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Through the filter

July 21, 2012

Yesterday I woke early in the morning to find news of the overnight mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.  Like everyone else my wife and I were horrified by the early reports and that horror has not diminished as more information has come in.  Everyone across the political and religious spectrum paused to express sorrow, grief and sympathy.  Even our two presidential candidates temporarily suspended attack ads in Colorado.

The act of senseless violence offends and shocks us all and almost immediately everyone tried to make sense of the senseless.  It is human nature to do so.  Whether the tragedy is international, national, local or personal we all ask the question “Why did this happen?”

And, as the explanations started to flow a strange thing happened.  In asking why, the answers started to diverge.  ABC News quickly reported that the shooter had ties to the Tea Party, a report that turned out to be too quick as they later had to retract it and apologize.  Gun control advocates said that guns are the reason for this tragedy and renewed calls to ban them.

I’ve seen, in the past two days, a variety of bizarre explanations.  God, of course, has taken a hit.  There are lots of folks who questioned His existence or, at the very least, accused Him of being asleep on the job in letting this happen.  Others leapt to God’s defense saying, among other things, that this is His judgment on godless liberals, Aurora apparently being a left-leaning town.  Still others say He was judging Batman/comic aficionados and their desire for “godless” fantasy.

One feminist blogger decided that men in general are the problem.  Not to be outdone, one complementarian writer felt that the shooter was reacting (wrongly) to the “feminization” of our culture.  Calvinists shrugged and called it God’s will and trusted that goodness (as God sees it) will come.  Arminians said it was the sad act of a sinful free will.  I’ve seen even crazier explanations that I won’t take the time to list.

The pattern is clear, when we are trying to make sense of the senseless we use the filter of our preconceived notions to analyze it.  Is it any wonder that these various filters produce a bewildering variety of explanations?  One lesson we need to take from this is to use humility in drawing conclusions.  It is easy to see how the other guy used his filters to distort, or so we think, his analysis, much harder to see, let alone analyze, our own filters.

But where is God in this?  Frankly I don’t know.  Even a cursory reading of Scripture shows repeated examples of ordinary people with their lives torn apart for reasons they don’t understand.  The whole book of Job has this theme.  It is clear that God feels no need to defend Himself or give us explanations.  He gives us no assurances that our lives will not be touched with the senseless and unexplainable pain.

We Christians have often allowed ourselves to believe that our faith, if it is strong enough, will somehow enable us to avoid pain and sorrow.  But the faith I see in the Bible, and the faith I need to cling to now, is not some magic trick I can use to banish all senseless suffering; it is the lifeline I cling to when I have no diea why it happened to get through times of senseless suffering.

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From → Christianity

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