A God-Free Response to Mass Murder

— Religion Dispatches

To be sure, there were calls in the days after the mass murder in Newtown for a deep and meaningful silence. But what bothered me were the attempts to find space for a loving God in the context of this misery. I don’t mean the ridiculous and easily dismissed attempt to use this tragedy as a call for prayer in schools, or as a justification for reintroducing the Bible and removing secular approaches to human history. No, I’m talking about the responses of self-understood progressive theists.

What is so important, what is so impressive, during this tragedy is not the faithful appeals to God but rather the collective human effort to comfort the suffering and to remember the value of human life. Trying both to resolve such tragedies and keep God on the throne actually impedes our ability to process this misery. The appeal to God’s logic offers a type of cosmic cover that is difficult to remove. Looking to God and trying to grasp the workings of the divine mind actually arrests our ability to understand the deeply human nature of these acts of violence. There is no justification; there is no larger logic—no theologically exposed silver lining. This misery is all too human—the imposition of an individual’s twisted will on others with deadly consequences. Appeal to God doesn’t fix this; it doesn’t explain it.

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