AURORA, GUNS, MEDIA, AND GOD

As everyone knows by now, 24-year-old James Holmes is accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 in a shooting massacre Friday morning, July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, at a packed theater of moviegoers watching the premiere of the latest Batman movie. This has given rise to collateral discussions across the nation of at least three additional concerns: guns, the media, and God.

GUNS

The country seems to be poised for another round in the debate of whether gun-ownership creates violence or prevents it.

Within hours of the massacre, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent gun-control advocate,  said  “But maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, ‘Isn’t it tragic?’”

“I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day. It’s just got to stop,” he said. “And instead of these two people, President Obama and Gov. Romney, talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place. OK. Tell us how. And this is a problem.”

Bloomberg added: “No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them, concretely, not just in generalities, specifically, ‘What are they going to do about guns?’”

Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said he could not understand why there was apparently no-one in the theater with a weapon who could take gunman James Holmes out before he could create more mayhem.

“It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?” Gohmert asked.

As a gun owner with intentions of eventually securing a concealed weapon permit, I think Gohmert is asking the more pressing question.

Incidentally, support for gun control has fallen in recent years. Gallup says 78 percent wanted stricter gun laws in 1990, falling to 62 percent by 1995. By 2007 it was 51 percent and last year just 44 percent.

MEDIA

As the elections in November draw closer, we can – sadly – expect members of the news media to allow their objectivity to give way to personal bias in their reporting. However I’d be alarmed if we had a more egregious example than ABC  reporter Brian Ross trying to tie the Colorado massacre to the Tea Party on “Good Morning America” after discovering the Colorado Tea Party Patriots had a member called James Holmes.

Ross admitted on air that he did not know whether the two men were the same, but still went ahead with his claim that the tragedy in Aurora could be linked to the grassroots group.

ABC later apologized online and Ross tweeted, “Earlier I reported incorrectly that the shooting suspect might be tied to the Tea Party. I apologize for the mistake.” Those two statements would have been seen by just a fraction of the number of people who watched his original report and I’m unaware of any subsequent apologies made over the network.

Colorado Tea Party Patriots does have a member called James Holmes. But he is 52. The alleged shooter in Aurora is 24. The two men are unrelated.

Brian Ross needs to resign, or ABC needs to fire him.

GOD

Understandably, whenever tragedy strikes questions of God, his role and his goodness come to the forefront. As a follower of Jesus, here are five personal convictions:

  • God infuses every moment and every event with meaning and gives us confidence that He understands what we are going through. God’s knowledge of all events means nothing is insignificant to Him. If God knows when a sparrow falls, He certainly knows when we face tragedy (Matthew 10:29-31). In fact, God assured us that we would face trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that He has experienced our struggles personally (Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 4:15).

 

  • God has sovereign control over all things, but it is important to remember that God is not the source of tragedy. The vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin, all too often the sin of other people. For instance, a mass murder is the fault of the murderer disobeying the moral law of God (Exodus 20:13; Romans 1:18-21).

 

  • While God is perfectly capable of stopping tragedies before they begin, sometimes He chooses not to. While we may not know why, we do know that He is perfect, just, and holy, and so is His will.

 

  • Also, the suffering we experience in this world does three things. It leads us to seek God, it develops our spiritual strength, and it increases our desire for heaven (Romans 8:18-25; James 1:2-3; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7).

 

  • Tragic events demonstrate much of their meaning in the way we react to them. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This does not mean that God causes tragedy, but that He uses our reaction to tragedy to speak to us.
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18 Comments

Filed under Evil, Jesus, Media

18 responses to “AURORA, GUNS, MEDIA, AND GOD

  1. Johnny: As you probably know, Rabbi Harold Kushner, while grappling with the death of his son, postulated that God can not be (1) ominpotent, (2) omniscient AND (3) omnibenevolent — but he can be two out of three. Kushner chooses to believe that God is omniscient and omnibenevolent but not omnipotent — in essence, Aurora happens because God is unable to prevent it. I agree with Kushner insofar as I find it difficult to argue that God is all three. Though I’m still sorting it out, I tend to believe that God loves us enough to stop Aurora and is powerful enough to stop Aurora but God does not know it is going to happen beforehand and therefore is unable to stop it. Regardless, I’m confident that God can bring peace to the people in Aurora and I hope that happens sooner rather than later.

  2. Ben-
    Thanks for checking out the blog and responding.

    As you obviously know, in Kushner’s book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” he has a chapter, “God Can’t Do Everything, But He Can Do Some Important Things”. I disagree with him, but the entire conversation displays one of the — if not THE — most difficult challenges for theists in general, and Christians in particular: the reality of evil and suffering.

    Please give Cathy my best.

  3. Cecil Wyche

    I must say to jbalexander that the idea of a God who is able to create the entire universe, but is unable to stop one lunatic gunman in Colorado, is completely beyond my comprehension.

    As to your three subjects:

    GUNS – This tragic event should have absolutely no effect on the gun law debates. The notion that some form of “gun control” could stop a highly motivated insane person from building up an armada of weapons over time strikes me as just silly.

    MEDIA – I wonder if James Holmes was in the Boy Scouts? I’ve always suspected that wearing uniforms as a teenager would lead to violent mass murder later on. (<——- Yes, that was a joke.)

    GOD – I don't see how the "vast majority of human suffering is caused by sin". As far as I can tell, natural disasters and micro-organisms have caused the most human suffering. World War I may have been sinful, but the Influenza epidemic that occurred around the same time took many more lives. And if we asked the Japanese tsunami survivors whether they would rather have had a crazy gunman instead of the water they got, I think the gunman would win hands down.

  4. Martha Beinor

    God: So what about Free Will?

  5. Martha-

    I’m a strong proponent of free-will and personal moral responsibility.

    Here’s part of a blog I read today by James Emery White, that addresses this better than I:

    In 1973, psychiatrist Karl Menninger published a book with the provocative title, Whatever Became of Sin? His point was that sociology and psychology tend to avoid terms like “evil,” or “immorality,” and “wrongdoing.” Menninger detailed how the theological notion of sin became the legal idea of crime and then slid further from its true meaning when it was relegated to the psychological category of sickness.

    We need the word back.

    Why? Because God was not behind what happened in Aurora, much less responsible for it.

    A person was.

    Philip Yancey, a writer who has invested much of his life exploring these issues, was contacted by a television producer after the death of Princess Diana to appear on a show and explain how God could have possibly allowed such a tragic accident.

    “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel?,” he asked the producer. “How, exactly, was God involved?”

    From this, Yancey reflected on the pervasive nature of the mindset that our actions are actually an indictment of God.

    Such as when boxer Ray “boom boom” Mancini killed a Korean boxer in a match, the athlete said in a press conference, “Sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”

    In a letter to a Christian family therapist, a young woman told of dating a man and becoming pregnant. She wanted to know why God allowed that to happen to her.

    In her official confession, when South Carolina mother Susan Smith pushed her two sons into a lake to drown, she said that as she did it, she went running after the car as it sped down the ramp screaming, “Oh God! Oh God, no!…Why did you let this happen!”

    Yancey raises the decisive question by asking,

    “What exactly was the role God played in a boxer pummeling his opponent, a teenager abandoning her virtue, or a mother drowning her children?”

    God let us choose, and we did, and our choices have brought continual pain and heartache and destruction.

    The recuperating victims, the families of the deceased, and all who were traumatized by that night in Aurora deserve our prayers and anything else we can offer to serve.

  6. I may be alone in this, but I find the “God let’s us choose/free will” explanation unsatisfying (I mean that candidly and not disrespectfully). I try my best to let my children make choices, even bad ones with consequences. But I will not allow them to make choices that imperil their lives or the lives of others. If I can stop them from making those choices, I will. And if I can protect them from the catastrophically bad choices of others, I will. Because I love them. I believe God loves His children far more than I love mine. So I struggle with the idea our Heavenly Father would decline to prevent mass tragedy, where and when He can, in the name of “letting us or others choose”. I certainly agree that God does not cause mass tragedy; but nor does he prevent it. I suppose that someday I will learn to be content with “His ways are not my ways” but the “free will” argument will not be what tides me over.

    Anyway, I enjoy your blog, your thoughtful posts, and the thoughtful insights of your commenters. Cheers.

    • Thank you for the post and the conversation afterwards. I have been thinking about these same issues and just wrote about them here: http://wp.me/pW5tC-sq. I just have two comments in response to the exchange between the two of you:
      1. I believe that a big part of the problem is in how we think about God. When we speak about God as the father, as a being who can stop events if he (or she) wants to, we are anthropomorphizing the ineffable. It’s inevitable that we will do that – because we need to use language and human concepts to try to grasp God – but we have to keep reminding ourselves that God’s something bigger and more mysterious. That’s why I’ve really appreciated the way Paul Tillich speaks about God – although his concepts are really tough to grasp – but by speaking of God as that which lies behind all existence I think we are given a concept that is more honest and less riddled with the logical problems you both have been highlighting in your discussion.
      2. As a mother of three children, I think that the idea that humans have free will to completely mess things up is spot on. Yes, I try to prevent my children from doing terrible things, but ultimately I can not control their actions (something that’s really important to remember as my oldest enters her teen years). And to put it more bluntly – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either God has given us the freedom to make terrible mistakes, or He hasn’t. I don’t see how we can have it both ways. And yes, I just anthropomorphized God. It’s hard to avoid.

      • Good thoughts, Seeingfaith –
        Thank you.

        Let me add one additional thought. God himself anthropomorphizes himself throughout the Bible as he reveals himself to us, communicating in ways that we can best understand; in ways that are completely true, if not totally comprehensive. For example, God refers to himself as Father. That is not a concept that originated with humans.

    • Ben-
      The analogy of your relationship with your children is an excellent one. It does not seem unreasonable to me to magnify that analogy ALOT when talking about a heavenly father. Just as your children do not have the capacity (bright as I’m sure they are) to, for now, understand the “larger purpose” behind the painful events you alllow to take place in their lives, so too might we simply (but significantly) lack what is, for God, an eternal perspective.
      Granted, this is a position taken on faith. But it is faith based upon what the Bible teaches, and consideration of the alternatives.

  7. Mark Tank

    “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Genesis 6:5,6).
    God is not the problem … we are. And His heart was more broken that we can fully comprehend. So Jesus stepped into our skin and the sinful violence and madness we have created and provided a way of escape to the other side. We don’t need Batman because his abilities are too limited. We need a greater super-hero, who really does die … and really does come back to life.

  8. So what we are saying is that Free Will limits God’s Omnipotence? That is, God is NOT all powerful. Perhaps voluntarily so. But that simply kicks the can down the street … if God knew that by giving up some of his power in the name of allowing us free will that we would inevitably unleash tragedy death and great suffering, then why would He do that in the first place? He =must= be allowing this tragedy for some reason. Or no reason. It certainly doesn’t jive with a “God of Love”. I think it is more intellectually honest to simply admit that God is God and He will do whatever he wants and we have absolutely no place to question Him.

    • Wonderphile-

      Thanks for throwing your provocative thoughts into the pot.

      In response, five things:
      1. I’m certainly not saying that Free Will limits God’s omipotence. God has not given up any of his power.
      2. I do believe that He allowed this tragedy for some reason.
      3. Whereas the circumstances of the tragedy, in and of themselves, do not seem to jive with a “God of Love”, we must therefore make sure we look beyond immediate circumstances to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. For it is there where we see God demonstrating his love for us (Romans 5:8).
      4. God allows — dare I say — encourages us to question him. Job declares (Job 13:15) “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will argue my ways before Him.” John the Baptist was not rebuked by Jesus when John, from prison, sent him a message asking “Are you the expected One or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
      5. We must not allow the reality of the sovereignty of God to lead to a philosophical determinism that undermines the power of prayer, or the openness and candor with which we are encouraged to pray.

  9. Mark Tank

    Thanks Johnny for the good responses you have given to a discussion that is relevant at so many levels. You know, if there was no evidence that a Savior was born, no evidence that a person could be re-born for a new and eternal existence, and no promise of an eternity for all who have become genuine followers of Jesus, I might be tempted to conclude that God was either cruel or didn’t exist at all. But because all of these other things are credible and, by faith, convincingly and unassailably true, I find that by repentance and faith I move beyond the elementary question (“Why does God allow this?”) to a deeper and salvific exclamation along with Paul (Romans 11:33 > “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
    34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
    35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”
    36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

    It is the forward progress of faith moving from the “?” to the “!” that has restored my hope, joy, and love in the Lord. All the question marks become exclamation marks at Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter and the lesser celebrated but equally profound ascension of Jesus into heaven. The “?” makes me look downward and introspectively. The “!” of faith has raised my eyes upwardly and longing for the something and someone better for me and for all who look up. If weren’t for the suffering that effects all of us, and especially God, I don’t think I would ever look up.

  10. Extremely well said, Mark. Thank you!

  11. FYI for those who have been following the exchange of thoughts for this particular blog. Here the concern has been theological. In a parallel “discussion” on Facebook, the concern was guns and the if it’s acceptable to carry one. So I thought you might be interested in seeing what was written.

    DK: So, Johnny, is your desire to get a concealed carry permit an indication of your lack of faith in God to protect you?

    Johnny Price: No. It’s an exercise in taking advantage of what the Lord has provided for the good of myself and my neighbors. It a means of loving my neighbor.

    DK: And what of turning the other cheek, and if a man asks for your coat give him your shirt?

    Johnny Price: Neither of those are applicable. We’re talking here about responding to someone using deadly force against you and/or the people around you.

    MG: I gotta say Johnny, you surprise me with your gun views.

    Johnny Price: I’m surprised you’re surprised.

    JP: Johnny, You can add one more thing to things on which we will never agree and probably shouldn’t discuss.

    DK: Johnny, how can you say “neither of those are applicable? ” Matthew 5:40-42 says that if someone sues you for your cloak you are also give him your shirt and if he forces you to go one mile, go two. These are not acts where a brother is asking for something and you are giving something extra, they are cases where an adversary is forcing you to do something and, instead of resisting (drawing your concealed sword, as it were), you cooperate and do extra.

    Johnny Price: “turning the other cheek, and if a man asks for your coat give him your shirt” are not morally equivalent to someone trying to gun down you, your family and friends. To say that they are and to then use that as a basis for non-resistance is create a case for pacifism which removes the possibility of you protecting your family from an intruder, or a nation protecting itself from terrorsists.

    MG: not gonna jump in, but love reading this…so many opinions on the same book!

    Johnny Price: Come on in Matthew. The water’s fine and you’re a great swimmer.

    MG: i would drown on this one! Watching from the shore; maybe if i see some floaties…

    DK: So, would Jesus have been justified in using mortal force to resist Judas and the temple police when they came to arrest him?

    Johnny Price: Yes. He would have been justified. He would have been justified to call upon the 12 legions of angels he tells Peter he has available after Peter had cut off Malchus’ ear. But, of course, his purpose at that point was otherwise.

  12. Pingback: James Holmes’ sick neuroscience experiment? | Seeing Faith

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