Who sinned? This man? His parents? Our legislators? Society as a whole?

It would seem that the need to establish guilt in the wake of a tragedy is part of our basic human programming. Our media outlets opine with varying degrees of accuracy about exactly happened and why. Our politicians make statements and promise reforms. Our friends and neighbors light up Facebook with pictures and captions about what they think happened and how it (oddly enough) proves their position right on this issue or that. Meanwhile, fundamentalists inevitably blame everybody who isn’t one of their own.

The truth is, however, that the reasons are rarely as simple in their cause to effect as we or the fundamentalists would like to believe because disaster on an epic scale does not happen from a single point of failure. As much as some people would like to believe that “God being removed” from schools (as if such a thing were possible to an omnipotent and omnipresent deity) it’s impossible to prove. The rain falls on the just and unjust. Seemingly random acts of violence and disaster do as well.

Perhaps those who claim to be of Christ should ask themselves what he would do and say. I rather imagine that he would be binding up the wounds of the living, weeping at the graves of the departed, and in this season when we celebrate his birth he would be giving to those who mourn the hope of his Incarnation and Resurrection to life eternal.

These things we ought to do. Agendas and blame can wait.

74 thoughts on “Tragedy”

    1. As Darrell already pointed out, we have already have the question of who sinned to cause this. The problem is the politicizing and blame casting instead of an effort to see if we can figure this out. While all evil does boil down to Original Sin, there are mental and physical things that should be looked into. While I do believe that God is the ultimate cure, there is obviously some mental or chemical imbalance that needs to be addressed in these crimes.

      I went to the doctor and allowed him to cut open my wrist and make repairs. This is accepted by Fundy leaders because they understand it. Why, then, are mental illnesses not also looked into? No one assumed sin when I, or any of my many friends, were operated on for various reasons by Dr. Goodman Just because we refuse to address or understand mental problems doesn’t make them go away. Is sin the root cause? Yes. Just as the failing genetics that caused my problem originate in sin, which brought its many consequences into the world.

      But to blame “throwing God out of the schools”, abortion, homosexuality, or any other evil or perceived evil is ridiculous.

      Sorry about the long rant. I’m just venting a bit here. Please forgive me.

        1. Wrist surgery isn’t exactly weird, maybe just the way Uncle W. desribed it. 🙂 I broke my scaphoid bone a little over a year ago – after 4 months in a cast it hadn’t healed (not abnormal, for that bone), so I also had a doctor cut it open and make repairs.

      1. Thank you for this perspective, Uncle W. Within the last couple of weeks, my mother-in-law had wrist surgery and my mother had back surgery. In both cases, the operations were to put broken bones back together (both are doing better now). No one ever suggested that their bones would be fine if they just had the right attitude, or if they prayed harder, or if they stopped feeling sorry for themselves. Nor did anyone say their injuries were caused by the sinful lives they were living, rather than by uneven pavement and rickety stairs.

        Yet by and large, we continue to think of mental illnesses as being somehow the fault of the ill people, and something they should be able to cure themselves of. We need to get over that kind of medieval thinking.

      2. When I was in high school (not sure which grade), they took us on a trip to hear a speaker who was bipolar. He spoke about his experiences and how close he came to suicide multiple times, how much it hurt his family, how terrible it made his life… and then said very simply that a mental illness is only that. An illness that inflicts the brain. It’s not that there’s something fundamentally wrong with someone. It’s not something untreatable. It’s not something mysterious or mystical. It is, very simply, a medical condition. And there is nothing wrong with having a mental illness or seeking treatment for it (which he had–he took medication and it had helped him greatly).

        I don’t know if anybody else in the room was affected by what he said that day, but I was. I think it was the first time that I really realized that people aren’t “crazy”, they’re just sick. They have a chronic condition like many other people in the world. There is nothing strange or unnatural about going to a medical professional for this sickness or taking medication to help with the condition.

        Now, obviously God can and sometimes does help us even with physical ailments. But I don’t see anywhere in scripture that He delineates between physical and mental ailments or says we should pray/fast/tithe/whatever in lieu of seeking medical attention. Such a notion is silly and dangerous!

  1. If these tragedies are somehow related to a lack of sufficient praising of God’s fragile ego (as some of the TV pundits say, giving God the personality of a narcisstic sociopath, a clear case of projection if I ever heard one), then, since America is the most religious First World nation, wouldn’t we see far more incidents of this type in nations which are heavily atheist, or which have only a minority Christian population, such as Japan?

    I mean, this is Science 101.
    Observed phenomenon: Tragic events happen.

    Hypothesis: Tragic events happen because people have turned from God, as evidenced by women wearing pants and men with hair past the top of their ears.

    Test the hypothesis: Correlate tragedy with Christian belief. There should be a statistically significant relationship between the lack of Christian belief (perhaps measured by the number of IFB churches in the area) and tragic events. If no such correlation is found, the hypothesis is false.

    1. You mentioned Japan. I did see one website that claimed that the earthquake and tsunami were God’s Judgement for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Why did it take 70 years, though? Personally, I think God got his Revenge on Japan at Horoshima and Nagasaki, but I never went to a Fundy Bible School, so what would I know? (Sarcasm)

    2. Imagine if the government refused to protect or provide civil services to schools that did not incorporate “The Pledge of Allegiance” into their daily rituals. How is this different than Mike Huckabee’s god?

  2. Well said, Darrell. Right now is the time to mourn, and to comfort the ones who have lost so much. Agendas and blame can wait. I’ve already seen some posts on facebook saying guns aren’t to blame. That’s more than a little callous to do that right now, I would think.

      1. Exactly. Once whichever side starts in the other side then feels that it has to respond and things get escalated in a hurry.

        Everybody just needs to step back and take a breath.

    1. Are guns to blame? No. Guns can’t think or act on their own.
      Nonetheless, every time one of these massacres happens (often, lately), I think again that it can’t be a good idea to hand out guns to every nut case on the street, as we seem to do in this country (and as most other countries manage not to do).

      1. BG, I often appreciate what you have to say, but I have to take issue both with what you said in this post and how you said it. “Handing out guns to every nut on the street” is not exactly a phrase that’s going to encourage reasonable discourse on this issue.

        And “often, lately” isn’t exactly true either, as pointed out in this article. It’s worth a read.

        1. “Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades …”

          I guess I should have said “often in all decades.” It is still true that we have far more homicides, and especially more gun violence, than most other countries.

          The National Review writer makes some valid points (and some not as valid), but since the NR has long been closely allied to the gun lobby, I read its positions skeptically. I could link to someting from the Brady Campaign or other gun-control advocates, but I won’t do that now.

        2. Does anyone here even believe that there is some guy named “Daryl” who is actually a real person? This site is just weird. The tag lines and the moniker and some of the instructions all point to this being some humorous site dedicated to poking fun at IFB foibles. That’s all fine and dandy, but every time I read this site it has basically nothing to do with anything specifically IFB at all. This site is nothing but a liberal propaganda mouthpiece for the left. That’s fine, but the creators of this “Darryl” persona should just rename the site and call it something else. This site doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything related to IFB except the sporadic post here and there. It seems to be nothing but a mouthpiece of the left for any and all topics. This site reminds me of a cooking blog that rarely talks about cooking and focuses mainly on skydiving.

  3. Great post Darrell. I keep going back to what Martin Luther said in his commentary on Galatians: “True Christian theology does not inquire into the nature of God, but into God’s purpose and will in Christ, whom God incorporated in our flesh to live and to die for our sins. There is nothing more dangerouse than to speculate about the incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty of God when the conscience is in turmoil over sin. To do so is to lose God altogether because God becomes intolerable when we seek to measure and to comprehhend his infinite majesty.”

  4. I mentioned to some fundy friends of mine that I appreciated Obama’s speech on the tragedy. They were appalled that I would say such things. That doesn’t bother me as much as the shooting, but still. Seriously? Can’t we put politics aside for just a half second? Can’t a “left wing liberal baby killer homosexual lover moslem” share his condolences?

    1. I appreciated his words Friday. His speech at the memorial telling us that we must change is worrisome to those who are adamantly opposed to his policies. Things do need to change but the specific things which need to change are issues over which intelligent people disagree.

    2. Surely every feeling person is equally grief-stricken over this– left-wing, right-wing, moderate, religious or not, pro-gay or anti-gay (I don’t know how that item even got into the conversation), young, old, gay, straight, American, foreign, etc.

      I didn’t agree with Bush about much, but I didn’t doubt his sincerity when he stated his dismay over the shootings at Virginia Tech.

  5. So glad that Darrell speaks so knowingly of what Jesus would do.

    AHHH….the infinite and superior wisdom of the “recovering” fundamentalist. You can take the boy out of fundy, just can’t take fundy out of the boy.

    1. I don’t have to wonder what he would do because I see what he did. He wept at a funeral. He healed the sick and comforted the lonely. He promised himself as the way to eternal life. These are not “fundy” claims. They are simply the record that orthodox Christianity has agreed upon for thousands of years.

    2. I don’t see it.

      I see him referencing Scripture (our way of knowing the mind of Christ). I see him asking us to think individually of what we think Jesus would do. And I see him sharing what he imagines Jesus would do (things based on things Christ actually did in the Bible.)

    3. Based on the Bible, when confronted with human suffering, Jesus didn’t say, “This is all your fault, because you’re a sinner, you filthy leper!”. He healed and comforted, without seeming to care if someone “deserved” their injuries or not.

      Given specific character traits and incidents, reasonable people can infer, based on past performance, what someone might do in response to an event. This hardly takes “superior wisdom”.

      This is no different than speculating on what Jefferson might think of the current state of government, or how Marx would have viewed Stalinist Russia, or any other thought experiments of that sort. The test is if you can justify your conclusions based on sound reasoning from existing examples, which I think is pretty easy in this case.

      1. The old saying is that Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. When we find ourselves comforting the already comfortable and afflicting the already afflicted, we need to examine our motives.

    4. What else would you expect Jesus to do? 🙁 Sometimes things are rather obvious; if you see someone injured you usually want to help them, if someone’s crying you tend to comfort them. Jesus knew what to do and to say, and what not to say.

    1. Exactly this! I was scrolling down thinking about what went wrong in Abel’s murder. Was God banished from the world by the humans? Maybe the 10 commandments were removed from some wall? Heck, there wasn’t even a “10 Commandments” to “break down” at this time. Were his parents weird psychopaths? Probably not. I’m quite sure they were the finest specimens of human genetics ever. When we try to make sense of the world without factoring in a very real entity of evil, it can get a little personal and emotional. It bothers me a lot that God eventually gets blamed for the evil.

    2. I’ll apologize for my picky ways, but the first person born was the murderer, second born was the one murdered. Which might be worse, that the sinner came first and the victim second 😥

      1. I stand corrected! And you are right, what does that tell us about fallen man, that the first person born on Earth was a murderer!

        It does demonstrate clearly that God is a God of choices. Just as Satan was given a choice (as were the fallen angels) to rebel (had free will, not a robot) and Adam and Eve in the Garden were given free will to disobey God’s command (had free will, not robots)So we also see that the 1st person birthed on Earth was given a choice, and chose wrongly! God desires love, that is the first commandment,if someone is not given a choice to not love God, then conversely, they cannot CHOOSE to love God.

        The highest good is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and Spirit! In order to love God man MUST be given a choice!

  6. I appreciate this, Darrell. Far too many people using this as the time for their agendas one way or the other. Can we not let the victims rest for a week before we begin to use them to advance our beliefs?

    Now, of course such a tragedy is going to bring to mind a number of political issues. And I don’t think we should pretend these events never happened for the sake of “objectivity”. But there is a time and a place and above all a certain amount of respect that should be paid!

    So, in short, thank you for this moderating view. The second-to-last paragraph in particular is a beautiful reminder of just how wonderful Christ was and is.

  7. Thank you, thank you! I have been grieved over the Facebook quips and the comments from Mike Huckabee placing blame and acting as though God abandoned the public schools and the precious children who attend them. (Jesus’ “Let the little children come to me” apparently tells us nothing about Him?) Why is the greater theological perspective lost on so many Christians?

  8. Interesting thoughts, Darrell.

    Kinda reminds me of John 9.

    DISCIPLE: “Rabbit, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    JESUS: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be manifested in him.”

    Or something like that.

  9. I appreciate what Darrel is saying.

    It does seem to me that something has changed; when I was growing up (decades ago), we never heard of any shooting at a school. Or at a mall. Or at a theater. Yes, people killed each other, and when I was young, a teenager took an axe to his grandmother, horrifying the community. But even that was personal. I don’t ever remember hearing about impersonal slaughter like we have heard in these relatively recent years.

    So, it is valid to attempt to understand what has changed to make such tragedies occur: Is it just the reporting of them? Maybe; I don’t know. Is it stopping public prayer in school? Maybe; I don’t know. Is it a parenting problem? Maybe; I don’t know. Is it the teaching of evolution, that we are merely another form of animal? Maybe; I don’t know.

    Of course we should help/pray/comfort as we can.

    But trying to understand the cause could also be a useful thing, even if the fundamentalists are doing it.

    1. It certainly seems like they’re happening with more frequency lately. However, sadly, there have been terrible mass killings in the past too such as the following:

      In 1996, a gunman killed 16 kindergartners and their teacher in Dunblane, Scotland.

      In 1984, a man killed 21 people (injuring 19 more) in a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, CA.

      In 1966, a shooter killed 13 people and wounded 32 others after climbing a bell tower at the University of Texas in Austin.

      Although it wasn’t a shooting, mass murder was still committed at an elementary school in Bath, MI in 1927: 38 children and 6 adults died.

      (A couple years ago, I was also fascinated to learn something I’d never heard about before: in 1920 someone set off a bomb on Wall Street, killing 38 and seriously injuring 143.)

      1. The less common something is, the more newsworthy it is. Violent crime per capita in America is very down from historic highs — which makes each such event much more shocking.

        School shooting occur regularly in poorer neighborhoods, and are page 10 local news. When a shooting happens in a middle class or upper class neighborhood, where these are not daily occurrences, it becomes a national event.

        For all the attention mass shootings get, even the worst is statistical noise as part of the total violent deaths per year/per capita. (That last part is *important*. If someone just shows you raw numbers of violent crimes over time, rather than as a ratio per X thousand people, they are distorting data and should not be trusted.)

        (As a side note, prior to OKC, I believe the largest mass murder in America was the Happyland fire, killing 87 people. I lived in NYC at the time and it was major news. The weapon? A gallon of gasoline.)

        1. The reason the Happy Land fire killed so many was that the building had no exits besides the front door (where the fire was started). This was illegal (obviously), but the fire code had not been enforced.
          The landlord and the operators of that club were as guilty as the arsonist.

        1. thats somewhat tongue in cheek btw. Darrell is right there is not a single cause for this, and it really doesn’t represent some watershed moment in history, its sad, but it not unprecedented or all that unusual.

    2. That’s exactly the way I see it GR.

      Of course all of us were upset and saddened on Friday and I know prayers are with those who are burying their loved ones, but there is merit to pause and wonder why, we all do it.

      Besides, I like to decide “what Jesus would do” in this case and I don’t think it’s just to sit back and continue to allow our children to be shot up like this in schools.

      That said, this is the first post I’ve disagreed with in the nine months I’ve been here.

      On second thought, I don’t even like the phrase “what Jesus would DO” b/c I’ve learned that growing in the LORD comes from the inside out. I understand what Darrell is trying to say, but phrase just gives me an exfundy “gut check.”

    1. Mark, you must be new here. You’re not going to get very far pointing out the utter hypocrisy of the left and the war-mongering imperialism of the administration which is really no different than the previous one.

      1. Dear Mr Jenkins:

        I’ve been around a while. I make no attempt to hide my political perspective; neither do I particularly promote it. But when I have shared appropriately, my observations are accepted with grace.

        Whereas you have elected to contextualize your reply to Mark in terms of political ideology and terms of denigration, I have framed my remark in context of the church year.

        When this page loaded, I ‘Ctrl + End’ed to the bottom of the page. It was only after my reply loaded that I discovered that Mark had the same thought.

        Mr Jenkins, regardless of what you or I believe about political ideology, it seems to me that Biblical fidelity in Advent means seeking a culture of life more than of death.

        If your interpretation of Advent leads in the opposite direction, perhaps you should prepare [another key Advent theme] for Christmastide by considering what religion you truly practice.

        Christian Socialist

        1. Socialist, are you playing with us? Your comment made no sense at all. Someone pointed out how cruel and wicked the Obama administration is in how drones kill innocent children much more frequently than school shootings. You have the audacity to make light of the killing of children in one of your holier than thou moments when you just can’t step away from your defense of all things imperialistic? You truly are a callous person.

        2. @Bob you said, “to make light of the killing of children”
          I have read and reread CS’s replys and I don’t see where one can make the case that CS made light of the killing of children anywhere. That takes more mental gymnastics than is possible given what we have before us.

        3. It’s possible that’s why the comments made no sense at all, that he somehow was reading something else?

  10. Dear SFL Reader:

    174 Pakistani children have died in our drone attacks.

    Do we weep for them?

    Especially in Advent, we should remember that Christ came so that our broken world might have life. To that end, let us commit to affirming a culture of life, from conception to natural death, for all people.

    Christian Socialist

    1. Your comments make absolutely no sense at all, Socialist. On one hand you jump all over yourself to defend the imperialist American policies of Bush who couldn’t wait to jump into war with Iraq because Saddam caused 911, or wait, because he had weapons of mass destruction. Obama is actually bringing America further into war and only continuing what Bush started. How dare you come on here and defend those policies and try to do a little damage control by finally admitting that drones “might be at times a bit negative.” I bet you just hate Christmas because it means your industrial-military companies that you have stock in have to be out of production for a day.

    2. Socialist, I really can’t figure you out at all. You say you are against drones, yet you jump right in and totally devour another poster who simply pointed out that the Obama administration is no better, and probably worse, than the Bush administration as far as pushing the US into imperialistic wars.

      Might I suggest trying this culture of life you claim to be be an advocate of? You might want to try even advocating your culture of life even above your devotion to imperialist war just because your favorite politician is doing it. Some things in life are worth more than sticking by the party line.

    by: author unknown

    One of the sweet old chapters,
    After a day like this-
    The day brought tears and troubles,
    The evening brings no kiss,
    Nor rest in the arms I long for,-
    Rest and refuge and home;
    Grieved and lonely and weary,
    Unto the book I come.

    One of the sweet old chapters,
    That always will avail,
    So full of heavenly comfort,
    When earthly comforts fail,
    A sweet and blessed message
    From God to His children dear,
    So rich in precious promises,
    So full of love and cheer.

    One of the sweet old chapters,
    When comes the lonely night,
    When all things earthly fail us;
    And tears have dimmed our sight.
    This only can relieve us,
    A message from above,
    Then we can rest so sweetly,
    In faith, and hope, and love.–

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