A weekend has passed since twelve people were killed and fifty-eight were wounded in Aurora, Colorado, by alleged gunman James Holmes. Throughout the period I searched the mainstream media for statements from America’s religious leaders that might help people make sense of the tragedy. The closest I came to finding any pastoral contribution was in the form of therapeutic religion. Pastors called for remembrance of the victims, solidarity with their families, asked for prayers and encouraged people to have faith. These are all well and good, but, didn’t President Obama do as much? As a matter of fact, the President was referred to by some reporters as fulfilling his ministry as “the consoler and chief.” Isn’t this the job of the priests, ministers and rabbis’?
The following are some of the things that should have been heard in America’s churches this past Sunday:
Firstly; evil is a reality. Because of Original Sin we live in an imperfect world. In the Book of Genesis we read of Cain murdering his brother Abel. The Bible attributes his action to a sin of jealous rage. Could this also be construed as insanity? Certainly! Furthermore, because of Original Sin, Cain’s free will may have been impaired leading to a distortion of reality. Mental health experts will make this determination based on empirical data in Holmes’ psychiatric evaluation. But, couldn’t pastors suggest that Holmes’ actions may have been spiritual in their origin?
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Secondly; there is the demonic factor that needs to be reckoned with here. Demonic possession is widely attested to in the Bible. As a matter of fact we often see Jesus acting as an exorcist casting out demons. Today Satan’s presence is often discounted as superstition. This attitude marginalizes one of Jesus’ most important ministries. It promotes a secular world view which depends on the social sciences which are often woefully inadequate for the answers to life’s questions.
Thirdly; faith has become a rather nebulous term, faith in what or in whom? After all, many people today consider themselves to be spiritual though not religious. In the present case, faith has been used to mean some generic belief in the goodness of the American people. This secular faith in ourselves fails to produce any lasting consolation and it puts us on rather shaky ground. The fact is that Americans as individuals or as a nation have not always acted righteously, making faith in them rather tenuous.
Fourthly; true consolation can only come from the love of a personal God. The Bible is specific about God’s concern and care for us. For Christians God’s action in the Resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate consolation. The Resurrection should have been proclaimed loudly from every pulpit. Its message is that God can bring life out of death and goodness out of tragedy.
Fifthly; this tragic event should have been an occasion to remind people of how fragile life is and how death often comes unexpectedly. It provides pastors with the opportunity to speak of the importance of being in the state of grace at all times.
And, finally; this incident is a reminder that we are called to pray for the souls of the dead. It is our Catholic belief in Purgatory that requires us to pray for the faithful departed who may need purification before they can enter heaven.
I wonder how many heard any of these points mentioned in their churches over the weekend. I can only pray that the media, for the sake of political correctness, just ignored the Truth that was preached. And, that America’s pastors rose to the occasion.
What was said in your church about the Colorado tragedy. Were you satisfied?