres, one other factor that Americans will not face – the gun culture.

    I have read all the arguments in favour of Constitutional rights to bear arms and about how that protects Americans from a totalitarian governement takeover.

    This needs to be balanced by the simple fact that when the American Constitution was written there were no automatic ausult rifles etc. What this means in practice is that one lone crazy can walk into a theatre, a school, a shopping centre and wreak havoc in a way he could not do with a knife or an iron bar.
    Americans reply that he would use something else, like a bomb.
    Maybe – but in practice this is not what is happening.
    The simple fact is that the United States of America, one of the most “civilised” countries on the face of this earth, has one of the highest homicide rates in the world; and most of these homicides are by guns. One American Proptestant Christian website that I get emails from even had its moderater tell us that no one can be a Christian if they don’t own a gun!!!! Well I’ve got news for him. There are a lot of Christians in my country who have never owned or used a gun, and our homicide rate is way lower than yours.

    So while I agree that guns are not the root cause, it is time for Americans to do something about them! It is just too easy for a deranged individual to get a gun and kill lots of innocent people in America. It is happening far too often.

    And I know Americans hate being told this, but in the eyes of the rest of the world your gun culture is making you look very foolish. And before someone comes back with all the pro gun arguments please take a cold, hard look at the statistics. America has a shocking death rate from guns.

    None of this alters my opinion that the cause of the tragedy was sin and a turning away from God, it is simply to point America to their obsession with guns and to ask that this be reconsidered.

    • MarylandBill

      With respect, will actually look at the statistics before you make statements about the statistics. There are at least 100 countries that have a higher homicide rate than the United States. And many of them have tighter gun laws than the United States.

    • janet

      Turning away from God? Children are innocent. Saying God is not in schools. God I was told is EVERYWHERE.

  • MI Will

    The US appears to have a much larger number of these big incidents, plus a much larger number of murders and assaults than in Europe.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      America is bigger than Europe.

      • Eric D Red

        Population of USA: 315 million
        Population of Europe: 503 million

      • MI Will

        The per capita numbers for the US for murders are much higher. The US is not bigger, or much bigger, if you compare with the whole of western Europe.

        • Larry

          While the US has a higher murder rate, Europe is still a much more violent place to live than the US. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the following European nations had higher assault rates than the US: Finland, Ireland, Sweden, UK, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland. Scotland’s rate of assault was almost 5x the US; Sweden almost 4X. Other crime statistics in Europe show similar stories.

  • https://www.facebook.com/#!/NYCpadre Fr. Steve Tyminski

    Can there be any doubt that the devil and his demons have targeted the good people of Newtown, CN? The deliberate bomb threat which disrupted Mass there on the Lord’s Day today at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church convinces me of that. There is nothing that the devil hates more than prayers to Almighty God — especially when offered in response to evil perpetrated by his minions. And the wanton massacre of those holy innocents could only be committed by demonic influence exploiting an unstable mental condition. Any act of terrorism – especially invoking the name of “god” or religion — is enactment of evil by the master of such. Demonic possession usually hides out in the open, often in concert with mental illness. There does not have to be prior evidence of this for it to ultimately surface and explode within a sublime personality. The Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is a strong defense against assaults of the devil.

  • Ellen

    Excellent article and well stated. The one point I tend to differ a bit on is the point where you said we can’t blame the devil, unless there is evidence of the demonic. That is the evidence. There are many references in Scripture that tell us that Satan is out there…and he seeks to devour whom he may before the end of the age.

  • Jerry Woods

    Dear Veritas,
    Pray tell, in what Utopian land do you reside? Europe–which gave us two world wars? Russian–which never looked foolish with Stalin and the Soviets starving millions of their own people? China–that bastion of human rights? Sub-Saharan Africa–that land of peace and plenty? And so on and so on… Clearly evil is universal and we must work with God at reconciliation wherever we live. Let’s keep each other in our prayers.
    Jerry

  • Richard E

    When I first read the title of this on FB I made a quick comment, before reading what Father had written, that God was with each and everyone of those who had been shot, holding them in His arms as they drew their last breath. And Father said in different words but the same – God was in the midst of all the suffering. Every time there is a major incident like this, and there have been 12 this year – FBI considers mass shooting when 3 or more are killed – as we had Friday people flocked to their place of worship, but for how long will they feel the need to find healing in the presence of God before they go back to their way of life before the shooting? How long before they feel they don’t need God in their everyday life? In many ways with the immorality this country has chosen to follow we’re not much better that the Romans during the time of Christ because many practice the same immoralities they did.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    How can guns be the actual, basic problem??? How come not our violent culture which treats bloody violence as a form of entertainment that warps some people’s consciences or enflames mental problems in some people barely holding onto reality??? And why do some people crusading against guns refuse to ALSO face the cultural-moral problem. In fact some get virulent or angry that anyone thinks there is more at issue in a big way than just guns. Frequently, they cite the First Amendment as why they won’t speak out against media exploitation of bloodshed and violence and don’t want to even consider some Big Media controls. Well, the Second Amendment protects gun ownership as much as the First Amendment protects Freedom of the press. Maybe it’s time to treat both guns and media exploitation of violence as two sides of the same coin and put some rational, constitutional restrictions on BOTH.

    • MI Will

      Curious as to what would be need for semiautomatic weapons that can have 30, 50, or more bullets per clip.

  • Brian

    Kate, why do you troll on religious blogs? Religion will not fade away, thank goodness, but with time hopefully your cynical attitude will. With God all things are possible.

    Good post, Fr. Dwight.

    • Jennifer

      Amen

  • veritas

    Jerry,
    I’m not sure why you start out with patronsising sarcasm. I was very careful to say that ultimately there is a far bigger issue that just guns. Sure Europe gave us two hideous wars. Sure the Communist countries – the Soviets and the Chinese – are responsible for appalling human rights violations. I dispute none of that.

    But why is it that Americans simply cannot see that having automatic weapons available for any whacko to buy at a shop, or take from his mother whom he just murdered, then walk into a school and mow down 20 innoccent kids and 6 of their teachers, is just ridiculous? The 1st Ammendment did not envisage automatic weapons, capable of turning some weak nobody into a mass murderer.

    And again I would say, as clearly as can be said, that, per capita, the United States has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, certainly in the so-called civilised world, the vast majority of which is gun based.
    Why do Americans get so upset when anyone points this out?
    Instead of “shooting the messenger” (rather an appropriate saying at this point), please do something about it.

    I lived in the United States for over a year. There is much about the US that I love. I regularly defend the US when there are anti-American comments made by people here. But I will not and cannot defend the American obsession with having freely available guns. Too many innocent people have died.

  • Thomas

    Father, I felt compelled to write to you. You have strcuk a chord in me that I feel I need to say. This has been a brutal week for me, I work as a firefighter/paramedic. This past week, I have seen or expierenced a great deal. From shootings, to horrible batteries with baseball bats, having to “call” people in the field, fires where people have lost everything. Even losing people in my field, that were simply doing their job. I have even witnessed the aftermath of a school shooting first hand (not recently). I have seen what it has done to the families and to my brothers, first hand. On now the events in CT. I realize this is my chosen profession. I realize this comes with the job. I believe this was my calling from God. However, I have often asked “Where is God”? Why do these things happen?
    I am guilty of the “American Way”. Pride, greed, lust, anger, you name it. I put myself first, sometimes even before my family. Although I try convince myself that it is not so, but upon reflection, sometimes, it is all about me. I have put God second, too many times.
    So, after reading your blog tonight, I have come to a couple of realizations. First of all, God is with me, every step of the way. He is present with me, within me. I am his instrument, it is my task to use the gifts that he has given me to provide kindness, compassion, charity, to treat with decency and resapect to whomever I see in their time of need. On or off duty.
    In this society, we put God second, almost always, in our daily lives. Then when something tragic happens, we say “Where was God”? I now am beginning to see that God is speaking to me, in his own way. It is up to us, we, (me) his people to live his love. To quit going through the motions and truly live it.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for your comment. It is people like you who are doing your job with sensitivity and compassion who are helping to roll back the tide of evil. God bless you. You have my prayers.

  • http://facebook.com Kelly J. Beauchesne

    Thank You Fr. for posting this. What you write is painfully true… I believe we are all sinners in one way or another & we all need to reconcile with God & work together with Him.

    I was also very troubled by the fact that so many people flocked to churches after this tragedy (and many other tragedies before this) but can’t seem to show up to attend mass on any ordinary Sunday…We live in a world where when we don’t like the rules, we just change them and make them fit what we “want”. Remember, he gave us Free Will, but that does not mean the choices we make are the right ones.

    I pray all come to see & choose the truth from THE WORD OF GOD and apply it to their lives, and come to have a personal relationship with Almightly God through his only begotten son, Jesus Christ our Savior. And I pray that we all have the courage & perseverance to continue Christs’ work here on earth until He returns. In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit, Amen.

  • Mike

    Where is God? Same place he was on Kristallnacht. Absent. Where was God when the Catholic Church raped children repeatedly. Absent.

    You say he has to be in order for free will. Yet curious he doesn’t respect the free will of children who desire to live and not be raped, instead God upholds the free will of the murderer, and God sides with the raping priest over the free will of the child.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You should study theology before you attempt to discuss it.

      • DavidCT

        Just how much theology does one have to have to have thoughts about it? You did not answer Mike concerns or try to correct his idea of what your theology says about free will.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          If he really wants to know what the Catholic Church teaches about free will he can look it up.

    • flyingvic

      Mike, you seem to be seriously confusing normal and healthy human hopes and aspirations (“the desire to live and not be raped”) with the idea of free will, the belief that, in any given situation, an individual may choose freely between the available courses of action.

      Your confusion undermines your argument and vilifies your conclusions.

    • Paul Rodden

      Hi Mike.

      What do you mean by God ‘siding with’? It’s an interesting turn of phrase, and one I’m unlikely to use, because if you read sound (Catholic) theology (as Fr DL suggests), we don’t have what appears to be your ‘transactional’ (retributive, in your case) view of justice/providence.

      However, it is very common view among many other Christians, but that’s partly why I’m not a member of any of their sects. Neither am I a fundamentalist like most of them either, so to come back with, ‘Ah but in the Bible…’, is something to be addressed to them, not me, before you quote proof-texts. They’re the people to have a proof-text shoot-out with at High Noon…

      If you want to see revenge, to see God punish them, what is that saying about you? In short, your post seems to say more about your need to punish, and no-doubt see everyone around you get their comeuppance. Do you get a little frisson of excitement everytime you see someone ‘getting what they deserve’? Maybe you get envious if you see someone getting away, scot-free, with something you’d like to have done?

      God’s actually not a circus pony. He’s not there for performing the tricks of violence you want to to see him doing against whom you perceive as wrongdoers. But I’m betting if he did, then you’d call him a cruel tyrant, especially if he used your standard of justice against yourself…

      Let’s say you agreed with fornication, Then, no doubt, if he ‘punished’ fornicators he’d be grossly unjust and evil. But let’s say he ‘punished’ pedos, and you hated pedos? Then you’d probably get ‘the buzz’ and enjoy getting your revenge by proxy, eh?

      What actually seems to be the case is that you are letting your imagination run wild because you can’t see the result you want to see. For you, it seems ‘closure’ has to be on your terms: punishment. No mercy. No forgiveness. So unless God does exactly what you expect him to do, he’s no God of justice. But, in fact, what you’re doing is setting yourself up as the supreme arbiter of justice. Your justice is true justice, and everyone else, including God, has to comply. You want God to jump to your crack of the whip.

      Freud thought God was a projection (for feeble-minded religious folk), but he didn’t take it to its conclusion – that atheists, like himself, were doing the same…

    • Taylor

      The logical error of what Mike said is that he is confusing ‘respecting free will’ with _enacting_ humanity’s will.

      He says “curious he doesn’t respect the free will of children who desire”, but it’s not the children’s free will in question here. Their free will has to do with their own actions, not the shooter’s . What Mike is talking about is their “will”, not their “free will” as we talk about in regards to religion.

      God does not “side” with evil. Nor is he absent, as Fr. Dwight was arguing. Rather it is in the midst of suffering that God is most present — not on behalf of the agressor, but on behalf of the victim. That presence may not look like what you expect or prefer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

      As for my own thoughts, I believe God is far more concerned with who we are than the particulars of our lives (when we are born, when we die, etc.). So even when God’s action (or inaction) makes absolutely no sense to me, I have to trust that he is still God, and that (as one saint said) “all will be well” in the end. Does that mean that God is indifferent to the suffering, or didn’t care about the children dying? Of course not, which is why we trust that He holds them and their families particularly close in such awful circumstances. God grieves, as Fr. Dwight pointed out. But somehow we trust that what God allows to happen will (in this life or the next) be overcome by love.

  • FW Ken

    I’ll concede the point about automatic weapons and large clips. A police sergeant told me once that all the big stuff is fine for drug raids and SWAT situations, but his day-to-day carry is a five-shot Smith & Wesson wheelgun. That’s adequate, in my mind, for home defense. Hunters should be allowed reasonable weapons, as well.

    That said, the problem in the U.S. is much deeper than weaponry and we will simply find more ways to kill one another when guns are restricted. A couple of discussions I’ve followed have focused on mental health issues and the care we give to those folks.

  • FW Ken

    Since I didn’t say much theology, I’m assuming Father’s comment refers to Could’ve comment. In any case, this references back to Mike:

    Father didn’t say God was absent, but that He was in the middle of the situation in love. You seem to want a god pulling strings, in control, in a world where nothing bad ever happens. That’s not our God, nor is that this world.

    Perhaps this its why atheism is so destructive of the human community: power and control destroy. Love gives life.

  • FW Ken

    Oh, and who is this “Catholic Church” that rapes children? People commit rape, whether they are priests, pastors, boy scout leaders, teachers, or school janitors.

    Mike might study English writing skills, as well as theology.

    • Jesushavemercy

      Are you similarly confused when the news reports say “The White House commented today…”? What! Houses can’t talk!

    • Clive

      Or you could have shown Mike the smallest amount of compassion for all the terrible things he has seen rather than act like a stereotypical arrogant, uncaring Christian. Yes I know most Christians aren’t bad people, but you’re sure not one of them. Just show a little compassion and kindness once in a while rather than doing everything in your power to prove you’re right, and people might respect you a little more. Just a thought I’m sure you won’t even consider listening to, because you’re right and everyone who doesn’t completely agree with you is the problem. Have a nice life. And stop with the cynicism, anger and arrogance.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        You sound very judgmental, angry and self righteous Clive.

  • Eduardo

    Thank you for your thoughts, Father L. The insight about the decaying cultural and attitude in the US and western world is correct. This society is starting to smell, like anything that lays around rotting. Thomas Merton recognized the same stench nearly 70 years ago on the cusp of World War II and it has only gotten worse since them. And regardless of who may roll their eyes at this, I believe Satan is behind all this. Really.

  • Al Bergstrazer

    Yes, our country and every other one is deathly sick with the malady of fearing evil more than fearing God. At an early age our children are pawned off onto daycare while mom and dad go to work. They’ve grown up answering to no one but their peers. The typical urban/suburban parent is harried and befuddled, scurrying to fulfill a child’s wishes and then hesitantly drawing the line. In an age where nearly all forms of discipline are viewed as morally suspect, and punishable in a court of law the discipline is left to the school system. Once they’ve been whelped in daycare, they’re raised in schools that teach them nothing, (and are also unable to discipline) the children nevertheless pick up the gist of the matter, which is that their society is a racket founded on various historical injustices. When they get home, they are immersed in social media and violent games and other media that gives them a little dopamine rush that validates its veracity and makes it in their undeveloped minds the most real thing that’s happened to them all day. All talk of love is reduced to narcissim and sex, and sex is no longer for married men and women but a series of choices and alternatives that serve to further debauch and diminish the young person’s dignity. Aspersions are cast upon all that is good, Holy or heroic. while the distinctions between man and woman are distorted and blurred. ‘Raisinig’ children has degenerated into what could only realistically be seen as keeping them occupied and distracted until they finally leave the nest thinking that the world will cossset and coddle them just the way they have been since birth. What could possibly go wrong in all of this? In this pressure cooker of instant gratification stirring a pot full of idleness, hormones, insecurity and meaninglessness anger and frustration boils up and erupts in violence. All it takes is to pull one piece out of an already shaking house of cards. Children are being raised with nothing that is sure and true and that they can be certain of. Everything is suspect. They do not have a sense of who they are and why they exist and that there is someone bigger than they are and that they answer to.

    • swwilliams

      Tell people what to do not what we do wrong. We all know what is wrong. The true need is what “to do”. Have you ever been enlightened when you actually learn what you should be doing after just doing the best you know how to do. You seems to “get it” please share with others what to do on a Saturday when you are in charge of the kids, or want to get more involved. Sometimes the steps are more simple than you would ever imagine. People think they have to be Barney to be a good parent. Many people would be surprized how just throwing or kicking a ball with their kid can start things in the right direction and fill that kid with love from a parent that Barney could never do. What are your thoughts?

  • TheresaEH

    AMEN!!! Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta told the members of the UN that the “Fruit of abortion is nuclear war”……..sadly these shootings are the build up to it !

  • Cahie Duncan-Kidrick

    I pray daily for our Lord’s speedy return. Thank you, Father for your insight and wisdom.

  • DavidCT

    In what way is our society sick and getting worse. Violent crime and drug use have been declining for the last two decades in the US. They are even lower in Western Europe. How is getting closer to your god supposed to help. The health of societies by most measures of such things show a negative correlation with religion and well being.

    I read you assertions about where god was during the horrific events in Connecticut. I fail to see how these assertions are in any way inconsistent with a god who is just not there. How can anyone tell the difference?

  • Mr. Common Sense

    Im sorry Rachel this is offensive in my opinion. The suggestion is that since God is not “allowed” in school (which isnt even true by the way) that he/she/it is somehow teaching us a lesson by letting or even setting up a situation in which these kids could be killed. If the supernatural really exist wouldnt this have been the perfect opportunity for God to show his power and thus make even the most skeptical believe? Why didnt this omnipotent, omnipresent spirit just “appear” in the classroom, make the bullets coming out of the gun disappear, or freeze the bullets in mid-air, or even now he could repair the children’s wounds, bring them back to life, or perform some other miracle. Instead the suggestion is that since we dont teach religion in school God got mad at us for not stroking his ego enough and decided to turn his back on us, let “evil” win, and destroy lives! RIDICULOUS and insulting to common sense. Do religious people really think before they make wild statements like the ones above? Its ignorant, irresponsible, and worse, dangerous. Maybe we should put our energy in looking for real solutions to things like mental illness and gun control issues instead of resorting to superstition and wishful thinking for the answers. Sheesh.

    • flyingvic

      Who is Rachel? No-one on this thread that I can see! But I have seen something somewhere that reminds me of what you’re saying: it is the idea that since in today’s society so many people are trying to push any notion or mention of God so far into the background that it appears we don’t want him in public life at all, it ill becomes those same people to complain that God appears to be absent when a tragedy like this school shooting happens. If Rachel (wherever she posted) suggested that you can’t have it both ways then that would seem to be reasonable rather than offensive. In fact the ‘wild statements’ come from those who suggest that unless God acts in a particular way and at a particular time (freezing bullets in mid-air, for example) they’re not going to believe in him.

  • Gap

    David,

    Read scripture. GOD gives wisdom to those who know Him. Others will be kept blind.
    Hopefully,one day you too will see the truth of everything

  • Ginny

    “And it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

    That’s pretty much what God told Jeremiah. “If you topple when things are fine, what will you do when the Jordan floods its banks?” Or, in other words, “If you think things are bad now, just wait – things are going to get a lot worse and you’d better be ready for it.” And what happened wasn’t a bit pretty.

    Keep preaching, Father, about the evils of our society. We need many more Jeremiahs.

  • Kathryn

    Father, your comments are insightful and will help me explain to my students God’s role in this tragedy. However, what do you advise going forward? If this is truly a cultural or societal disease, how do we (teachers, parents, priests) cure it? The problem had far exceeded the legal battle of Roe v. Wade, the war on gun control, and even the frank discussions about mental illness. We are now dealing with a world in which our children are legally playing life-like video games that simulate war and murder, desensitizing our youth to death. They watch movies depicting sex and pornography at the tender ages of 10 and 11. How can we blame this generation for a mindset they were given? As a teacher, these examples frustrate me because they are not encouraged or allowed at school– it’s the time at home when parents turn a blind eye that their children are exposed to such inappropriate material. Do you have any advice for Educators? How can we fix these issues when we only control what happens in the classroom? (And when theology only goes so far with 7th graders)…

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The answer is more in the home than the school

  • Kathryn

    But should it start in the school? Could it? We tip toe around everything we say to parents– to say what really needs to be said would be branded as outrageous and insulting… Even at a Catholic school. It needs to start at home, but it’s not, so what’s next…?

  • swwilliams

    Here is how simple it is..one good deed done for the kid who shot all the kids could have made all the difference. You…yes you…do one good deed a day. Make a difference! One kind deed done by another could have made this guy not want to show the world he was there. i think that is what happened…He just wanted the world to know how hurt he was that nobody seemed to care about him. he may have even thought he was making a stand for other like him. He may have played the blood sport games that desensitive your mind the same as pornagraphy does about sex. He may have been able to get a gun that can kill many. He may have had many of the demons of the mind. My bet is that the one thing he did not have is a feeling like somebody cared for him. One kind deed and his world could have looked a little less dark. Pray for God to provide you with this opportunity each day. It can be as little as feeding the meter for the guy next to you that did not make it back in time. The less reward or thanks there is in it for you the more it will matter to that other person. When is the last time you have listened to someone (not important) like they were the most important person in the world. Change you…change the world. Believe me the demons will spit in your face, and try to make you stop..do two that day!

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  • Observer

    If you turn your back, you cannot see what’s behind you. And when a culture or society are looking into a world of immorality and evil for entertainment, immunity to any serious evil and dangerous situation is gone. Your main problem is a whole culture’s increasing disposition to evil and the allowing of it, particularly in an imagined realm giving people only pleasure treating other persons as objects, and no sense of sobriety and real love nor a foundation in truth.

  • Dale

    I came across your site when I googled “how could a merciful god…” as I am very curious how people can explain such horrific tragedies. As a non-believer, I do not worry about where god was or why god did or didn’t do something because I don’t believe in his existence. However, I do believe that it is important for all of us to understand what we humans can to help people who face tragic events and how we can react appropriately to suffering. That’s my search anyway.

    Having gone through the thread and read most of the responses, I do have a question. How can anybody continue to accept the possibility of miracles? If Sandy Hook wasn’t a situation where your God’s presence was absolutely essential prior to the events, then there is no way that I can accept your God’s interference in other more mundane events like the curing of disease or saving someone lost in the woods. Does your God actually pick and choose when he will interfere in the affairs of humans? I am not looking to get into a debate, I am just curious.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      God cannot over rule a human being’s free will. The miraculous is when God’s will combines with human will to accomplish something good that occurs outside the normal running rules of the natural order.

      • Dale

        Thank you for your quick response, but I am still trying to make sense of this.

        In your faith, miracles happen. If I am not mistaken, John Paul II has been credited with saving a nun from Parkinson’s and may be credited with helping a plane land or making a tumor disappear, or some other “miraculous” occurrence so he can be granted sainthood. Now I am not sure who is interceding or why they are doing so, but wouldn’t you think those 20 innocent children and their six dedicated teachers deserve the same kind of intercession as the nun or the plane’s passengers, or the person with cancer. I guess what I am asking is why do some people get special treatment (and they have to be getting special treatment if the Vatican decides that it’s a miracle) while others have to suffer so unfairly.

        As well, why can’t God over rule a person’s free will? Are you suggesting that he doesn’t have the power to over rule or just chooses not to. I get that he may not want to intervene in every single mundane event where humans are messing up even when they may result in tragic events. I can see why perhaps He won’t stop people from using illegal drugs or overeating or driving drunk or cheating on their spouse or avoiding taxes or even robbing a bank or murdering a business partner. In those instances as stupid or unjustified or heinous as they may be, the person committing those actions is making a conscious free will decision.

        That doesn’t seem to apply in Sandy Hook. 26 innocent lives were taken and I am not even sure that the shooter was acting freely.

        God or a saint or a saint in waiting cannot intervene on behalf of those innocent people yet people are quick to credit the praying to John Paul II as a plane spins out of control as the cause of the safe landing. Some of the people on that plane may not have deserved being saved, certainly not as much as the 20 children. It just seems so arbitrary.

        Again, I am not trying to argue (even if my tone may imply that). I am genuinely interested in your response. Thank you.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I don’t think you have a clear understanding of what we mean by intercession of the saints, prayer, free will, theodicy, the question of evil or divine providence and I’m afraid I don’t have the time to instruct you. However, if you are truly interested in the answers there are many resources for you to continue your research.

          • Dale

            Well that was an unsatisfying response. Of course I don’t understand what you mean. That’s why I asked the questions. And I can understand your not having the time to waste on some guy like me, but sheesh, the brush off was a little harsh.

            So let me try again. A couple of weeks ago, I read “The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happen to a Good Person” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. (Great explanation of Job by the way.) If I followed him accurately, he seems to be admitting that God isn’t all powerful. That He can’t completely control the chaos that was there before He created the world. Thus we have hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

            He also said that God cannot control the free will that we were given. Thus we have drug abuse, tragic accidents and random shootings.

            In your original post you asked “Do you feel righteous rage at the insanity and senselessness of this evil? So does God. Now you understand what God’s wrath is like. Do you feel helpless sorrow, pity and nameless frustration in the face of such terror? So does God. Now you understand his frustration and anger at humanity’s inhumanity.”

            Helplessness, anger, and frustration are all signs of powerlessness. Is God not omniscient, all-knowing, all-powerful? Because that’s what you seem to be implying.

            And if you don’t have time to respond, perhaps some of your followers might. Thank you.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            God’s Omnipotence is proven by human free will. One of the reasons I give short answers is not only because of my lack of time, but also because the answer is more satisfying if the person themselves searches for it. Seek and you shall find…and all that.

          • Dale

            “God’s omnipotence is proven by human free will”? I give up. I can’t begin to get my head around that one.

            “The answer is more satisfying if the person themselves searches for it”? I thought I was searching for an answer. That’s why I came to your blog. I actually find that response – I know the answer but it’s better that you search for it – somewhat condescending.

            Sorry for wasting your time. I promise not to post again.

            But do have a Merry Christmas.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I apologize if my response sounded condescending, but it’s the sort of thing that is really very complex and not easy to explain–but if one does attempt to search out the answer it is in the process of that search that one begins to understand. There is another small matter. I don’t usually engage in long or complicated or personal discussions in the combox. That’s what internet forums are for.

            Sometimes I do engage with people who have genuine questions or problems by email. That allows for both more time and more privacy. If you would like to continue the discussion by email I’m happy to hear from you.

            You have a Merry Christmas too!

    • flyingvic

      “Helplessness, anger, and frustration are all signs of powerlessness.” Agreed. Christians believe that this powerlessness of God is self-imposed. The free will God has given us is an absolute gift – we really can choose to do anything that is within our power. When the choices we make are so wrong that they lead to human tragedy and suffering or the desecration of the created order or the repudiation of he gift of life, it is not difficult, surely, to see that God our Father might well (to use human terms) feel helplessness, anger and frustration.

  • DoctorD

    “Where was God in Sandy Hook?”
    Just where ____ always is.
    Nowhere.
    Since ____ doesn’t exist.
    This is not a problem for a nonexistent deity. This is the result of the American populace, out of fear and ignorance, arming itself to the teeth with deadly firearms. Weapons that are picked up by our deranged 15-25 year old white, male children, intent on going out with a bang.

    • flyingvic

      Interesting that you choose to underline the great gap in your sentences. Indicative of a gap elsewhere in your life, perhaps?

  • Tanialee

    You’ve said it very well Sir. We have been a hedonistic sin sick country for such a long time. Nobody seems to care about anything except what brings them pleasure (there are exceptions of course of those who do care). I have anovel idea as to how to help halt some of this horric maascre mentality.
    My petiton here will exlain what my proposal is and I know that it can be done and work.
    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-nut-cases-from-buying-guns.html
    I am a certified handwriting analysis, and handwriting doesn’t lie.

  • Jim Dorchak

    God was there.

  • Karen Layton

    Thank you Father, for your eloquent words. I believe you summed up the America we live in. How may we change for the better? What concrete steps will bring about rebirth of the America Of my birth? I truly feel helpless. God give us strength.

  • IB Bill

    Thank you, Father. Very difficult thing to explain, that is, at its core, unexplainable, a mystery.

    I am always hesitant to post thoughts on theodicy or write about it at all. I believe the only answer needs to be incarnated action … being there in person, right there, sending words, thoughts, a card. It’s the only thing that’s ever helped me, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever done that has helped: that someone else is there with you through this, or is thinking of you and thought enough to tell you. There have been moments where the smallest kind word meant a big difference to me.

    That’s the only answer to evil. But it doesn’t stop it.

  • http://www.littlejesusandme.blogspot.com Monica

    I’m late in reading this, but what you said about God being there, suffering with the suffering and hurting with those who are huring is so right and so true. God isn’t to blame. We the people are the ones at fault.

  • robert l

    Go ahead and apologize for your inept and powerless imaginary god ! The same god that promises to protect believers, the same god that some of these dead children heard about in sunday school class the week before they were brutally murdered. If god is love then it’s a damn sight different kind of love than humans have for their loved ones! You, my friend, are delusional!!

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      You are right that the love of God is very different from human love. Human love is but a pale reflection of God’s love.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2012/12/where-was-god-in-sandy-hook.html Elizabeth Beetle

    YES IT IS THE ACTION and NOT THE INSTRUMENT. I know this because if I owned such a weapon I would be too scared to touch it, and would not be able to sleep knowing I owned something capable of harming anyone on such a level. I believe in my families protection and if I had to own a gun ok, but NEVER would i go out and buy something with that level of capacity to KILL. Knives are used for cutting food, and could kill, but give a crazy man a gun like that watch how much more harm they can do with a gun than a knife or even a simple hunters gun. Ok so the sickness is our society, but look at the creation of an automatic gun, and it’s capacity to kill. ENGLAND DOES NOT HAVE gun crime like ours. It is a way more peaceful innocent and safe society. I think Christ would agree. The police own clubs there thats it. The sickness comes from fear! to let go of this so called protections that comes back and kick us in the butt. I am a Christian, but I don’t agree with right wing Christians. There is more fear there then love, and that is part of the sickness!

  • wilson

    I’m a U.S Marine. No matter how many lives I save, terrorists I kill, I will never seek recognition, ask people to read a book, or ask people to bow down to me for all eternity. I won’t ask people to believe that I exist because I know my worth. I won’t force things down people’s throat…. I will actually try to save lives whenever I can, instead of sitting back and doing nothing but watch the innocent get slaughtered and then come in after to “help”. Your sky friend doesn’t seem very “good” to me.


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