Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christian Responses to Child Massacres

I find it disturbing that within hours of the massacre of elementary school children yesterday, the first Christian response that hit mass media was this. Here's is the actual video of what he said.

If the definition of sin is “missing the mark,” which it is by the way, then this is a sinful response to tragedy. Mike Huckabee has missed the mark. He's missed God's heart. He's missed the gospel. He's missed Scripture's crystal clear instructions. I really hope that conservative Christians who love the Word of God will cry out against this—that we will be clear and upfront with our non-believing friends that Huckabee's is not a Christian representation of the God of the Bible in response to tragedy.

God gives us clarity in His Word. “Weep with those who weep,” the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 12. Mourn with those who mourn. “Comfort those with the comfort you have received” (2 Cor. 1). One pastor friend noted to me that the most disgusting part of Huckabee's statement was the opportunism of it.
opportunism: the art, policy, or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances often with little regard for principles or consequences.
There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, and if this is the best you have to offer people, this was the time to be silent.

I know many, many unbelieving people. Heck, I live in Seattle. Most of my acquaintances and many of my friends are struggling on the brink of unbelief or not believers altogether. NO ONE I know needs someone to convince them of the ugliness, the sinfulness, of what happened Friday. They are faced with it head on. And, frankly, few of them don't struggle with their own personal guilt too. And then the Christian moralist speaks up, exploiting the moment to make his point not on the sinfulness of man in general or the gunman in particular, but of the political ideology of the separation of church and state. Now, I would personally LOVE for prayer to be accepted in school. I would love for the creation story to be at least an accepted alternative to the origins of man. But the removal of prayer from schools is not the issue at the heart of Friday's headlines. That was simple opportunistic exploitation of a horrible tragedy.

What people long for in such tragedy in my experience is COMFORT. And our response according to Scripture in such moments should be COMFORT. This is not a moment for us as Christians to seize to make a point on morality or sinfulness or politics. This a moment when an entire nation is hurting, when people at least in that community are naturally turning toward churches with a pain beyond imagining. And God instructs us clearly to comfort.
Comfort: to give strength and hope; to ease the grief or trouble of.
Offer empathy and compassion. Hurt with those who are hurting, and comfort with the comfort that you have received. My comfort in this moment is that this world is not the last word on humanity. Things are better than they were 100 years ago. Humanity is more civilized than it was. We have a greater life expectancy. We have better human rights. We value image bearers of God more than we did years ago. Yet, we still long for God to make all things right, and He promises to do that very thing one day. That is my hope and comfort. Jesus ushered in something through His death, and we have tasted its firstfruits, but much more is promised.

Friday's shootings remind us of the great lack that remains between God's goodness and what we experience in life today. Yet much around Friday reminds us of things that He has already ushered in of His kingdom. For all the brutality of the one shooter, we saw multitudes of people fulfilling the Greatest Command. There was a lot of sacrificial love evidenced Friday.

I'm thankful for Hebrews 2:8.
“YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
It reminds me clearly that while much transformational good has come after Christ's death, we do not yet see the fullness of Jesus as King of kings. When Jesus comes again, all sickness, including mental illness, will be healed and there will be no need for guns. The sin within us and the sin outside of us will be fully eradicated, and we will live at peace—peace within ourselves, and peace with each other. That day of hope is our comfort. May our testimony to unbelieving friends center on such hope, love, and compassion. Then we will have hit the mark Jesus Himself set for us in these moments.
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
*All definitions from The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

27 comments:

  1. I had to go find the actual video of this. Thus far here's what I found: http://video.foxnews.com/v/2036473010001/huckabee-laws-dont-change-this-kind-of-thing

    Clipping a few remarks out of the whole thing is not right thing to do. It is not a Christian thing to do. The Westminster Catechism rightly defines this as up holding the good name of others under its discussion of the ninth commandment.

    Am I jumping up and down that he answered the last question on the day of the shooting? No, but in context it is much gentler than the links you've provided.

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    1. Thanks for the link of the full interview. My comments stand after watching the full video. He summed up his response with his last statement. "If we let God in our schools on the front end, maybe we wouldn't be having to call him in on the back end."

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    2. I'm afraid I don't agree that Huckabee quote is a summary of his total response.

      It is instead the response to a specific question asked by the interviewer, "How could God let this happen?" In many ways his response resembles one given by Anne Graham Lotz after 9/11. You can read a transcript of the full interview with her here: http://prayerfoundation.org/billy_grahams_daughter.htm Here's the short version, " would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection."

      Help me out in understanding your point of view, how would answer the question, "How could God let this happen?"

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    3. That's a horribly unbiblical response on the part of Anne Graham Lotz. Where was God? Right there! To think He has removed Himself from public schools or America or whatever because of sin or unbelief is the exact opposite of the message we celebrate this season. In the midst of widespread spiritual darkness, Emmanuel, God WITH Us, was born. He came into a horrible, God-hating government (Herod's), among people who rejected Him and eventually put Him to death on the cross. He certainly didn't come because we earned it or deserved it. He is a pursuing God, who comes after us despite ourselves. It wouldn't be gentlemanly for God to walk away. That's an anemic, weak God who doesn't pursue what He wants. It's not consistent AT ALL with how God presents Himself in His Word. Read the book of Hosea.

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    4. Quite correct, but you still haven't answered the question that Huckabee was asked, "How could God let this happen?"

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    5. That's an unanswerable question about an inscrutable God. Huckabee would have been well served to acknowledge that.

      Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

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  2. First of all I realize this is a very sad time and emotions are all over the map for everyone. I have family in CT whose kids had to experience lock down and as you can imagine the anxiety of parents and family were tremendously high.I appreciated your reflection on scripture to keep our hearts steady as we try to make sense of this situation.
    While I do agree that this was not the appropriate time for Mike Huckabee to make the comment especially coming from a person in that position; I do question if we can judge his heart and his motive. (Unless you know something more in terms of his political stance). As a teacher my heart resonated deeply. I found myself listening to every channel on the radio to get information. I found myself whole heartily affirming the gun control laws that should pass. I tried to think about how the security system that the principal had just implemented broke down, then as my thoughts quietened down I thought but the heart of the issue is that they need Jesus. I don't think you or anyone would disagree with that but my point is two fold, first we don't know the motivation of why Huckaebee did not stop to think and I myself have wished that I could take my words back. The second point is a little more heart breaking for me (as christian Brit who has watched the Christian Community change since moving here) I am finding that there is a trend in the body of Christ when it comes to public forums or issues that someone responds with a negative towards the Christian leader themselves rather than just focusing on building up Jesus Christ.Can you really say he is an opportunist?
    You are right. We can agree with our friends and family that his words were not said at the appropriate time but if he is truly a Christian man/brother in Christ can we
    (with him or anyone) determine his motive or his heart. I read the footage from the conversation so I did not hear the tone of his words. I just needed to express this because this trend is breaking my heart.

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  3. PS. I found it interesting that the picture on top of the video is a picture Mike Huckabee looking very angry and saying something but the actually video sounds calm and his wearing a different color tie.

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  4. I read your blog and respect you very much. But to quote your own words above: "What people long for in such tragedy in my experience is COMFORT. And our response according to Scripture in such moments should be COMFORT. This is not a moment for us as Christians to seize to make a point on morality or sinfulness or politics." With as much gentleness as I can put into typed words, how does that differ from what you have done with this blog post? I would much rather have heard words of comfort from you -- perhaps how you are processing this as a mother -- rather than finger pointing at someone else.

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  5. I definitely don't know his motives, and they aren't the issue. Frankly, if he understands the gospel, then he of all people should be able to hear criticism from brothers and sisters in Christ, receive it as intended, and repent without shame or condemnation. But that's not my point in this blog. I don't have the kind of readership to garner that type of attention from someone as public a figure as he. I am simply documenting as a believer that has an audience that likes to listen to my lectures to myself that his response isn't consistent with the Bible's instructions in such moments. That is a pretty important thing to note.

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  6. Wendy, this was excellently said. When Christians speak out as representative of Christianity as a whole, it's important that others also speak out to decry what is unbiblical and should not be considered representative. I think it would comfort many to hear that not all Christ-followers agree with Huckabee's words.

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  7. Wendy, I agree that he should be able to hear criticism from brothers and sisters in Christ, but perhaps a public blogpost should not be the way the he hears it. I am thinking a private email would have been the appropriate channel.

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    1. Kiki, I'm not writing this to rebuke him. He's not in my sphere of influence, and I seriously doubt any email I sent would ever make it to him. I'm certainly not in a position to authoritatively rebuke him. He made a public statement on a public news show that was inappropriate and harms the testimony of Christ. If something is publicly said, it's reasonable to write publicly of concern about it. This is very different than a problem with someone I know or have access too. And I feel confident that Mike Huckabee agrees with me on criticism in public discourse. I doubt he feels any need to, say, email the president before he criticizes something the president said publicly.

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  8. I have not read or listened to Huckabee's response. But I do know the immediate response in my heart and mind. Shock, sadness, sickness, grief, prayer for the families and the thought that this is what happens when people, a country, turn away from God; when people believe it is morally right to kill a baby in the womb. When people are taught that we are all a product of random chance and have no purpose, it is not surprising that they despair and lash out. Our country is reaping the consequenses of our beliefs, or lack thereof.

    In his sermon this morning, our pastor expressed his outrage, and sadness at the tragedy, and then pointed out that 3,000 babies are aborted every day in America. He shared that twenty precious children are less than 1% of the amount of precious children who never get a chance at life. He feels Americans should be more outraged at the deaths from abortions. We should be all be grieving over the 3,000 murders happening every day. In NO WAY was he minimizing what happened to these children and adults. He is a very godly, compassionate family man who openly cries for the lost from the pulpit.

    I completely agree with you that compassion is needed. God's truth is needed too, as people ask questions about evil, etc. All coversations should be bathed in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us in what to say and how to show love.

    On a different note, gun control is not the issue or answer. We own many guns and don't intend to harm others with them. People need Jesus, pure and simple.
    Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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    1. "In NO WAY was he minimizing what happened to these children and adults." I'm glad that he wasn't because it sure sounds like he was.

      There are 1871 rapes and 45 murders in the US daily. There are 5 deaths of children daily due to child abuse. A lot every day happens in the US because of widespread lack of concern for individuals as image bearers of God. Friday, one guy came out in the open, and in 10 minutes dramatically drew our attention to this. He put a microscope on the ugliness in the world. Now people are confused and hurting. The answer is not, "Why are you so concerned about this when all these other bad things happen daily?" I respect that the intensity of this single act raises new questions for people that should not be minimized because of the largess of evil throughout the world.

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  9. Wendy, thank you for your post; it was well said.

    Also, I would like to add that his statements missed the mark in another way as well. It is unbiblical to say that if we prayed more or followed God more, that we would have less suffering in life. The life of Jesus testifies against this idea. Huckabee is also implying that we can somehow "earn" protection from God by praying more. No... He is a sovereign God and works everything (including suffering) according to His perfect will. Blessings from God are not "products" that we buy with prayer.

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    1. That's a very good point, Amy.

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    2. I completely agree. Huckabee is right that we have a sin problem but prayer in schools is not going to change that. Thank you for this post wendy. It's so clear in the bible that people in positions of influence like huckabee is are held to a higher standard and there are serious consequences for misrepresenting christ. It makes me sick thinking that this is how christians are presenting the church in the media.

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    3. Thank you, Amy! That's exactly what I thought too.

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  10. Yes. My heart aches that Christians have focused more on gun control, lack of God in society, etc, etc, than on simply being a loving comfort and doing what Jesus did when people were hurting. Thank you for the post.

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    1. Huckabee's comments do not compare in any way to discourse on gun control. Discussing what modifications, if any, need to be made to current gun laws is a responsible way to evaluate how we can prevent tragedies like this going forward. The same goes for discussions on mental illness and health care. Huckabee, on the other hand, came across like he was saying that God has somehow allowed this to punish people for not acknowledging him in schools.

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  11. I thought this was a great gospel post by John Piper about what happened at Newtown.
    http://a-voice-crying-out.com/2012/12/17/how-does-jesus-come-to-newtown-2/
    There is a most recent post here http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-lesson-for-all-from-newtown on the power and effects of sin.

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  12. I've been critical of Rachel Held Evans at times, but I thought her response today on the question, "Where was God?" was beautiful and correct theologically. Read it here.

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  13. Enjoying your blog that I stumbled on through a facebook post. I just started blogging again after a long absense and hope it will be a discussion place over how to live biblically. If you'd like to check out some of my posts my blog is http://frompaintohope.blogspot.com/

    My most recent post is long as it's a subject I'm passionate about but most of them are small! I hope to get to know you. :)

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  14. I so appreciate your blog post. As a Christian who has an online presence as a token Christian on a mostly secular web community, Huckabee's comments were NOT helpful. May our words as believers NOT drive people away from the Jesus we serve.

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  15. This is from Moms in Prayer International:



    Dear Moms in Prayer family, It is very seldom that we share a state letter with the whole country, but tonight is an exception. Would you please read the letter below from our Connecticut State Coordinator, and if God leads you, would you pray with her and her state for the families affected by the school shooting in Newtown, CT yesterday?


    12-15-12

    My sisters in Christ,

    I am writing to answer the many moms who have written to me and asked what they can do in response to the Sandy Hook School tragedy. I have had Moms in Prayer group leaders from the far reaches of our country and across the ocean informing me that they are fervently praying for the grieving families of our Sandy Hook and Newtown community.

    Oh, how our sisters in Christ have responded in union! We know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit is present while we are praying with the knowledge that God will bring good despite this violence against our little children and teachers.

    Many CT Moms in Prayer warriors have told me that they are involved with prayer vigils in their churches and are planning special meetings with their prayer groups. The intention is to concentrate specific prayer for the families of Sandy Hook, the town of Newtown, the state of Connecticut and our country.

    In light of the knowledge of so many prayer vigils being organized and Moms in Prayer groups meeting for this purpose, I have created a sample Moms in Prayer sheet that could create a way we Moms in Prayer moms may unite in One Accord for our intentional prayer. Feel free to use it or create your own. Most important is that we pray! Imagine how God will respond to our intercession where hundreds and thousands of praying moms unite!

    So, I thank you ladies for your heartfelt prayers for our families here in Connecticut. We so desperately need Jesus in our schools to save our children and families living in darkness.

    Oh, Lord, restore us unto yourself. Revive us again. Show us your unfailing love. We pray that you direct us praying moms into your presence on behalf of the hurting families in Newtown and Sandy Hook. Help us to see your work of good despite this act of evil by Satan. Help us to be a light in the darkness of fear and anxiety that permeates our culture.
    In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

    In union with my mighty praying sisters in Christ,
    Pat

    Psalm 46:10
    "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

    Pat Kenney
    Connecticut State Coordinator
    Moms in Prayer International
    860.321.7239
    CT@MomsInPrayer.org
    www.MomsInPrayer.org


    Thank you for praying.

    Love, Sharon

    Sharon Gamble
    USA National Director
    Moms in Prayer International
    603.740.4113
    USAND@MomsInPrayer.org
    www.MomsInPrayer.org


    ©2012 Moms in Prayer International | PO Box 1120 | Poway, CA | 92074 | 858.486.4065 Pray for children and schools

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