Wineskins Archive

November 21, 2013

What Not To Do (Jan 2013)

Filed under: — @ 3:05 pm and

By Craig Cottongim

I purposely didn’t post a single tweet, Facebook status, or blog on the Sandy Hook shooting. I had a huge aversion to commenting on this horrible situation. I have been silent, even as a religion columnist for our local newspaper where I write. I didn’t want to act like I had answers to this – really, who can?

And, I didn’t want to get swept up in the raw emotional responses, ones where people say things just to fill the silence. Likewise, in times like this, there’s nothing worse than the words of people trying to sound profound.

The Sunday after the shooting, I didn’t quickly change my sermon topic and in some knee-jerk reaction, weakly cobble together some type of Theodicy. I stayed on track. I did say before the sermon how I recognized it would be callous if we didn’t acknowledge the shooting, and while I was saying this, one of my good friends interrupted me and wisely recommended I offer a prayer for all of the hurting people in Sandy Hook. As a church, we prayed earnestly.

I’m glad for the opportunity this month’s edition is providing. Why? Because we are being invited to share our thoughts. Being asked to collectively come together and thoughtfully respond, is a much healthier avenue than you might realize at first. It’s not that preaching about this shooting or writing a blog on the topic is inappropriate, but having this channel opened is a grace-filled time for lovingly responding as a community of believers to a very painful time. I can truly embrace this forum and I’m thankful for it.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t watch the news-reports on the shooting. It was quickly apparent to me this tragedy was being sensationalized. And I didn’t catch on for a few days, but it was being politicized too. My bigger concern, the one that I want to address here, is that believers might misuse this tragedy as well. Simply put, we shouldn’t try to “use” this tragedy to further any agenda, nor should we feel compelled to offer quick answers.

While I won’t pretend to have answers to this tragedy, I do feel strongly we need to be a healing presence, spreading the love of Jesus. To be crystal clear, this tragedy is not the time for believers to ride hobby horses — for or against gun legislation. Guns aren’t the issue at the moment; right now hurting people are. Neither removing guns nor adding more guns can bring back the dead children, teachers and administrators from Sandy Hook.

This also isn’t a time to exploit a horrible incident. Let’s vow to avoid manipulating other people’s emotions. The barrage of Facebook posts with the names of each victim, with a candlelit background or the actual children’s pictures was all too much. I start to feel sick whenever preachers or pundits capitalize on a tear-jerker situation to stir their audience. I urge those of us who preach and teach, please resist the temptation to use this tragedy as sermon fodder.

Also, in passing conversations, please do not say, “Oh, God will use this and make something good out of it because He causes all things to… ah, um, well He causes all things to work out for good.” Actually, we should say the truth is, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) but be vulnerable — we have no idea why this evil act happened. Yes, I’m saying: Admit we are hurting and confused too. <br><br>In our hurting though, hopefully we are faithful. In dark times like this, all I personally know to do is to hold my family closely and pray for a faith like Habakkuk’s: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

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