On August 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page, an Army veteran, killed six people and then himself at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Almost two years later, a white supremacist killed three at two Jewish centers outside Kansas City. He said “he wanted to kill Jewish people before dying of chronic emphysema.”
On a January 2017 evening, a Quebec City, Canada mosque was the scene of six worshipers who were killed and 19 injured.
Dylann Roof, an admitted white supremacist, murdered nine African Americans at the Emanuel African A.M.E. Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.
The most recent are this month’s killing of 26 people in the First Baptist Church at Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Truth be told, since nothing (or very little at the most) will be done to tighten our gun control laws and, as gun advocates will continue to argue about the Second Amendment, clearly we cannot stop those who want to commit a horrendous mass killing from obtaining guns. I’m not interested in engaging in this somewhat limited and neglected debate by those who might do something to make a significant difference.
You might have observed that I selected five examples where these horrifying killings took place in houses of worship. As a former pastor, I am inclined to raise this question: Where was God when these innocent, religious folks, who were ostensibly worshiping in a “House of God” were mindlessly assaulted and murdered? If this question has not entered your mind, you have not been thinking through these tragedies.
The wise Solomon reputedly said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6NIV).
For many years, this was my personal motto. The implication is that God will protect those who trust in him.
If there should be any sort of sanctuary from this kind of behavior, it seems to me it ought to be the church, the temple or the mosque. After all, aren’t these the places where folks go to acknowledge the presence of God in their lives? Folks who believe, as the old song says, “God will take care of you.” I repeat, God will “make your paths straight.” Assuredly, in the sanctuary!
I recall from extensive reading on the Holocaust, on several occasions Nazi SS Troops herded entire communities of Jews into their temples, locked the doors, and set those temples on fire.
Whenever I read about these atrocities, I wonder where God was at the time. I was brought up to believe that God is omnipresent, that God is everywhere. I was brought up to believe that God is omnipotent, that God is all-powerful. Why would a caring, ever-present God not stop such carnage before it began? What was God thinking as he observed the slaughter of the innocents in the Quebec City mosque? Where was God when folks at the Charleston, South Carolina prayer meeting were shot to death point blank?
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS BAPTIST CHURCH
Was God not present at the Sunday morning worship service in Sutherland Springs where little, crying children were shot in the face ? The pastor of the Sutherland Springs church responded, “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”
I respect the pastor’s personal faith but, as I see it, he is either tremendously naïve, or he is failing to ask the larger questions.
[Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor and author of three books. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the publisher and editor of Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com). This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch on Monday, November 13, 2017.]