In the weeks since the Newtown massacre, opinions about the role of God in what happened have dotted both traditional and social media. Some people have proclaimed that tragedies like this occur because we’ve removed God from our schools and other public arenas.
What exactly is that supposed to mean? Is this a reference to the ban on prayer and Bible reading in public schools?
Lots of folks believe that God is an all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful being. That means God is still around when prayer is not. You can’t remove God.
Many believe that God is also a merciful and benevolent being. That means God is not the type to seek revenge because prayers went unsaid.
I realize what people probably mean is that we would be better behaved if we paid homage to God in every aspect of our lives.
I guess we’re supposed to conveniently forget that people have used their version of God to justify the most horrendous behavior throughout human history—while some of the kindest souls on Earth do not believe in God. People have free will, and they can decide to do terrible or wonderful things whether or not they pray to God.
When people say that the problem is that we’ve taken God out of the equation, isn’t it just another way of saying that they think we should all believe exactly what they believe religiously? For example, proponents of public school prayer may embrace the Lord’s Prayer, but what about Elohai Neshamah, a Jewish morning prayer? Or Dhuhr Salah, the Islamic noon prayer? Or a Hindu mantra? Or a Buddhist prayer? Or how about a truly American prayer, an Ojibwa prayer?
It’s pretty clear that the school prayer proponents don’t want just any God; they want Christianity in our public schools. Christians have a long history of imposing their religion on others in a variety of thoughtless, cruel, and violent ways. This is a past we can do without repeating.
Whether it’s God or a gun, each of us decides whether we will use what’s before us for good or evil. We decide whether we’ll profit off the sale of assault weapons to civilians, or super-realistic killing-spree video games to young men, or other forms of violence as entertainment. We decide whether we will accept, condone, or promote violence through our silence, our wallets, our victim-blaming, our refusal to hold offenders accountable for their actions, our denial, and our lack of self-awareness. Yes, that’s right—our violence is not about God or Allah or Yahweh; it’s about us.