The images are horrible. Weeping relatives and friends, clinging to each other, and rows of crosses bearing the names of the latest victims whose lives ended abruptly.
We’ve seen it in Sandy Hook, where a gunman rampaged through classrooms, killing little children. We’ve seen it in a synagogue and a church, at the Boston Marathon and even a placid Amish schoolhouse.
Now we’ve seen it in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, where the latest death toll stands at 31 people with dozens injured. The week before, a shooter left three dead and a dozen injured in Gilroy, California.
Some shooters leave manifestos, but we’re usually left with a mystery about the motive. There may be friends saying the guy was a loner, he was depressed, he was bullied, he was obsessed with violent video games — or maybe he was an average Joe.
Car bombs, suicide bombers, swords and guns —there are myriad ways to massacre crowds of people. And once the body count is over, there arises the inevitable question for believers.
Where the heck is God in all of this? Has he fallen asleep?
Only people who believe in a good God will be truly horrified by the waves of violence dominating the news.
If you believe that life is meaningless and no divine being created the world, then a violent act would just be another random event.
You can’t really call a shooting evil, since for non-believers everything is relative, and maybe the shooter thought it was a good idea.
But if you believe in a God who loves his children and imbued life with ultimate meaning, and you believe he is all powerful, you might be pondering how he fits into these tragedies.
So where is this good God when bombs drop, cars explode, shots ring out and bodies fall?
Christianity provides an answer that gives a perspective on the world’s evil, although it doesn’t remove the anguish of the parents who lost a child or the husband who lost a wife.
Christians believe that God entered our world, walked among us, shared our joys and sorrows, and suffered the horrific death of crucifixion.
So God is not some distant, unapproachable being watching the show unfold. Instead, he became a character in the story of mankind, and he remains involved in our joys and suffering.
Even in a world where news stories are laden with pain, injuries, suicides and shootings, Christianity promises that wickedness and death will never have the final word.
But why does God allow such wickedness? Archbishop Charles Chaput responded to the Sandy Hook shootings by saying: “He allows it because we — or others just like us — choose it.”
We are created with free will and our choices can lead to intense suffering for another person or remarkable joy. Our actions shape the world we live in, which means we can live violently and selfishly, and fuel the frenzy — or act peacefully.
As Chaput says, “The only effective antidote to the wickedness around us is to live differently from this moment forward.”
We might start by examining the violence in our own lives — cursing at children, screaming at a spouse, yelling at people with different political beliefs, spewing hate about our boss, watching porn.
We might also acknowledge how we turn our backs on a neglected child who may live in our own house — or next door. We can make a real effort to stop ignoring the suffering all around us.
Instead of asking where God is when people are crushed by sorrow and pain, let’s find out where we are. We can’t wipe out violence and cruelty in the world, but let’s pray to banish it from our hearts.
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