Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary and the God Excuse

Last week 26 people were killed by a mentally unstable person in Newtown, CT. Twenty of those victims were kindergarten children. The tragedy seems vaguely familiar to many others in the last decade. And the outcry ranges from the hysterical to the litigious to legislative. But there's always a small percentage that invokes the rational of God's wrath. There are always a few fringe religious fanatics who see these tragedies as a sign that if God's name was uttered a few more times a magical shield would have protected the victims and thus make the tragedy the fault of the victims. But blaming 20 kindergarten children and their parents is both tacky, cruel, and illogical.

In a 19th century sanitarium you'd find the word "God" everywhere. And those who contracted tuberculosis were thought to be on the wrong side of the Lord, so God's name was uttered a lot and placed everywhere. Then someone realized that TB was the work of a bacteria and not heavenly vengeance. And that doctor started doing God's work by relieving suffering and healing people from the disease. Then God didn't seem so cruel and TB didn't seem so mysterious. Same thing for AIDS which was the work of not enough God in homosexual communities. Then straight people and children started getting it and that messed up the story. Scientists discovered that AIDS came from a virus, and maybe God didn't have a vendetta against Ryan White and Arthur Ashe.

The sad thing about tragedies like Newtown is it doesn't take a discovery of a bacteria or new virus. The solution is in front of us and takes the action of men.  But religion is used as a cover for not doing the bare minimum: better treatment for the mentally sick and removing automatic weapons from the streets, which seems to be the dangerous combination that has reoccurred here, in Aurora theatre shooting, in Rep. Gifford's assassination attempt, in the Virginia Tech shooting, Columbine, and many others. Untreated mentally ill people plus easy access to automatic weapons designed for killing the maximum amount of people in the minimum amount of time is the common denominator. Therefore the solution would seem to be a two-fold issue.

In high school I played football and God's name was pronounced at the beginning of each game. And then we, the participants, put on our helmets. We put on helmets to prevent severe head injuries. Scientists realized that maybe protecting the player's head from brain damage WAS doing the work of God. My helmet didn't shield me from God, but from the violence of men. God's name wasn't reduced by taking these precautions. The two -the work of men and the word of God- worked together and rested in me. And still, little boys were crippled in games and people suffered horrible injuries, or even worse. And we kept searching for better helmets and prayers.

The solution to stopping another Newtown is in front of us. We can stop another 20 children from being gunned down but this involves the work of man to stop a predictable and preventable tragedy. If we don't take the obvious steps to stop another Columbine or Newtown, then we're at fault. And then mankind really would be at work for an ethereal being. But it's not God.

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