The Colorado Theatre Shootings And The Goodness Of God


I just read a blog post by a Christian who was in the infamous theatre watching the midnight showing of Batman when a gunman opened fire. When the bullets started flying, she told her two daughters to get on the floor, and draped her own body over them. This makes perfect sense to any parent: it is what we would all instinctively do. Then she got all of them out of the building as soon as she could. Now, the interesting part to me is the comments she began to get on her blog, where she writes about the Christian life. More than a few readers apparently thought that now that something truly bad had happened to the blogger personally, she might change her mind about God’s mercy. Her post is titled “So You Still Think God Is a Merciful God?!” a question someone asked her.

I see this sort of dilemma commonly portrayed in the movies. In ‘Signs” Mel Gibson is a pastor who pulls back from faith because of his wife’s death, and Harvey Kietel in ‘Dusk to Dawn’ plays another husband who decides he is done with God because of his wife’s untimely death. I guess I just find myself wondering – do people get to adulthood without realizing that bad things happen? Do they build their lives on belief systems that won’t apply unless tragedy never strikes?

Maybe my own life has been so completely different that losing your faith because something bad happened makes no sense to me. I grew up in a very different world. Bad and inexplicable things were part of the air I breathed. When I was quite young, maybe before I had started Kindergarten, maybe a bit after, are my first memories of my grandmother threatening to send my mother to live on the street, ‘And that baby of yours too!’ My mother had left my PTSD afflicted father, had no money of her own, and was dependent on my grandmother for a place to live. As an adult, I know this threat was not real, it was just my grandmother throwing her weight around. But as a child, I took her at her word. I believed her triumphant declaration that without her house to live in, ‘Bugs will crawl on you!”

Interesting shot of a fashionable woman walking by a homeless woman. I have an affinity for the homeless. Had things been a bit different, I could have been one of them.
Interesting shot of a fashionable woman walking by a homeless woman. I have an affinity for the homeless. Had things been a bit different, I could have been one of them. | Source

I never panicked: I was calm, I said nothing, and plans formed in the back of my mind. I might have to live on the street, and so I kept an eye out for buildings that looked seldom used, where Mom and I could go. I mentioned this to a friend last year, told her that as a child I stayed on the lookout for abandoned buildings where I could live. I had never verbalized these thoughts before. My friend said quietly, “You do realize that a child thinking things like that is not normal. Your life was crazy.” I don’t think I had realized that until she said it. Not consciously.

When Jesus came into my life I was 14. As the child of a bipolar alcoholic, my world had the stability of swampland. True, my mother had her lovely side. She also had her terrible side. One day I would be floating along happily, believing I was the center of her world; the next, the wheel of alcoholic insanity would turn beneath my foot, and I was awakened from a deep sleep by a drunk she brought home from the bar pounding on our piano.

Jesus, when he arrived, changed my fundamental experience of the world. He, I sensed, was unmoving as bedrock. The chaos of the world may not have changed, but I was no longer adrift in it. He was calm, he was sane, he was unafraid. And so I was able to be those things also.

Not long afterwards, having identified myself as a person of faith, I began to run into the ‘Aren’t you angry at God about how awful the world is?’ line of thinking. It made no sense to me. Jesus had rescued me from the awfulness of the world – why would I blame him for it? From my perspective, he was the good guy. I suppose you might say I was coming at the whole question from the other side. Which brings me back to the Colorado movie theatre shootings. Is a long time believer going to have a bad experience, and then change her beliefs about God? I suppose it could happen, but I think it is uncommon. Most people, by the time they reach adulthood, have dealt with the fact that bad things happen, and found some balance for themselves in their belief system.

Maybe another way to say this is that I experienced Jesus as a person who met my needs at a particularly desperate point in my life, a point when everyone else had failed me. It is personal for me. My loyalty to him is a point of honor, in addition to simply being something that has always made sense.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Po Bronson's book on his research on children - an excellent book, though the study I mentioned is on his blog, not in this book

 

Research on how children perceive God

A few years ago I read a study by Po Bronson (author of Nurture Shock) about how children perceive God. Most of it is hardly surprising: in general, children think God resembles their parents. If a child’s parents are warm, giving and accepting, they think God has those qualities. If the parents are aloof and judgmental, the child forms an idea of God based on these attributes. The surprise came when the study looked at children whose parents had either abandoned them altogether, or been severely dysfunctional or abusive. These children, contrary to expectations, were prone to form the most powerful and positive images of God. With parents so bad they were dismissed out of mind, these children projected the qualities of the ideal, perfectly nurturing parent onto God. They saw God as wonderful.

And here, in a scientific study, I found the dichotomy I have often observed. Those of us who have suffered most profoundly find ourselves capable of the deepest connections to God. You see, I don’t think that we ‘project the qualities of the ideal parent onto God,’ as the study phrased it. I think we see God as he truly is. “God is a father to the fatherless” says the Bible, and “God is nigh unto the brokenhearted.” Turns out that’s not just poetry, it’s how the world works. He gifts those of us who suffer with the best: himself. We can have the ability to see him and connect with him on a deeper level.

Is God negated when bad things happen? In my experience the opposite happens.


Jesus and children
Jesus and children | Source

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Comments 9 comments

kellyteam profile image

kellyteam 4 years ago from Michigan

Amen. When trouble comes is the time to hold strong to your faith. God will never let you down. Even when it seems all hope is lost He is the only one that remains the same. God Bless you. Keep the faith.


Collisa profile image

Collisa 4 years ago from California

That's a really healthy perspective. When trouble strikes, people's reasons for belief in God are revealed. I think sometimes the church can imply that coming to Jesus will fix everything, so when things go wrong they conclude it "didn't work." The deal isn't about him fixing our lives. It's about him saving us, and a relationship with him. He doesn't owe us a perfect life; yet somehow he uses the bad things that happen to heal and grow us, if we hold onto him through our trials.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Well I think the bible covers this in the seeds being sown. Apparently the seed of salvation sown in you was deep and lasting and you won't let a little wind blow it away. Great read.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Very nicely done. Bravo!


Free2writ3 profile image

Free2writ3 4 years ago from Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania

I agree that going through hardships really helps you get closer to God. Great hub btw.


StephenCowry profile image

StephenCowry 4 years ago

I condemn the incident that took place in Colorado but as you have mentioned God is still there protecting everyone although not all of them have escaped from the tragedy, but God has a place for them somewhere else. We should turn to God no matter what. Things happen, thus, let's not let go of Him.


graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago Author

Kellyteam - There are those who talk about dropping faith during trouble - But isn't that when we need it?

Collisa - I agree the point isn't having one's life 'fixed' - when he first came into my life I was simply terribly lonely and confused, and his company was what I needed.

Jackie - When i was little my mother would read me Bible stories by the hour. When i needed it, that all came back to me.

Aviannovice - Nice to see you here! Glad you liked the hub!

free2writ3 - Adversity usually has that effect. I seem to hear alot of talk about people driven away from God by hardship, but i haven't seen this happen to anyone I know. I read a book recently by Bart Ehrman, a professor of the new Testament who was for many years a devoted Christian and is now an atheist. The book is called 'God's problem,' and in it he says he lost his belief in God when he realized how much suffering there is in the world. He made it clear he has a good life himself, but the suffering of othr people caused the loss of his faith. From observation, I think this may be the most common way people lose their faith when it is about 'suffering & trouble in the world.' Not sure why this is, but the suffering of others seems more likely to destroy faith than one's own suffering. I coldn't say why exactly, it is just an observation.

StephenCowry - I agree that things happen, that is life. I think we are fortunate here in the modern westrn world, and foret how precarious life really is. One's experience of God transcends circumstances, or at least it should.


manthy profile image

manthy 4 years ago from Alabama,USA

Voted up & beautiful - Thanks for making sense out of this trajedy


graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago Author

Glad you liked the hub manthy - thanks for reading, and thanks for the votes.

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