Just after midnight last friday morning a man opened fire on a crowded movie theatre killing twelve and injuring nearly fifty. An act of violence that to the rest of us seams senseless and unfathomable was committed by a human being against other human beings. He had nothing to gain save some sort of insane power trip. It would seem this was a person who simply wanted to kill. Wanted to be responsible for the life that bled out from the bodies of the men, women and yes children. A real life horror story featuring a living evil villain in which there was no superhero to give us balance.
For many of us we turn to God for this balance. Our refuge, our strength, our ever present help in trouble. Is God not all powerful? Is He not all knowing? Most astoundingly, is he not all loving? There are those among us who are, reasonably so, finding that idea to be much harder to believe today than yesterday. The question naturally rises from the mess that these events leave behind. But if God is in fact all knowing, He knew of this young man’s plans. If God is all powerful he could have prevented these plans. If God is all loving, he had the desire to exercise his power by protecting the objects of his love. At least this is the case according to our limited human logic. We know however, this is not how the events transpired. So how do we reconcile what we believe we know about God with what we know about last night? It begs the question, “Why did God let this happen?”
It’s a fair question right? It’s a reasonable question. It’s even an expected question. But it may just be the wrong question. If that is our primary response, I fear we are asking the easy question. I fear we are feeding the cycle of events that leads to the recurrence of lost souls erupting in these tragic or violent displays. Do we ask why the teacher allowed our children to fail all the while we have never bothered to check on their grades or progression? Do we blame the mayor for crime or poverty in our city yet we never get involved with politics or organizations that actually could offer a real difference? Yes we do, ok so maybe those aren’t very good examples…. or maybe they are. The point is that shaking our heads, crying, being enraged… these things dont help if they culminate in us simply asking “Why did God let this happen?” This is the equivalent of the Parent asking the Principle why they let their child fail the 8th grade. Just maybe when we ask that question we, like that parent, are missing the point. We are forgetting our part. Shrugging our responsibilities.
Perhaps I can’t really speak to this particular person. (I dont want to use his name. He’s gained enough fame for his evil misdeeds.) I don’t really know this person or his background. This isn’t really about him. I’m speaking here in general terms to the type of person rather than the specific. Anyway, his deeds are done and cannot be undone. But there are no doubt countless others out there who are confused, angry and looking for something to lash out against. Looking to lay the blame. Looking for someone to punish. As painful and backwards as it sounds there can be no doubt that someone out there understands why this atrocity took place and wishes they had the guts to do it as well. These people often have a shared characteristic: isolation. (Again I’m speaking in generalities) “It is not good for man to be alone.” There are few things in life that I will pretty much refuse to listen to an argument against. This is one of them. We simply were not created to live alone. So, you don’t even believe in God? ok, well we didn’t evolve in that direction then. The fittest did not survive alone and the humans we are today aren’t built to thrive in a solitary environment. We aren’t creatures of seclusion. To disagree with that boldly glaring, neon sign of common sense is a tremendous display of arrogance on the part of those of us who isolate ourselves and an often fatal act of selfishness on the part of those of us who allow the isolated to continue uninterrupted.
We need other people around us. intimately close to us. We are shaped in part by how our own mind perceives the world and by how others perceive the world. We must have an audience to examine our thoughts, words and deeds and provide feedback. When we start down a dangerous path, a path of depression, anger, self destruction or whatever it may be, we need someone to shine a light on those dark places and help guide us toward a healthier place. It is our human duty to both provide that FOR others and to seek that FROM others.
The argument is we often place ourselves under toxic influences that encourage and feed the darkness within us. We know the stories of the star athletes or politicians who surround themselves with ego puffing yes men. There are always those emotional vampires looking for victims to suck dry, people who want to use us for their own gain or just the classic misery loves company scenarios. Obviously these situations would seem just as unhealthy as a withdrawal from social interactions altogether. A self quarantine; however, is no more a logical response to bad influences as self starvation is to tasting a disagreeable tuna salad.
We desperately need a healthy functioning community funded by altruism and fed by humility. We need someone to slap us when we detail our plans to send our account and routing number to the last remaining heir of the prince of Zamunda. We need people to help when we move to a new home. No one should ever have to pay for a pet sitter. No one should have to build a deck by themselves. That weird neighbor that never leaves his apartment should not be allowed to retreat deeper inwardly after a family tragedy. Our struggles with addiction, depression, plans for violent revolutionary uprisings, dinners, shopping trips, dog walking, birthdays deaths and anniversaries should never be dealt with alone.
There comes a point when instead of shaking a fist toward heaven, we walk across the street and ring a doorbell. Instead of saying “Why did God allow this?” we get involved. We humble ourselves and offer our help. We humble ourselves and ask for help. Maybe, just maybe, WE allowed this to happen. When I hear Christians say “How could this happen?” I imagine God saying “Hmmm, I don’t know. Its the darndest thing. I had all these Christians living on that guy’s street, not sure what went wrong.”