Three Faith Perspectives Regarding the Newtown, CT Tragedy

Given the myriad informal statements from people of faith on Facebook, Twitter and blogs about the shootings, I thought it would be helpful to share three columns published December 18 on the Huffington Post’s website.


American religion scholar, Diana Butler Bass, set forth her perspective in: “Where Was God in Newtown?”  She describes and comments on the two answers she has heard–1.  God was present in the actions of those who sought to stop the violence and 2.  God was absent due to being removed from the schools–and then offers a third alternative: God was hidden.  “The hidden God, I think, is the only God that makes any sense of Newtown,” Bass writes. “One neither and both present and absent; One in the hands of rescuers but not the hands that wielded the guns; One in the midst of murdered but not the act of murder. This is the God who is in all places and nowhere.”


An ordained Zen Buddhist Priest, Rev. Zesho Susan O’Connell, offered her perspective in a column entitled, “Intimacy with Suffering: Feel the Pain, Heal the Pain.”  Rev. O’Conell offers President Obama’s speech on the afternoon of the tragedy as a helpful model for responding to the tragedy.  “Allowing himself to be intimate with his grief,” she writes, “and struggling to find a place of balance while remaining close to the terrible pain of loss while at the same time maintaining his ability to speak and lead and carry on is, I think, the best example of how compassionate effort is a wholesome and healing response.”  She suggest that the best option is to allow ourselves to feel the pain of the victims and choose to direct these emotions into compassionate deeds not angry responses.  “When we can allow ourselves to feel each other’s pain,” O’Connell concludes, “we heal each other’s pain.”


Finally, a column by Jennifer Danielle Crumpton (an ordained Disciples of Christ minister) entitled, “The God Who Shows Up When God Disappears,” draws on the theology of Paul Tillich in formulating her views on the tragedy.  Crumpton repeats and comments on varying responses she heard in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, focusing particular attention on the comments of Mike Huckabee.  Though much of the article is a response to Huckabee’s statements, she concludes by referencing Tillich’s thoughts in “The Courage to Be” as a more helpful way to understand the Connecticut tragedy and others like it.

“The theistic God,” she writes (summarizing her reading of Tillich), “the one of institutional doctrine and man-made [sic.] creed, tends to disappear when tragedy strikes. Maybe, as Huckabee would have us believe, that’s because he thinks we’ve abandoned him [sic.]…But Tillich reminded me that when this God goes, another God shows up: the God of mercy, faith, hope and love. The one none can really imagine in our wildest dreams, and the one none of have a corner on. The one who stays no matter what we do, hurts when we hurt, and loves us beyond belief. The one that is for us all.”


While there are many more helpful sermons and articles that could be referenced, these three columns provide much “food for thought” and would be worth the time and effort to read and absorb their perspectives if you are seeking guidance on how to process the tragedies of late last week from a faith perspective.


The full-text of these three columns can be found here:


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