The Slaughter of the Innocents

(Writer Adele Konyndyk writes about this–once again in connexion with Handel’s Messiah–better here, but I’m still going to put in my two cents because . . . that’s what I do.)

“A cry was heard in Ramah—    weeping and great mourning.Rachel weeps for her children,    refusing to be comforted,    for they are dead.”Matthew 2.18 (NLT)

“A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.”
Matthew 2.18 (NLT)

If I said the timing of my last post, relative to the massacre of children that happened in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday was probably not a coincidence, would you think I meant that somehow that horrific event was ordained by God?

Because that’s not what I’m saying. Nor do I think my own enlightenment is so monstrously important that such a tragedy was meant to happen just so I could understand God better. Such events usually have more of the effect of making me feel like I don’t know God at all. But I still don’t think the timing was exactly coincidental.

Shortly before I had my heartbroken-God epiphany, I had three separate interactions with three different men, all of whom said something to the effect of, “I could never worship a God who would . . . ” After I wrote “Tears of Advent,” I thought I was going to write a post about not being able to box God, and not being able, really, to say what He will or won’t do, but just before I was able to post it, the Newtown shooting happened and I had to take stock of my own ideas about what God will and won’t do. Maybe someday I will indeed pontificate about God’s role (or lack thereof) in the evil in the world (or you can read some of that pontificating in the comment I posted at Jeff’s Deep Thoughts a number of weeks ago), but right now the theme is too raw. I’m headed in the direction of a Master’s degree in Theology, and I’m doing that because I think theology is important and because I like it, but even I can admit that when the rubber meets the road, personal theology ends up being a lot more visceral than intellectual, and debating whether or not God had a hand in something terrible that happened seems extra crass when Terrible happened close by, and to people that people you know, actually know.

I do believe that God will bring something good out of this tragic mess, because it seems to me, from experience and hearsay and, you know, the Bible, that that’s what He does. I don’t know what the good will be. Maybe it’ll be better gun laws. Maybe it’s the stepping up of personal goodness within people. Maybe it will be the incredible, supernatural gift of forgiveness toward the coward who killed children before killing himself. (I have a hard time imagining achieving that frame of mind, but that’s because it’s supernatural in the end, I guess.) Maybe it’s something I can’t even imagine right this second. But the thing is, people are still grieving. Someone is still going to go through Christmas without some little boy or girl that they loved, who would have reveled in the tree and presents. Someone is never going to view Christmas the same way again.

I guess, in the face of that, what I’m hanging onto is not some debate about the sovereignty of God, but the fact that this shows just how badly we really need Christmas. By which I mean Christ, of course. Christmas never was truly about stuff, and maybe epiphanies are always meant to be bittersweet. Right now, I’m just really grateful for the reminder that God is also a parent whose child was wrenched from Him, and that that wrenching came about because we are broken, and our world is broken, and yet God loves us still. At Christmas, God entered the mess, the brokenness, the tragedy, and is somehow (sometimes in ways more unseen than seen yet, but sometimes we can see the ways, too) making it right. The birth of Jesus is the birth of hope that, God with us, all will be well.

8 thoughts on “The Slaughter of the Innocents

  1. Thank you, Jenn, for these beautiful, honest, and comforting words (and I am truly honoured that my post had anything to do with sparking these ‘cents’). “God with us, all will be well.” And God be with you this Christmas.

  2. “The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” Psalm 145:20

    Please forgive me, Jenn. But my mind is full of molten lead. Who doth God love, and who doth he despise and chastise? Being a citizen of a nation where human lives are cheap, and cheaper yet for the innocents, I am on a quicksand of a pedestal to proclaim this, but where is the deterrence? These are desperately psychotic wolves seeking momentary publicity, nothing else.

    Nothing is going to mitigate the grief of the bereaved, least of all, the illusion of Providence.

    • You have a lot of questions. 🙂 But I see nothing here to forgive (not for me to, anyway!). I suspect I will write more on these topics sooner or later, so please be patient and stick with me, but here are my initial thoughts:

      1. I don’t really have an “answer” as in something that will make us all feel better about God and life, even though I’ve come to the point where I still believe God is actually trustworthy.

      2. I think the Psalm you quoted is ultimately talking about ultimate realities, but I also think some of the things in the Psalms need to be qualified. The book of Hebrews also says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (12.6). Which sounds horrible and harsh and is probably something else we could talk about in a separate blogpost, but I post it here to say–both things are written.

      3. Where is the deterrence? Not much of anywhere in this plane of reality. I believe there are other planes, though, and while it makes me angry that this guy didn’t even stick around for the consequences, I don’t believe he’s really off the hook.

      4. You’re probably right about mitigating the grief, but I do believe at least some of these people will come out the other side with a new heart. I don’t believe this would be possible if Providence were, as you say, an illusion, or maybe if it were just impersonal Providence. But, while I’ve seen people who push through disaster with blinders, refusing to ask the questions, I’ve also seen others stare horror and pain in the face and still come out the other side saying, in effect, “Now I will praise the Lord.” That, however, is why I say forgiveness (and heck, praising the Lord) is supernatural–because there is nothing in a human heart that can effect that on our own. We don’t even want to–this perpetrator doesn’t deserve our forgiveness. But neither did Jesus’ killers, and He’s how some people are able to reach that point anyway. I don’t believe the grief ever really goes away. But I do believe one can, eventually, with the help of no less than God, forgive it.

  3. Thank you Jenn for sharing such powerful words of wisdom. In times like these, we all question God and our human ability to forgive. It helps me to think in terms of all human weakness, even the mental suffering of the mind of the shooter…to view him as vulnerable and every bit in need of God. We are all in need of His grace, and although we like to think we are good by ourselves, we are nothing without saving grace.

  4. Very thoughtful and insightful posts, Jenn! Thank you for sharing! I pray those who are seeking answers find them…in the only place we know of – at the Foot of the Cross! In Jesus’ Holy Name, amen.

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