Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

On God, Shooting Children, and Still Having No Answers

sandy hook

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works.Tweets at @peteenns.

The Sandy Hook shooting happened 6 years ago today. I haven’t gotten remotely closer to wrapping my head around it, so I am reposting what I wrote that next day. 

Who cares what I think about all this. I’m not really sure if I care what I think about all this.

I didn’t sleep well last night and I woke up sad and unsettled. For some reason, killing these 20 children and 6 adults in Connecticut yesterday burrowed deep into my heart and has decided to stay put for a while.

What kind of a God would let…..

This sort of thing happens all the time. We all know that. In recent months the news has been full of these “stories.”

But it’s actually far worse. Violence against innocents—whether at the hand of individuals, groups, tribes, or nations—is as old as recorded time. Violence and the drama of human history go hand in hand.

And people have been asking, in one way or another, “Uh, excuse me, God?” ever since learned scribes began writing about God/the gods on rock, clay, animal skin, and papyrus.

What kind of a God would….    Indeed. In my opinion, this is the grand struggle of any faith in God, a higher power, whatever.

It’s an age old question that no one can solve, but that every college philosophy student and seminarian has to take a deep look at: If God is all loving and all powerful, why do things like this happen? Why does God let them happen? Why doesn’t God do something—now, right here?

Good questions.

Well, like I said, who cares what I think. But these moments test one’s faith more than most. And it makes other “challenges to our faith”—like whether there was a historical Adam or whether the Bible was written after the return from Babylonian exile—look like a splash in a shallow puddle compared to the deep, black, ocean storm of 5 year olds getting shot because they went to school one day.

I can easily get my arms around a God whose book begins with a mythic story of a naked first couple holding a conversation with a serpent, or a Bible that wasn’t written until the 5th century BC. But yesterday? There is nothing “easy” about it.

This is going to sound like advice, but it’s not. Neither is it an answer. But, at times like this, three disconnected thoughts come to my mind.

(1) There are many wonderful and beautiful things about the world we live in, but things are also seriously and undeniably [feel free to use the predicate adjective of your choice].

(2) If you believe in God, there will always come a point—and sooner than we tend to think—where our understanding hits a wall at 80 mph.

(3) The way of sorrow and pain is built into the Christian story, particularly the suffering of innocents: the Gospel claims that God himself took part in suffering and death.

Anyway, I’m still unsettled, and sad, and I don’t really feel like editing the next chapter in a book where I have to act like I understand God better than I really do.

Addendum:

About 2 years after the tragedy, Jimmy Greene, father of Ana Marquez-Greene, and jazz composer and musician, released a CD as a tribute to his daughter.

Great music. Great dad. And a very moving story.

O God, whose beloved Son did take little children into his
arms and bless them: Give us grace, we beseech thee, to
entrust this child Ana, all of children, and the adults who lost their lives,
to thy never-failing care and love, and
bring us all to thy heavenly kingdom; through the same thy
Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort:
Deal graciously, we pray thee, with all those who mourn, that
casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of
thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [Book of Common Prayer]

[For those seeking more information on preventing gun violence, Sandy Hook Promise is a national 3 million plus member non-profit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Visit the website and consider supporting their cause.]

 

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