As evil came to Con­necti­cut, so did faith in our de­liv­er­ance

Some of us, how­ever, will won­der: Where was God at New­town?

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - Wil­liam Mcken­zie is an ed­i­to­rial colum­nist for The Dal­las Morn­ing News.


we are, only a week past Hanukkah and days un­til Christ­mas, and the spot on the yearly re­li­gious cal­en­dar when many of us pro­claim peace on earth and good­will to man.

Yet here we are watch­ing from afar as 20 young stu­dents and six adults from their Con­necti­cut school are buried, all be­cause a young man who showed signs of men­tal ill­ness went berserk with a deadly weapon, killing even the woman who gave birth to him.

Mass slay­ings are nearly im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine, largely be­cause they strike a dis­cor­dant tone with the rest of Amer­i­can life. We turn on the news and hear about mur­ders in, say, Aurora, Colo., and still must go about our rou­tines of work, fam­ily and com­mu­nity.

But the slay­ings in New­town are es­pe­cially jar­ring be­cause they oc­curred amid th­ese an­nual re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tions. What are we to make of this con­trast? This is a pe­riod where we hear about trans­for­ma­tion of the world, yet we are wak­ing up to this in­con­ceiv­able hor­ror.

Two weeks ago, well be­fore most of us had even heard of New­town, I asked pan­elists of The Dal­las Morn­ing News’ Texas Faith blog whether it was really pos­si­ble to heal the world. The dis­cus­sion cen­tered on an es­say this month by Rabbi Michael Lerner in the jour­nal Tikkun. Lerner de­scribed Hanukkah as “the hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ing the tri- umph of hope over fear, light over dark­ness, the pow­er­less over the pow­er­ful.”

Only a week later, I was ask­ing the same panel of the­olo­gians, aca­demics and laypeo­ple how they would draw upon their tra­di­tions to coun­sel those griev­ing in New­town. The em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence in those class­rooms would lead you to con­clude that fear won out over hope Dec. 14, that dark­ness tri­umphed over light. It leaves you won­der­ing how to rec­on­cile the deaths of chil­dren with re­li­gious procla­ma­tions about re­mak­ing the world.

To the credit of the Texas Faith pan­elists, they each coun­seled lis­ten­ing to the un­fath­omable grief of the fam­i­lies caught up in this tragedy. Be with them. Lis­ten qui­etly.

Some of us, how­ever, will won­der, where was God? I have no an­swer. But my the­ol­ogy does teach this, God is with us amid hell, amid car­nage, amid suf­fer­ing.

For Chris­tians, that is why we trek to Christ­mas Eve ser­vices, year af­ter year. We go be­cause of the Word made flesh, as John de­clares.

The Word-in-the-flesh is about a child for whom there was no room at the inn. But af­ter a life of iden­ti­fy­ing with the suf­fer­ing, He rose to “bring life on the other side of death, em­ploy­ing a power be­yond hu­man ca­pac­ity.”

That’s how my Pres­by­te­rian min­is­ter, Joe Clif­ford, put it on the Texas Faith blog af­ter the slay­ings. And this is how he con­cluded it:

“This story in­forms my un­der­stand­ing of God’s pres­ence and our com­fort in the midst of in­ex­pli­ca­ble tragedy. I can’t imag­ine the hor­ror those chil­dren and teach­ers faced in the fi­nal mo­ments of their lives, but God can. I can’t imag­ine the grief of those whose loved ones were taken by the ma­nia of a mad­man, but God can. I can’t imag­ine the pain of los­ing a child, but God can. I can’t imag­ine new life on the other side of such tragic death, but God can. For peo­ple of faith, that is our only com­fort in life and in death.”

None of that leads to an in­stant heal­ing of the world. Nor does it pre­vent us from work­ing for a bet­ter to­mor­row, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a safer world for our chil­dren, as the pres­i­dent im­plored us to do. But it does lead to this con­clu­sion: God is the one who de­liv­ers us from evil.

So, yes, th­ese twin events can oc­cur si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The deaths in New­town ac­tu­ally make the procla­ma­tions of hope and re­newal even more im­por­tant.

Austin school board trustees voted to dis­solve a part­ner­ship with IDEA Pub­lic Schools, re­vers­ing a con­tro­ver­sial board de­ci­sion last year for the char­ter op­er­a­tor to take over an East Austin ele­men­tary school.

Greg Pulte: No more meal ticket for IDEA at chil­dren’s and tax­payer’s ex­pense.

Joshua Rouw: The stats I saw looked like Idea was do­ing a good job.

Char­lotte Phillips: Meal ticket? What are you even talk­ing about? IDEA is a pub­lic school and funds go to paying for ... run­ning a school. This is a sad case of a com­mu­nity who had the wool pulled over their eyes by en­trenched and self-pre­serv­ing po­lit­i­cal forces. ... Here’s a new say­ing for Austin: AustinA­dult­sFirst! Or how about, KEEP AUSTIN kids’ in­ter­ests WEIRDly the

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