Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thou shalt not miss

When I heard that the Colorado church gunman was killed, I was pleased. He was a murderer, and he had to be stopped. When I heard that a female parishioner stopped him, I thought two things. First, I was amazed that someone had a gun at church, but I understood when I heard that people had pitched in to protect the place after earlier shootings. Second, I thought, "good for her." Yes, I know it's sexist, but I really didn't expect a woman to have stopped him. Not that a woman couldn't. In fact, my Mom was the best shot in the family. It's just that it's usually the men who can't wait to re-enact scenes from the Wild West. So I thought, "good for her!"

And then I heard that she was crediting God with helping her. As she said, "It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God." *sigh* God wanted this guy stopped, so He steadied her aim? God was directly involved, and the best He could do was help this person make good use of a primitive weapon? (Let's face it, folks, a weapon that uses a chemical reaction to create gases to push a small metal projectile out a tube is a pretty primitive weapon, especially if you happen to be God!)

The very idea of killing in God's name is strange, regardless of the reason. As God said in an interview after 9/11, "No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."

Okay, seriously, if God wanted to stop this guy, why wouldn't He have stopped him himself? Just smite him. Or, better yet, reach into the guy's mind and show him the error of his ways. But no, this churchgoer thinks God was helping her aim.

The icing on the cake? Her shots didn't kill the guy. He finished himself off. Yes, I'm sure her shots stopped his progress, but God's help couldn't deliver a fatal shot?

Please. What is it with people? Bad enough when some football player thanks God for winning a game, because God has nothing better to do (like maybe helping starving people or saving some of the many species we're wiping out), but what kind of Christian takes from his/her bible studies that God (especially under the teachings of the New Testament) is going to help with killing?


Cincy Diva said...

I guesss ince the security gaurd/churchgoer's gun did not end his life, and God was involved...that would mean that God just openly condoned suicide, doesn't it?

Cooper said...

Have you read this?

Oh, the harm we do in the name of "god". I lit a candle for that young man's soul. I believe that he was a victim, too.

Andy said...

Well, when you have an emotionally disturbed young man armed to the teeth who is intent on indiscriminate killing, what range of options do you have? And if people are being gunned down in front of you, how much time do you allow yourself to weigh available options against morality while more people die?

I think the more important questions here are why this troubled youth was roaming free instead of getting the help he clearly needed. And also I think we need to continue to revisit the 2nd Amendment. They may argue that guns don't kill people, people do, but they sure put up a hell of a fuss when the rest of us try to make it difficult for a crazy person to get a gun.

Jess said...

Andy: Don't get me wrong. I don't think that woman had any option. I just find the idea of crediting God with helping to kill a bizarre idea. Yes, she did the right thing in firing at that guy, but God helped? An interesting notion.

And yes, the gun nuts are ridiculous. How can sane people be against gun control?

Andy said...

I just find the idea of crediting God with helping to kill a bizarre idea.

Sometimes we have to sit with an experience for a long time -- years, a lifetime -- before we begin to properly understand what role God played. Our first assumption is often radically modified. And if one is looking for divine sanction of killing, the Hebrew scriptures provide ample support.

Though I am a pacifist, they were wiser men than I who developed the doctrines of just war; "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven;...a time to kill, and a time to heal." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3)

Jess said...

Andy: Yes, I'm aware of the Old Testament's more vengeful view of God and harsher take on justice. That's why I said "especially under the teachings of the New Testament" and was especially troubled by the Christian parishioner/security guard taking such a view. Perhaps God did help. Perhaps He was smiling as the gunman was shot. But God could stop this misguided child of His without killing him, so why would He take such an approach?

Andy said...

Evangelicals put a different kind of focus on the Hebrew Scriptures than many other mainline denominations; evangelicals and fundamentalists will often tell you that no, there is no difference between the way God is presented in the Hebrew and Christian writings, even though that difference seems glaringly obvious to us. Raised on the idea that everything in the Bible is literally true, the most common way they wrestle with the resulting cognitive dissonances created by so many disparities is simply to deny that they exist.

But to your more important question: But God could stop this misguided child of His without killing him, so why would He take such an approach?

You mean, like sending a thunderbolt down or turning him into a pillar of salt? In my tradition, we don't view God as intervening directly in that manner anymore, if He ever did. Instead, God speaks to us, appeals to our conscience, has a voice cry within us, "Stop, think." But some people are beyond hearing; this boy may well even have been possessed.

There's no easy answer, there's no "God did this/allowed this to happen because...".

If I had to speculate, I'd say the likely cause of the boy's rage was spiritual abuse; well-meaning people of all religions often get their theology and tactics completely wrong and end up doing incredible emotional damage to people. Let's not forget that this is Ted Haggard's former congregation; this is not a community that practices the radical, extravagant welcome preached by Jesus. This is a group that takes Luke's quote from Jesus "strive to enter by the narrow door" to mean they get to set the entry requirements. I would surmise that it was a myriad of ill circumstances that led to this tragedy.