My pastor brought up an interesting double standard on Sunday regarding the arrest last week of a man who admitted to planning an Aurora-style mass shooting.
Back in July, a gunman dressed in tactical gear set off a tear gas bomb during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, then opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding another 58. The suspect, James Holmes, was arrested outside the theater.
The shooting immediately brought about the same old argument that nearly every tragedy creates: the question of “Where was God when this was going on?”
Some seem to believe that unless God appears like a magician and thumps a gunman right off the planet moments before the first gunshot can be fired, there must not be a God.
Shortly after the Aurora mass shooting, a post titled, “Where was God in Aurora?” appeared on CNN’s religion blog. One of the comments from an atheist, written in the form of a letter coming from a non-existent God, started this way:
“God here. I thought I would take the time to personally explain my absence in the Aurora shootings. While I was at it, I thought I would also explain my absence during every murder, massacre and crime that has ever taken place in world history, and in every war, in every famine, drought and flood.
“You see, I do not exist. I never have.”
Though others asked where the shooters family and friends were, where security at the theater was, and even why no one in the theater violated a concealed weapons prohibition inside the theater, non-believers decided that the shooting was the evidence of a lack of God.
Last week, however, a Missouri man was arrested after his mother alerted police that something might be wrong her son. He reportedly admitted to police that he was planning a mass shooting at a midnight showing of the new Twilight movie and then a follow-up shooting at the nearby Walmart. With an arsenal that included 400 rounds of ammunition, his goal was to take as many lives as he could before he ran out of bullets.
I wonder how many of these same non-believers are now saying, “Wow, God did prevent a massacre. So He must exist after all.
Actually, I don’t wonder. I’m sure that I know how many of them are making that conclusion: zero.
But here’s where the double standard comes into play: if a tragedy is going to be regarded as evidence of a lack of God, the saving of up to 400 lives through the arrest of man who allegedly planned a similar tragedy ought to go in the other column of evidence supporting (at the very least) the possibility of God. It doesn’t ever seem to work that way.
Non-believers are more likely, in fact, to argue that the Missouri shooting was stopped not by God, but by a concerned family member and police. But again, this is a double standard: if you’re going to place all of the praise on family and law enforcement in the latter case, then you have to be courageous enough to be consistent in your argument and place equal amounts of blame on family and law enforcement in the former.
That’s not easy to do in the wake of such a tragedy, particularly for people who believe there’s no one besides humans on whom blame can be placed. But logically, you can’t place blame on someone you believe doesn’t exist to begin with.
The biggest problem with this kind of argument is that it presumes that the world must exist within only one of two possible models: one in which God is meticulously controlling every event that occurs like a giant puppeteer, or that because He apparently isn’t, He doesn’t exist at all.
A third option, that God allows some bad things to happen — even to good people — but does intervene at certain points in time, without us being able to immediately understand why some things happen and why others are seen to be prevented, is too much for some to be able to handle. If God exists, and yes, I believe He does, we have to be able to imagine that He must be so advanced beyond our understanding that we can’t fully know everything there is to know about how He operates and why He chooses to do (or not do) in any given situation.
It is human arrogance to assume that we can know all there is to know, particularly if we’re trying to “nail down” the thought processes of a Supreme Being that must, by definition, be more advanced that we are.
Some, unfortunately, view this as a cop-out on the part of a believer, a convenient excuse not to have an answer for everything. But there are plenty of things in this world for which even the greatest scientists who’ve ever lived cannot provide a complete answer or explanation. What, then, is their excuse?