Our Church has asked us to pray for the victims. Pray for them. Pray for the families who must try to reassemble their lives after such an unthinkable day. See the statements from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios (especially look for the document about talking to children). http://www.goarch.org/news/new- townmassacre-12142012, http://boston.goarch.org/ news/1055/12_2012_newtown_trag- edy.html
Naturally, students in our religious education classes will be asking many questions. Why does God let this hap- pen? Where was God? There are no easy answers to these questions. Wise people have wrestled with them for centuries. Some thoughts to help you process the questions that children and others may ask.
At the conclusion of the first creation story, we read that “God saw every- thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1.31). This is a description of the world where God placed humanity at the beginning. The next creation story places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where Adam was responsible for “tilling and keeping it” (Genesis 2:15-22).
This is a lesson about human stewardship – we are its caretakers. God gives us the ability to shape the world in which we live. Genesis 3 is the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve, their disobedience of God’s command, the resulting alienation from God that they experience, and the results of this. To Adam, God says, “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you” (Gen. 3:17- 18). And then in chapter 4 of Genesis, we read about the first crime: brother against brother, Cain murders Abel – a violent crime, with anger and pre- meditation. The sin of Adam and Eve – their Fall – led to our fallen world and we are dealing with its consequences ever since.
These opening stories from the Bible should help us realize that the condition of our world was not caused by God, but by humanity. God made us a beautiful world. He asked us to be its caretakers, but we messed it up, and as a result, its beauty has been marred and the world has become a painful place. Sin entered the world and death through sin (Romans 5:12). So, while it is natural to blame God at times like these – the real blame falls to ourselves. We are not living as God wants us to live.
The question may not be why does God allow this to happen, but why do we allow this to happen? Why aren’t we more involved with the issues of our world, trying to restore it to a semblance of what God wanted from the beginning?
Where was God at that moment? God was probably with the adults who put themselves in harm’s way and sacrificed themselves to protect the children in their care. The teacher who tearfully relates how she believed that they would die so she told the children that she loved them so that would be the last things that they would all hear. The photo of the police embracing one another, because even they can’t fathom what they are dealing with at that moment, even as they must “do their job.” God is in these moments.
Terrible things happen in the world on a daily basis, but God gave us the ability and the freedom to work to make things better, to shape a world more the way God wanted it to be from the beginning. In light of the tragedy in Newtown, this could mean changing gun laws and people of faith might want to get involved in this discussion. More generally, there are plenty of other programs and policies we should be involved with. And we can begin to discuss and work on the general coarseness, acceptability of violence, and our behavior towards our neighbor in our culture. But these are the long term tasks in front of us.
In the short run, over these next few days, as we continue to learn more details about what happened, see the media coverage (undoubtedly) of funerals, and witness how the residents of Newtown and the survivors try to re- assemble their lives, our children will have many more questions and we will have to make time to address them.