Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a meme going around to answer the question of why the Christian God did not prevent the shooting.
“God is not allowed in schools.”
I think most of the people getting behind this meme are generally decent people who love their country and respect their fellow Americans of other religious beliefs, including none at all. With that in mind, I want to tell you how this answer looks to those of us on the outside.
You’re effectively telling us that your God could have stopped Adam Lanza from going into that school and shooting all those people, most of whom were little kids, but he chose not to intervene, because the U.S. makes public schools a secular zone.
I grew up Christian, so I know that God is supposed to be extremely powerful. The God that I was taught to believe in would not let a small thing like the First Amendment get in the way of protecting children from getting shot while they sit in their classrooms. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how my childhood church would answer the question of why God didn’t make Adam Lanza use the first bullet on himself, but they would not tell us that those children and staff were killed because of the nation’s decision to make public schools a religion-neutral zone.
To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.
To those who believe in different gods, or different ideas of the same God, you’re telling them that they are part of the problem because they want their children to go to school in a non-sectarian environment. You are asking them to think there would be less violence in the world if they allowed your religious traditions to be honored in the public sphere, at taxpayer expense, above their own.
All that said, I think this idea is most offensive to American Christians who respect the separation of church and state, because it’s ostensibly their God that chose not to prevent Adam Lanza from killing all those people. You’re also telling them that they are contributing to the problem by not demanding that their religious traditions be honored above all others.
Most of all, the message you’re sending is that a mass murder with mostly very young victims is a good time to discuss the merits of church-state separation. This may seem fair enough, because a lot of other people are using this occasion to point out the dangers of handguns. However, there is an important difference between God and guns, which is: we don’t need to debate whether guns exist. We can all look at a gun placed in front of us, take it apart, and learn the mechanics of how that gun can be used to kill people. In this case, we all know for a fact that guns were used to enable the killing of many people in a short span of time. There is no faith involved in understanding gun-related deaths. The evidence is readily available to all of us. The existence of God, and especially the supposed role of God in this tragedy, is all a matter of dueling beliefs. So, now you’re telling us that a lot of violence could be prevented if we all started worshipping the same God and in the same way that you do, but where’s your evidence? Why should we believe you over all other faith traditions, as well as the physics of handgun technology, the biology of death by bullet wound, and the sociology and psychology of violence? I don’t doubt that your intentions are genuine, and that you really think what this country needs more than anything is more love of God. The shooting at Sandy Hook was not a crime against God nearly as much as it was a crime against human beings. If you think your religion has a monopoly on compassion for human beings, you are sorely mistaken.