To: Media, Politicians, Faith Leaders
Stay United: Using Extreme Religious Jargon to Explain a School Shooting is Dangerous
Media: please do not air or print interviews with politicians and commentators who spread hatred by pointing fingers of blame at people of other faiths or beliefs for senseless tragedies and inexplicable incidents of terror. Remarks like Mike Huckabee's insist that people who do not adhere to his personal religious doctrine, and who resist religious coercion in public spaces meant to elevate and educate all citizens, have incited either the absence or wrath of God and in essence caused mass murder across our country and in our schools. This is irresponsible and unAmerican and should not be propagated in our media, especially without engaging Christian authority figures who believe otherwise within the same interview.
Why is this important?
This explanation is unfortunately not just a simple protected expression of a point of view, which is always encouraged and appreciated. Instead, it knowingly exploits a confusing, gut-wrenching time in our already polarized country to incite hatred and rage toward people with different beliefs, making them vulnerable to discrimination and attacks, especially among children in schools who are being led to think that "taking God out of schools" is why "God allowed [the murder of children] to happen." How terrifying that is to children of all backgrounds!
It is offensive to religious people for authority figures to spread a malicious belief that God is such a murderous and retributive God, or such a judgmental, careless one. Furthermore, it is important to clarify that God has not been taken out of schools. American schools have simply been opened up to allow for children of all beliefs and faiths and practices to be equally included, equally valued, and equally free to feel good about their faith while in a public school setting, and not to oppressed for it. Students are free to express themselves and practice their own faith, individually and in group settings. We must respect and allow that freedom for all our children.
To place the blame for an inexplicable murder committed by a seriously ill individual on school officials, on lawmakers and governments, and most especially on innocent children who go to school to learn and grow, but who do not practice the particular religious doctrine of Mike Huckabee, is beyond insensitive, logically and theologically ridiculous -- it is dangerous, incendiary, and the equivalent of putting a bounty of sorts on the heads of schoolchildren who are not Christian.
As a Christian minister, I have to speak up and insert into this dialogue the notion that God is/was never to be "found" in rules, regulations, activities sanctioned or curriculum taught by schools or other public institutions. No, God is to be found in human hearts, including those of children, and so God permeates schools and other human institutions in THIS way in many forms and expressions. God is never present where people are being forced or humiliated. Indeed, human beings cannot "keep God out of schools." We do not control God. And above all, God does not "allow" terrible things to happen because of what people believe, say or do, or because certain "other" people do not subscribe to certain specific religious doctrines or superstitions.
Where is God? God is grieving with us, all of us, of all religions and no religion. But God is NOT purposefully leaving room for sick people to smite children because of the choices of others, nor because of the separation of church and state. Asking "why did God let this happen" is an understandable but unhelpful question, one that leads limited human minds nowhere good. The question we can address is, why do WE human beings keep allowing this to happen? Let's not point fingers. This is the time to stay UNITED.