“I want to be a Ninja!” That’s what my four-year-old son said as he handed me his costume this morning. Eli likes to dress up in various guises all year long, Halloween etiquette be damned. I looked over at him from my bed where I was sitting, unable to resist his request for assistance. He’s so adorable, I thought. So I put the Ninja costume on him and he ran out of the room, making the traditional Hai Ya! noises as he went off to join his other brothers in the living room.
Eli is in preschool. He’s only slightly younger than many kindergarteners who were killed yesterday in the massacre in Connecticut. I can’t help but imagine the terrifying images of it being my children, as I’m sure many other parents imaged yesterday. “What if it had been my kids?” There’s the immediate relief I felt when I came home last night from work to find them healthy and happy, playing video games. Then came the immediate grief knowing that other parents had no such relief. For them, only the unimaginable horror. I think millons of parents took a moment to let in the pain, knowing in their hearts what it would feel like. Those kids were all of our kids.
The shooting yesterday was one among several recent mass shootings, but it hit a nerve unlike the others. How could this happen to kids? Kids, damn it. Innocent little kids. Kindergarteners. When we look back at our own childhoods, I’d suspect that many of us at that age were lucky enough to be happy, playful, wonderfully goofy, with a healthy optimism that the world was a good place where we could grow up to be like our parents, like super heros, like astronauts…
I’m 29 now, my aspirations for being Batman all but dashed (maybe in my 30s it will happen), but I can think back to my first day of kindergarten. I remember my mom dropping me off. I was sad to see her leave but I was excited about my new school. It was a diverse place where we had an even distribution of white kids, black kids, hispanic kids, etc. I learned very quickly that we were all the same. We learned together watching videos from the prophets like Martin Luther King Jr and Big Bird. The world was a big big place with lots of people in it, but people were basically good. We were all in this together. The future was ours, but first it was time for recess.
When I went online yesterday I immediately saw what many others saw: the best and worst of humanity. I saw the emotional outbursts, the political rants, the loss of hope, the hatred, the fear. It was all there. Most shocking to me were those who, within MINUTES of the news, tweeted and blogged and posted that this was our fault as a nation for not allowing prayer in public schools. Such lack of perspective, such disconnect from reality, from humanity, from decency, is so utterly irresponsible that it makes me shake where I sit, as I type these very words. Such lack of empathy is only possible if one is living in an alternate universe, is only possible if they somehow took some kind of reassurance from the tragic events to justify their convictions that the world was somehow deserving, that these kids were caught in God’s wrath or indifference towards us, towards them.
I am torn between rage and pity for such displays. If that is the God they worship, it is a false one, an evil one. It is a cowardly and archaic deity that does not resemble the Jesus they also claim to live for. It is not indicative of love, compassion or piety to use tragedy as a catalyst for your abomination of a theology.
Yet I am bound to all humanity. I can not claim the children are all of our children and simultaneously disown those who I feel deserve my hatred. I can not claim to be the ultimate judge or jury of such atrocity, such bigotry, such ineptitude. We are still brothers and sisters. All of us. Yesterday is a reminder of that truth. Simply, many of our brothers and sisters have fallen into a web of delusion that threatens our relationships, our potential to be the family of humanity God, or the universe, or the decree of love in general intends (and demands).
But I am pissed off.
Another result of the massacre is the all-too-frequent question that arises in my life. How can there be a God who would allow such evil? It is a question that many try to answer, when really they should just let the question be the question. We do not know. We don’t. Any attempt to answer such a question from a theistic point of view will be met with the awkward insufficiency of their response. If someone believes they know the answer, if they feel the matter is settled, then they have divorced themselves from the Good Friday reality, from the part of us that ever cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
…the words uttered by the very Christ so many use to validate their claims.
There is a truth I once realized, that if we were to witness the totality of evil on this planet we would be forced to confess there is no God. Even worse, far less than the totality of evil may be enough to convince us. I would wager that the atheistic nail in the coffin was struck for many yesterday. Many living on the edge of apostasy most likely made up their minds when the news of the events of Connecticut were revealed. Can we blame them?
But then again, I was once told that if we were to witness the totality of goodness on this planet, the opposite conclusion could also be made valid. There must be a God, we would say to ourselves. Our inner atheist and theist are locked in eternal combat, one claiming victory as the other retreats for a period. While some have made their choice, while some have decided which has prevailed, I simply let the two duke it out. Yesterday both were battered and bruised. But today I gave them the day off…
…because my son wants to be a Ninja.