By Pastor Jenna Couch Zion Lutheran Church, Jubilee
Not too long ago, I was on Facebook and saw a picture of a t-shirt with the following message written on it: “Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, A concerned student. Dear Concerned Student: I’m not allowed in schools. Signed, God.” This message disturbed me greatly.
I’m so tired of society thinking that God has packed up and abandoned the world, which God created, as some sort of punishment for the things we do in this world. God is not some sort of magical shield that protects us when we’re “good little boys and girls” but vanishes the minute we mess up. When any kind of violent act happens in a public place, we’re so quick to believe that God wasn’t there because we told God that religion of any kind wasn’t welcome in public schools or outside of the physical church building. Is there some sort of belief out there that if schools started the day out in prayer, then there wouldn’t be school shootings because the “God shield” would be in place to protect them? Why do we think that saying “No” to God works?
The message from that t-shirt above seems to imply that violence and school shootings are the consequence or punishment for asking God to leave schools and the public arena. When did we become so naïve to think that we have that kind of power? God doesn’t abide by our social structures! Separation of church and state does not mean that God stays separate from the world or vanishes from our society altogether, because we are told in Scripture that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39) Nothing.
School shootings, violence, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, or any natural disaster are NOT God’s way of punishing us for not being “good enough Christians.” School shootings, bullying, violence etc. are all, perhaps, symptoms of a hurting world that doesn’t know how to safely release a deeply embedded anger or hurt and feels the only option is violence. I’m no psychologist, so that all very well could be way off. It’s one interpretation among many. My point is that God is present with us always and nothing that we say or do can change that. God works in all sorts of ways that we can’t possibly know or understand. It is in those situations where God seems most absent that people need to be reminded of God’s loving presence.
We live in an increasingly connected society. Thanks to social media, we have the opportunity and ability to cross paths with people from all over the world. Being connected in such ways can be an incredible blessing. God is working in so many wonderful places and being engaged helps us point to where and how God is working.
God is always present with us, as we are so lovingly reminded at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)