WITHIN ONE FOUR-DAY PERIOD last month, three separate tragedies made headlines and prompted fresh concerns about the random nature of violence in today's world. On Sunday morning March 8, Rev. Fred Winters was shot at the pulpit by a gunman who walked into an early morning service at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois. Two days later, a man went on a shooting rampage in southeast Alabama, killing himself and ten others. Then Wednesday of that same week, a German teenager took 15 lives as well as his own, in a similar incident in the Stuttgart suburb Winnenden.

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At such times, so many questions begin with, "Why did this happen"? And from there, "What can be done to prevent future incidents?" Some ask—as did another pastor at First Baptist Church—the wrenching question of how God could allow such a tragedy. Indeed, "Where was God at that moment?" is an honest and understandable question that people have asked through the ages.

It's among the toughest of life's questions. And while some many count a satisfying answer as a forever mystery, we maintain that the effort to find it is not in vain; to say otherwise would be to argue for a fatalistic view that the Creator either allows evil and death, or else is not in complete control of His creation. Nothing of benefit to humanity throughout time has resulted from heeding the impulse to give up and cease in the struggle for something better than this discouraging view of existence.

Pat answers don't speak to the heart, and often breed cynicism. And it would be misguided for us to attempt to completely address such soul-searching within the confines of this page. But as a means to moving forward, consider that the teaching of Jesus Christ offers truth—often simple, always profound—that one can begin to understand. Moreover, that the sum total of Jesus' life and teaching conveys the unmistakable message that good is more powerful than evil, and life than death. This we feel points to a solid basis of spiritual reasoning, on which to provide comfort and strength to the grieving, as well as hope to those feeling astounded at the scope of tragedy in the world today. It offers countless possibilities for the prayer that is most certainly needed to address violence and fear across the globe. It may never be known how many violent incidents are prevented because of prayer's embracing love. Through the noise of anger and derangement, the voice of the Christ reaches consciousness and calms mental storms.

Jesus fully embodied the Christ, or God's voice of healing to the world. And he promised that all who understood his words could also hear this voice, and comfort and heal others by means of its power. Our founder, Mary Baker Eddy, discovered that this Christian healing is in fact scientific and provable in this age. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she pointed out: "The 'still, small voice' of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound. The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, 'as when a lion roareth.' It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear" (p. 559).

This echoes the Bible account of the prophet Elijah's confrontation with calamity, in the form of earthquake, wind, and fire. At the time Elijah was utterly discouraged and about to give up in his efforts to follow God's guiding. In his own way he was very much asking, "Where is God in this moment of violence and danger?" And what he learned was that he would not find God by looking into the earthquake, or the wind, or the fire—but rather in that "still small voice" (see I Kings, chap. 19).

Each one of us can offer the deepest, most healing response to tragedies such as the ones that occurred last month by turning in the direction of the mountain, and begin to feel a measure of the same assurance we know others yearn to feel in the acuteness of their struggle—that good is real and more powerful than senseless violence. "The effects of Christian Science are not so much seen as felt," says Science and Health. "It is the 'still, small voice' of Truth uttering itself. We are either turning away from this utterance, or we are listening to it and going up higher" (p. 323).

If someone were to stand at the North Pole on the day of the Winter Solstice, darkness would be all that prevailed, day and night. No evidence would exist that there ever was a sun—or that six months later it would shine on the same spot without ceasing, day and night. Still, the fact of that sun's existence and power to chase the darkness and warm the earth would remain fixed. Here is perhaps a small illustration of the way that violence and killing project the absence of God, of good—and of the need to maintain the facts of spiritual existence, until the light shines again. CSS

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April 20, 2009

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