Walking Our Faith: We no longer want your thoughts and prayers (column)
Walking Our Faith
A few days after the massacre at a small Baptist church in Texas, a former Christian pastor turned politician tweeted: “TX killer was liberal atheist stopped by Christian NRA instructor with privately-owned firearm when existing gun laws failed to stop him.”
If the former pastor had relied on the Bible for wisdom and inspiration, he would have come closer to God’s perspective: The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18)
Because of course, we are all God’s children, liberal or conservative, atheist or Christian. God loves us. And because we are all sinners, both the shooter and the former pastor, God sent his son to live with us, to share our sorrow, to cast out our demons, to forgive the criminal hanging on the cross next to him, and most of all, to heal our broken hearts.
In the days, immediately after the shootings, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with politicians pledging thoughts and prayers for the victims. Their constituents, perhaps exhausted from hearing this for the third time in as many weeks, responded: We no longer want your thoughts and prayers if you’re not doing anything to keep us safe.
That this latest massacre happened in a small Baptist church where the congregants were multi-generational families, where in an assembly of 50 people, over 450 rounds of ammunition were fired, leaving half of the congregation dead and the other half seriously injured and forever scarred, before anyone had time to react, makes it more obscene.
I believe in the Second Amendment and gun ownership. Millions of law-abiding gun owners enjoy hunting and skeet shooting and treat guns with safety and respect. Yet, mass shootings are growing in frequency. What are we to do? And what does this have to do with God?
Because I am a faith writer, my mind drifts back to the families in that church worshipping God on a beautiful Sunday morning. The enormity of the pain and loss that was created in a precious few minutes haunts me. And when I read on Facebook, “we no longer need your thoughts and prayers,” I know that as much as it is an expression of anger toward our congressional representatives, it is also a fist-shaking anguished cry to heaven, “Where were you, God?”
Because we believe our church should be a sanctuary from a world gone mad. If God loves us, we should be exempt from these random acts of terror. Yet, we know this is not true. History has proven this more times than we can count.
These are the moments when atheists say, “If there was a loving God, he wouldn’t allow this to happen.” And if we are honest, in a quiet corner of our heart, we ask the same thing to the living and loving God we are sure exists. And perhaps that certainty makes our question more painful.
Oh yes, God loves us. God was in that church, as he has been in every place when those he loves are suffering. And he loves us all. God’s love is never diminished by evil. Not one iota of God’s love can be separated from us or us from God’s love. In our unbearable pain and fear, this truth is what we must cling to.
Come, my children, and listen to me, / urn away from evil and do good. / Search for peace, and work to maintain it. / The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; / his ears are open to their cries for help. / But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil; / he will erase their memory from the earth. / The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. / He rescues them from all their troubles. / The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; / he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:14-18)
We must heal our broken hearts with the balm of God’s love. And then reach across the divide to those who hold different opinions and work together to make our world safer. When we insist on all-or-nothing thinking, on either side of the gun issue, we remain stuck.
When we refuse the siren’s call of labels that divide us, and choose to unite under the banner of God’s commandment that we love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we can respect our differences while working toward a common goal of a peaceful society.
Yes, we dearly need your thoughts and prayers. But let us also take God’s love into the world, as Jesus did every day, and use that holy power to make our world better for everyone.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of “A Map of Heaven.” She lives in Breckenridge. Join her at Facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths or http://www.suzanneelizabeths.com.
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