Friday was one of the worst days in recent memory. And even in not-so-recent memory.
We saw some of the worst humanity has to offer. In a place where there should be safety, danger ruled. Children, who should be free from the fear of death were instead cut down by gun-fire or saw their teachers and classmates endure this horror.
When we see these things, it can be easy to ask ourselves where God is.
And while I honor that question, I become incredibly frustrated when people seek to answer it.
Just hours after this horror took place, Mike Huckabee posited that God chose not to stick around because “we’ve systematically removed God from our schools.”
Bryan Fischer said, “God would say to us, ‘I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first.’”
Eric Hovind asked if people were happy that the shooter grew up in schools without God.
These responses devastate me.
First, I think we need to remember that violence against children doesn’t only happen in schools. God’s presence didn’t stop thousands of children from being molested in churches. God’s presence didn’t stop a child from being called an “evil little thing” for having a different opinion from a Christian leader. God’s presence didn’t stop a pastor from suggesting violence against children who don’t conform to gender norms.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that violence against children is pervasive, and is just as likely in places where children are taught Bible lessons as they are where children are taught the three R’s.
But aside from that, I see an even bigger problem with the idea that is presented in these kinds of statements.
Despite being less than two weeks from Christmas, and despite the fact that these are some of the staunchest defenders against the “war on Christmas,” it would appear that they have forgotten the beauty of incarnation.
They have forgotten that two millennia ago, God took on flesh and became Immanuel.
God with us.
When we who claim belief in this story say that God is beholden to our laws regarding teacher-led prayer (because let’s not kid ourselves into believing the lie that God has been completely banned from the public school), we cheapen his presence. His presence in the lives of the teachers. His presence in the lives of the administrators. His presence in the lives of the students.
As one who endures moments of loneliness, the promise of God with us is one that encourages me regularly. The wonder of God manifested in human form is something that brings me peace when I feel surrounded by uncertainty.
When we’re faced with tragedy, it is natural to ask questions. We want to make sense out of the senseless. We want to create order in the middle of chaos.
But let us please be careful of turning those questions into statements that blame anyone other than the perpetrators of violence.
And let us continue to remember and lean on our Immanuel.
God with us.