Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This Open Letter to My Fellow Christians

Dear Fellow Christians,

In light of the tragic events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday, a few of us really, really want to tell the rest of us why God would allow such an evil act. We just can't keep it to ourselves, and so we get on our soapboxes, find microphones and cameras, and let everyone know just who is to blame for the deaths of 20 children. As fellow believer and someone who often wrestles with the question of how God who can allow such evil to exist, I humbly offer my own suggestion.

Please stop talking.

That's all you have to do, really. Stop talking. Don't say another word about why the gays, abortionists, feminists, liberals, secularists, or any other group is responsible. Stop blaming it on a lack of school prayer, the teaching of evolution, the Ten Commandments not being on the walls, and Christianity not being the national religion. Just stop.

Do you understand that when we do this, we're celebrating the murder of schoolchildren? We're so happy that these children died because it gives us the perfect opportunity to wag your finger at people and tell them "I told you so." That's right, I said it. Some of us seem to be enjoying this senseless tragedy because it gives us the perfect opportunity to dust off our usual talking-points.

It's as if our first instinct when we heard the news was to high-five everyone. If you find that imagery offensive, good, because that's how we're coming across, as people who can barely contain their glee about this shooting. The children weren't even buried and we were falling all over ourselves to be the first to blame everyone we don't like.

Is this really what Christianity is all about, strutting around after a tragedy, pointing our fingers at people we don't like and blaming them? Is this really how we're to be carrying out the Great Commission, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world? When did the message of "God loves you" turn into "It's your fault children died?"

This isn't the Gospel of Jesus, it's Pride and Self-Righteousness. It's what happens when we give in to our most base natures. When we pile on this after a tragedy, we become the very evil we think we're condemning, the very thing God detests. Remember, Jesus had a lot to say about self-righteousness and those who'd condemn rather than love.

It's so easy to condemn, (fun, too) but that's why Jesus warned us against judging others. It's why He told us to look first at our own faults before criticizing others. It's why we are told to turn the other cheek, to forgive, and to treat others as we'd prefer to be treated.

None of us are perfect, myself definitely included, which is why we need to remember two things: God loved us enough to die for us, and God loves everyone else just as much. When we forget that, when we lose this perspective, we can go to a very dark place. In the end, we'll do more harm to ourselves than to anyone else.

I'm not writing this as someone who has the moral high ground on judgement and self-righteousness. Rather, I'm coming from a position of been-there, done-that. I know how addictive it can be to dwell in that self-righteous anger. It's a literal rush, and the more you indulge it, the more you need. Soon you start finding other things to be angry about and anger and condemnation become your way of life. This takes a toll on your health, your relationships, and your credibility as a Christian. And if we let these angry feelings fester and build up inside of us, on rare occasions we can lose all perspective and become the kinds of people who would commit mass murder to make a point.

This is why we need to let go of all our anger. It will destroy us. This is what Jesus came to free us from. This is what we are called to free others from. If God is speaking to us through this tragedy, it isn't to condemn. It's to urge us to love each other, especially the kinds of people who would do such a thing. The way we can prevent these kinds of things from happening is to love our neighbor, especially our mentally ill neighbors who need help. God also wants us to

So please, fight those instincts to use these senseless deaths to advance a petty, political agenda. Fight the urge to engage in "I told you so." When we do that, we aren't doing the Lord's work, we aren't spreading the Good News, but what we are doing is hurting ourselves and those around us.

If we truly want to stop these events from happening, the solution isn't hatred and condemnation. We fight hatred with love, understanding, and grace. This is how we push back the darkness, with the light.

This is the season we celebrate Christ's birth, and now is not the time to forget what that means. God so loved the world that He sent His Son to us so that everyone, even people we hate, can have eternal life. When we remember that, when we remember why God put us here in this world, then we are doing the Lord's Work.

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