Where was God at the Aurora shooting?
There’s a predictable pattern to the way religious people deal with tragedy. Undoubtedly, this kind of horrific thing makes them question the dogma they’ve been spoon fed their entire life – that an omnipotent being cares for their well being, especially when it seems so senseless; the evils of the world throw this ‘loving god’ thing back in their face, and they don’t like it.
Let’s be clear: there are no easy answers to the deepest questions of suffering. Libraries overflow with the volumes that have been written to address these questions. Centuries of philosophers, pundits and preachers have reflected on the existence of evil, the meaning of pain and the role of God in suffering.
Centuries? More like millennia. In fact, some 300 years before the supposed birth of Jesus, a Greek philosopher by the name of Epicurus essentially laid out the most compelling argument regarding the notion of God’s relationship to evil ever made. His argument has yet to be refuted:
Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?
Your answer, sir?
The capacity to choose God and goodness came with the commensurate ability to choose evil. Is it loving to force his creation to follow his order, or to teach it and leave the creature to choose? It would seem that God came to the same conclusion that America’s founders did many millennia later: compulsory virtue is no virtue at all.
Ah yes, the old free will argument. God could eliminate all evil, but in doing so he would be subjugating us, and we wouldn’t have the ‘option’ to turn away from him. That’s all fine and good for the god of the Old Testament, who simply obliterates the unbeliever’s soul. The Christian god, unfortunately, has a rather unpleasant fate for anyone who exercises their own free will and chooses not to love an invisible tyrant. In his view, it is more moral to allow a person the right to choose their actions for a lifetime (however brief) than to torture that person forever for making the wrong ones. Sorry, your god sucks.
Let me suggest simply that God, in his sovereignty, has chosen to make our decisions meaningful. Consequently, much of what happens on earth neither conforms to, nor results from, his preference. There are at least four influences on human events: God’s will, to be sure; but also the will of Satan, our adversary; peoples’ choices, for better or for worse; and natural law (gravity, collision, combustion, and the like).
What a confusing mess of influences here. Why does Satan even exist? Sure, we make him out to be the bad guy, but it seems to me he’s simply the ‘bad cop’ to God’s ‘good cop’ routine. Without Satan there to look like the bad guy, you realize that by failing to rid the universe of this loathsome entity, he is in fact endorsing evil. Like Epicurus pointed out: if God is all powerful, and there is still evil, it is by his choice alone. One cannot condone evil without being part of it.
You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to them. God and hard times coexist intuitively there.
God likes to be where the action is, and there’s no greater place of suffering than Africa. And because tragedies are a regular occurrence there, Aurora isn’t a big deal. See, isn’t that a satisfying answer to the problem of evil? It isn’t?
The God of the Bible promises no exemption from suffering. In fact, he all but promises suffering. He does not suggest that his followers won’t go through fire, but rather that we won’t burn up.
What a deal! Sign me up for this omnipotent god who spends his time ‘grieving’ with me when my infant son dies of a highly treatable illness. Hopefully I got him baptized in time, or he’ll burn in hell!
Where was God in Aurora? He was on the lawn in front of the Civic Building as thousands gathered in solidarity, hope, and love at a packed prayer vigil last Sunday.
God was with those people who, powerless as they are, could do nothing but grieve. Sounds like the all powerful creator of the universe, doesn’t it?
Redemption has only begun in Aurora, and already God is everywhere. There will be beauty once this story is written that overshadows and transcends the ashes.
It’s doubtful any of this supposed beauty would make up for the innocent lives lost at something as peaceful and enjoyable as a movie. I would rather none of this happened rather than see an opportunity for human solidarity in the face of tragedy.