Violence and Faith

The day after nineteen, 9 and 10 year old grade 4 children and two teachers were gunned down by an eighteen year old, who 8 days ago legally purchased an assault rifle and high capacity magazine in Uvalde, Texas.

Faith choices comes to me when I take seriously the events that transpire in real lives of my fellow humans. I can believe in a loving God who is NOT in control or I can believe in an uncaring deity who is in control but chooses to not intervene, or I can choose to believe there is no god at all.

I do not, in any way, want to minimize the tragic and horrific mass shootings in Uvalde, TX, or Buffalo, NY, just two weeks ago. Yet, the reality is that these acts of unspeakable violence are drops in the bucket of unfathomable suffering that is overflowing because of the daily acts of human-on-human violence.

I have six grandchildren, four are school-aged and two live in the U.S., in a state with a similar attitude toward gun ownership as Texas. I’m also the son of a first generation Canadian whose parents immigrated to Canada from Ukraine. Yet, I cannot, in any way, understand the depth of suffering that the families of the victims in Uvalde or Buffalo or Ukraine feel, but neither can I say I don’t hurt. I am angry! I’m deeply sad! I’m disturbed and increasingly more cynical day-by-day.

As one who is striving to be a Jesus follower, I’m so tired of my fellow Christians saying “God is good” at the same time as they say, “God is in control” – at least when they are not directly impacted by such violence. Would they say the same if it was their child, grandchild, brother, or sister who was gunned down by an AR-15? Would they say the same if it was their parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother, or sister, who was gunned down while working or shopping at the TOPS supermarket in Buffalo? Would they say the same if it was their family who was decimated by Russian missiles or shot in the head by Russian soldiers or raped and then executed or who are fleeing for their lives or living in terror day-by-day as the bombs explode above their heads while they hide in their makeshift shelters for weeks on end?

With such violence in our daily world, why are church leaders going on playing church like everything is normal? Why are we not having discussions about how all this ongoing and increasing violence and suffering  is impacting our understanding of who God is and how (or whether) God is working at all in the world? Why are we not talking about how our convictions are bearing up or changing under the weight of five million premature deaths due to COVID 19 over past two and a half years, let alone the reality that billions of people are suffering even greater deprivation and fearful uncertainty due to the greed of the Western world, especially due to the actions of the super-rich and the global corporations that are experiencing record profits at their expense? How can we simply respond with “God is good” and/or “God is in control”?

I’m sick with sadness. I’m struggling with my faith and whether or not I can continue to believe in God at all! I am overcome with cynicism regarding our collective desire to do anything about any of the world’s problems. And even where there is the desire and effort to do so, I doubt our ability to make any real or lasting difference. I have maybe as much as 20 more years to live, but what kind of world will there be for my grandchildren. I remember deeply the existential angst I experienced at their age while living with the reality of the “cold war” and the daily threat of nuclear war. Fifty years later has anything really changed?

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