Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor, posed this question Tuesday via Twitter: Where was God in the Aurora Massacre? On the CNN Belief Blog he added, “It’s a fresh take on an age-old question: Why does God allow suffering, natural disasters or – if you believe in it – evil?”
I saw the Tweet yesterday and got around to reading the blog this evening. The key responses ranged from it was God’s punishment, to God’s will, to the devil at work. There were a few other viewpoints in between. It was odd to read and it troubles me that so many people abdicate their individual responsibility for humanity. I guess some people need a way to absolve mankind, or maybe themselves, from such actions in our world by placing the responsibility on some greater power.
In my opinion, the shootings in Aurora were simply a desperate act of a disturbed individual. Neither God nor the devil had anything to do with seventy people being shot and wounded, and twelve people dying. This is about a man and his actions.
The concept of free will—man is free to make decisions that coexist with a higher power and is morally and ethically responsible for those decisions—is at the core of my beliefs. Others will most certainly disagree with me, but I cannot believe a higher power punishes, or even allows such horrific happenings. It would be difficult for me to believe in a God so vengeful—what parent wants to see their children suffer? This is clearly man’s work.
I also don’t believe a supernatural creature with horns, or with cloven hooves, who eagerly awaits opportunities to infect our thoughts, directs evil in the world. I do believe evil exists, I just believe the root of it is buried within each of us. We all have the capacity to think about doing bad, or even evil, things to others. Some may choose to act on these thoughts. Should they do so, I believe the responsibility of the actions rest with individual—whether the reason is poor judgment, uncontrollable rage, or mental defect. I don’t believe there’s anything else behind it—certainly not some sort of supernatural dark force. It’s the free will thing again.
I do believe this: A higher power, God if you will, was in the Aurora Massacre. God was at work in the heroic actions of others in the theater; carried through the hands and voices of those who cared for the injured and dying, and; found in those positive words and deeds of friends, families, and even strangers who offered them as sympathetic gestures for the victims and their families.
Yes, God was most definitely present in the Aurora Massacre.
The whole town was alive with the spirit of a living God.
Please note: I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, theologian, or a member of the clergy. My opinions above are based only on my lifetime in the church, my personal study of Christian teachings, and my admittedly incomplete and imperfect understanding of my own faith. For context, I’ve been a member of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. since 1985, although I spent much of my youth in both non-denominational and American Baptist churches.