Incarnate Obscenity, Incarnate Decency
This blog will be laced with obscenities.
What occurred in Newtown Connecticut was obscenity incarnate.
Obscenity splashed across faces and walls and floors and the news.
Obscenity morphed into weeping parents and siblings and spouses and children, people planning funerals instead of celebrating the final days of Hannukah, and Advent, and preparing for Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and a new, new year.
Obscenity in the form of huckster religionists like Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer announcing that the tragedy of yesterday occurred because God isn’t allowed in schools.
What positively obscene tripe.
Friday’s horror is no action of God’s.
It is an action of a man who was profoundly mentally ill, it is a result of gun laws that are far too lenient, and it is the product of a society that tolerates violence far beyond any other country with whom we like to compare ourselves.
God is allowed in schools.
My children can pray any time they like.
God is not allowed to be taught in schools, and this notion, one I’ve seen far too many times since the sickening tragedy of yesterday, is proof positive about why I want to be in charge of who teaches my children about God and what they learn about that God, instead of some huckster like Huckabee masquerading in the guise of a public school teacher, spouting off this sort of religious madness, hoping that his or her position of authority will be enough to sway my children to buy into the nonsense.
This obscene nonsense.
Do you know that the Presbyterian, the ELCA, the United Methodist, the Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic traditions, all have on-the-books statements advocating for far stricter gun control?
Obscenity on top of obscenity that we even have to ask the question about whether now, perhaps now, or maybe not now, maybe not yet, we should revisit questions about our nation’s gun laws.
Here’s another obscenity:
It is easier to get guns then to get on-going, solid mental health care.
As many of you have heard or read from me, the New Testament Greek word soteria means ‘health,’ ‘healing,’ and ‘wholeness,’ although it’s translated in English Scripture as ‘salvation.’
Yes, there are people who are not saved. The ones who are not well. The ones who are not whole.
The Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, he was not well. He was not whole.
He needed salvation in the form of profound mental health help or intervention.
And one more obscenity.
It’s a scary one for me to name, this Ph.D’d theologian, this ordained pastor, this confirmed Christian, this mother, this widow who still weeps over the obscenity of an accident over eight years ago:
It is obscene that we are still saying, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
It is obscene that such suffering persists.
And while I have some answers, some feeble responses, some echoes in the darkness, in these days, and on this night, it is right to recognize the obscenity of the silence.
In the dark of Good Friday cloaked in Advent, promises of soon-and-very-soon will not bring back children and teachers and the innocence ripped from those poor, poor babies who watched their world flash and pop apart.
It is right to linger in the obscenity of those shredded parents who are not tonight tucking in their children, of families who can only envision the fear in the hearts of their loved one’s last moments, and of the next ones, these ones yet-to-be-named, who will suffer the same, terrible turn-of-day at the hands of broken, unwell people who might just snap, splaying their madness onto the lives of innocents, while firing these obscene, obscene guns.
But, like a small light in the darkness, it is right to close with gratefulness for incarnate decency in the midst of unspeakable obscenity.
Make no mistake. God was there, in that school.
God was present protecting, responding, tending, holding, protesting, weeping over the obscenity of it all.
To those whose lives were saved, and to those who love them, that is no small light.
I pray that it can somehow, eventually, perhaps not yet though, be tipped, even just a bit, toward those who see now only endless dark.
I pray for decent light.
O Come O Come Emmanuel.
Thank you, Anna. Well said. I will be sharing your post on my Pastor’s Desk slot on our church website.
Amen & thanks
Thank you for saying it so very well, Anna. It IS obscenity, and I am glad you named it as such. Sending a hug…
I can’t come close to imagining the pain those parents are going through. I was in tears as I watched each beautiful young face on the news last night. Inside I screamed – why God? I’m a Dad and if I had the ability to stop this happening to my children then I clearly would. God must *surely* be weeping too – but he has the ability to stop it happening to the young and innocent and yet…
No – I know this is not God’s doing, it is all our own work, something the human race is very good at. But he also didn’t prevent it when an almighty God has the power to do so. There are no answers, only more pain. It’s times like these that make me doubt when there should be strength.
I’m really sorry this isn’t a positive reply – written out of grief.
Mark, your words ring so true on so many levels.
They make me cringe with their honest cry.
So a couple of ways of thinking through this:
Christians have both willingly and by twists of fate absorbed a lot of Greek thought in their thinking about God.
One of those traits is this notion of “omnipotence.”
We hear another way of saying this word all the time in prayers, and in hymns, and in sermons….”Almighty God….”
But it’s a real question of whether God does have that ability…or whether God has given that idea up for something else.
If God were all-powerful, then we really would have no ownership in what’s going on here.
I wrote the next few lines as a response to a comment on FB from someone raising the same good question/rebuke as you do. I think they work here:
“If God has a ‘plan,’ [or, more per your question, if God orchestrates reality] then we are nothing but automatons, or like that fantastic play by Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead, when the actors realize that they’ve been acting with full dedication….and nobody is watching the show. Come to think of it, they use a line on Hamlet, once they rendezvous with him at the end of the tale, in which they use the same word I did in the blog: it was obscene.
I don’t think God has a plan. I do think that God has an agenda. Looking through Scripture, God’s agenda is pretty solidly on behalf of the poor, the outcasts, the sinners, the hungry, the mourning, and the sick. Liberation theology calls it God’s “preferential option.” And, as an interesting aside, God is commonly thought of as omnipotent, but that’s really Zeus. Feminism and Judaism and, unfortunately, the Holocaust have very much altered Christian thinking about God’s omnipotence, and reminded us that while the tradition was born in a Greek milieu, it isn’t Greek. It’s Jewish.”
So many theologians think that rather than being some grand chess player, using creation as a mere game of pawns, or some playwright who creates personalities for the characters and a plot that might be interesting enough to bother writing and watching, instead, God created us out of freedom to be free.
This is where it is so helpful to think about God’s agenda, an agenda that is never given coercively, but rather as an invitation, as freedom.
So one can argue that God was present not only in those awful moments in the teachers and the responders who protected and saved the children, but in the moments in the weeks and months and years before, calling the mother to get help for herself and for her child, calling our nation to provide better access to health care, and–this is my theological and political bias–to gun control laws.
The question is whether, to use a term from process theology, we catch the lure and hold on.
Your grief is well-earned, as are your challenges.
Peace to you.
Oooh – some interesting thoughts there. The idea of God not being omnipotent? I’ve questioned most things in my faith but not that.
I’m very happy to accept that we have free will, are not automatons etc. but if God made the universe (Big Bang, 25 billion years ago, etc.) then if he’s not actually omnipotent, he’s not very far off. If miracles really do happen then surely we have already seen that God has the power to prevent these sort of atrocities i he chooses to.
Made in the image of God? Not this dad then – especially the bit that sees what we have just witnessed and lets it go.
Most of us willingly accept without question what we are taught at church, Sunday school, in children’s stories. Do I need to grow up and smell the coffee?
Maybe this isn’t the right time for a theological discussion about it all. Right now there needs to be a lot of healing and comfort to a lot of people.
Peace to you too
I’m glad that you find these thoughts interesting.
There’s a whole theological world out there, waiting to be discovered.
At least I hope so, as that’s on what I grounded my notion for OMG!
But you are right. That we shall save for another blog.
Right now, as you say, in this thread, it is the moment to know and steward the pain.