Sensibilities are shaken when congregants gathered in prayer become victims of a gunman’s malice, killing six, wounding and terrorizing others as happened at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin recently. It feels like an eerie echo of the 12 people who died and 58 who were wounded while watching a movie only weeks before in Aurora, Colorado.
But this I know: Despite the aggressive attempts of some religionists to claim otherwise, God does not kill certain people as punishment for other people’s sins. People who claim so in the name of Christ are misinformed about Christ.
When I hear of anyone who has passed on for any reason, I find I have to be sure I’m not sliding into acquiescence with the finality of death. My Christian conviction of the eternality of life and the resurrecting power of the Christ here and now, makes me want to defend the continuity of the individual’s life, even though it is hard for me to see it.
Jesus said, “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). True Christians believe Jesus’ life embodied such purity, meekness, and authority that his life inspires in others radical readjustments in the way they live and think. So, do we really need more people to die to prove a point about sin?
When I first heard about the Colorado shooting, all I could think about was the time when so many children were killed at the time of Jesus’ birth. Terrified by the prospects of this promised child displacing him, King Herod ordered all babies two years old and younger in the region around Bethlehem to be killed. As the Bible reports there was great mourning among the women of Judea (see Matthew 2:16–18).
Not one of those children deserved to die. The only clarity I have found about those deaths is similar to these more recent killings: that somehow their innocence protected them. The eternality of life I have learned from Jesus’ example tells me their individuality prevailed, even though we didn’t get to see it. Whether a life is long-lived or short, the value of the individual’s contribution stands as an eternal blessing. The quagmire of grief yields to the comfort of gratitude for the gift of their blessing in our lives.
The worst part of associating God’s will with murder is that it makes us doubt that there really is a secure foundation for goodness. If Love’s blessing on its children is fickle, then we live in a constant sense of wondering if we please God enough to earn divine blessings. Earned favor is not Christianity. Grace is the shepherding influence of God which keeps awakening us to our heritage as the sons and daughters of God.
Whether a life is long-lived or short, the value of the individual’s contribution stands as an eternal blessing.
The master Christian was not soft on evil. When Jesus exposed hypocrisy and ignorance, he called evil “a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). The moral idiocy behind these recent killings is based on lies that cannot be explained or justified. In fact the more we try to explain them, the more we end up sounding like a school child continuing to prop up a fib despite the trail of evidence disproving the lie. The only way to deal with a lie is to expose and denounce it. Anything that entraps thought to fleshly instincts of hate, revenge, and worthlessness cannot be of God, and must ultimately submit to divine law.
“… God’s presence gives spiritual light, wherein is no darkness. … Divine Love is our hope, strength, and shield” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 113). Mary Baker Eddy wrote those words after visiting President Garfield’s assassin. She was urging her followers to be alert to things which would distort their mental faculties.
In the face of tragedy, we can’t afford to deny or blame God. It is essential to understand that the Creator of the universe is expressing all life, upholding and sustaining it. God is the power which corrects the perpetrator’s ignorance and comforts our hearts.
Lois Carlson is a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science in Chicago, Illinois.