In the aftermath of Newtown Connecticut and other tragedies of loss and violence there are always words shared trying to find comfort, meaning, and sense in a comfortless, meaningless, and senseless act. Words are often shared with those who have lost loved ones by well-meaning and faithful people who want to say “something,” I can appreciate and understand, I have done it myself from time to time without thinking of how the words might be heard and received. In my experience there are times when those words can ring hollow and only deepen the experience of pain and emptiness. In those moments I have found less is always more. Presence, care, compassion, and service are almost always more helpful than words of attempted explanation. Rather, be there for them, tell them you care, do something good for them.
What I do not understand is how a person like Mr. Huckabee, who is a pastor would go on a national news program and imply that God was involved either directly, indirectly, or because God was “ordered” out of our schools. The idea that we or anyone else could “order” God, in whom we live and breathe and have our being, according to Paul, out of anywhere is absurd at best. To claim we as a Nation have removed prayer from school is simply untrue. Student led prayer and individual prayer have never been removed from school. The only prayer removed is my making you pray with me. That being said, our schools are in place to serve all of our citizens, those who pray as well as those who do not, and our government is called to the same purpose, Mr. Huckabee knows this. As I read his statements, they are not statements of faith; they are statements of politic and fear, certainly not about a God of love incarnate.
In my opinion, to even imply that God had somehow abandoned those children and teachers and administrators and subjected them to bloodshed and violence is not only abhorrent to the Spirit and the God of love that should be especially celebrated this time of year, but would be the equivalent of theological malpractice and another way to victimize those who are suffering and mourning. God was there, huddled in the corner with the children, hiding in the closet with the teachers, present in those shielding the children from the violence, laying down their lives for the littlest of these, weeping with them and us, frightened by the violence, and crying out for help and hope. God is there in the concern, compassion, and outpouring of love and support for the community of Newtown and others.
We should be telling our children, our adults, our friends, ourselves, we are embraced in the very grace and Spirit of God who would never, will never abandon you ever, or do anything to harm them, ever. The children who have died, the children who are still here, all of our children have been frightened enough; they do not deserve to be frightened of God as well. They deserve to know they are cherished, embraced, and loved beyond measure by us, and by God.