Monday, April 16, 2007
No words...
This is just gut-wrenchingly awful.

O God, who brought us to birth and in whose arms we die: in our grief and shock contain and comfort us, embrace us with your love, give us hope in our confusion and grace to see us through tragedy to new life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
posted by Mike Clawson at 3:57 PM | Permalink |


At 4/18/2007 01:31:00 AM, Blogger Robin


I really don't want to be or sound disrespectful, as I am an atheist, yet I don't consider myself an angry atheist. I basically believe... to each his own.

But when situations such as these occur I find it increasingly harder to understand how one can turn to their God for comfort instead of with questions on how could he/she/it allow these things to happen? When clearly he/she/it has or supposedly has the power to stop it.

Please help me to understand, how it is that these tragedies bring people closer to God?


At 4/18/2007 10:15:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Robin,

That's a good question... and one that Christians have asked themselves too, many, many times. There are no easy answers.

One part of the answer is that we turn to God both with our questions and for comfort. Listen closely, you will very often hear people of faith crying out "Why?" to their God. Or read the book of Psalms. The cries of confused anguish and questioning permeate so many of the songs in that part of the Bible. Or the entire book of Job which all about one man's attempt to understand why God lets bad things happen to good people. Or even the cry of Jesus on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

All that to say we don't understand why shit like this happens, and we cry out to God as much in anger and questioning as we do for comfort.

But the comfort is there too. Part of it comes from our belief that God became one of us and suffered along with us in the person of Jesus. We suffer, and God suffers too. He suffered grief and betrayal and torture and injustice - and so even when we cry out to him in anger about these things, we can also run to him knowing that he understands. I guess it's because we know that he is compassionate and understands that we can then trust him with those questions and anger.

The only analogy I have is those times when I have to do something to my daughter that she doesn't like even though it's for her good. She screams and cries and gets angry at me, but she also then turns to me to comfort her in her anger. It's totally paradoxical, but it makes sense to her. Even though I'm causing her pain, I'm also the only source of comfort that she knows.

I'm not saying that's an explanation for why God allows this kind of stuff to happen. I don't know why. Shit happens all the time. I believe that God allows human beings the freedom to do evil things to each other. So in these situations I don't tend to blame God. I blame the crazy, psychotic kid who did this. I blame the terrorists that fly planes into buildings. Or I blame the power hungry politicians who drop bombs on hospitals and schools in the name of "freedom". We're more than capable of creating our own evil without blaming God for it.

I have a harder time with natural evil, with tsunamis and hurricanes. I don't have easy answers for those. And again, I'm not afraid to turn to God with my questions and anger. It's a both/and.

I know that doesn't answer all your questions, but it's the best I can do at the moment.



At 4/18/2007 03:20:00 PM, Blogger Robin


I appreciate you taking the time to try and answer me. I am not really sure why I even wrote that question as I pretty much knew what the answer already was going to be. No offense towards you.

I was on On Faith website last night reading around and one guest speaker/poster wrote that it was the result of sin not God that that boy killed all those people. To me it is as simple, yet complex to the fact that he was clearly mentally ill. I have a problem with society as a whole not addressing the stigma of mental illness and how more public awareness and education, not to mention healthcare reform in this area is needed.

The religious seem to write it off as sin, gun control lobbyists use it for their agenda, and most of society just wants some quick fix that is not going to happen.

Maybe I can't see past my own thoughts, but the mental illness healthcare system has to be more accessable and affordable, educating people to hopefully lesson the stigma to allow people to be more willing to seek help. And we as a society become more acceptable, understanding and less fearful of the mentally ill so that perhaps we will be more likely to reach out to someone that perhaps all they really needed was a caring person to speak to. And that person perhaps could have gently guided them to the help they really needed. Mental illness causes isolation both ways, the ill person isolates themselves from society and society out of fear rejects the person who appears different.

Its all a vicious cycle.

And it saddens me greatly. Life is so precious.


At 4/18/2007 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Robin

sorry, i see there were to many *perhaps* in that last paragraph!

perhaps you can forgive me?

Oh its just me being sort of a smart a$$. just trying to lighten up a bit.

Take care and thank you!


At 4/18/2007 03:37:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I totally agree with you about the mental illness thing. And the way some religious folk lump all kinds of destructive, warped behavior under the label "sin" without considering other factors like mental illness probably doesn't help either.

BTW, I read your personal story over on Hemant's blog after I wrote my reply here. I just want you to know that I'm sorry to hear about your struggles and I can understand why experiences like that would push you away from belief in God. Like I said over there, I've never yet suffered any serious tragedies in my life so I don't entirely know how I'd handle them. I want to hope that I'd handle them well and hold onto my faith, but who can say?


At 4/18/2007 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Robin


Thank you for your thoughts about my personal story. Again, I have to reiterate, I already was skeptical,that just solidified it for me. It was also over 30 years ago. And besides I attended Catholic schools. That should give you some idea. My mind has not ever wavered about God since.

I don't profess like some atheists that religion is evil. Things are not evil, the people that use those things to do evil are evil. I know religion provides many things for many people. I am not prepaired, nor do I want to be to take that away from folks that which they find comfort,etc. with.

I think I said over there something like people that push religion are playing russian roulette with peoples minds.... well, I get a bit carried away some times. But I have had or know of some experiences that deserve that statement but I do know that does not apply to all.

As far as you holding on to your faith if/when you are faced with a close personal death. I would say to you that if you start to question it, give yourself time. In times of great stress as we all know are not good times to make big decisions. Especially that one.

Richard talked to me many times about you and how much respect he has for you. I will enjoy looking around your website more and I hope you won't mind if I jump in here or there with some thoughts or questions?



At 4/18/2007 07:08:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Thanks Robin, and feel free poke around my site and to chime in whenever you feel like it. (Though just FYI, for some reason my "Recent Comments" only picks up comments from posts on the front page, so if you comment on a post that is buried in the archives I may not see it.)

RE: facing tragedy, I've wrestled with this (i.e. the problem of evil and suffering) on a theological/philosophical level and feel like I have an answer that works for me. However, I'm not naive enough to think that philosophical answers will always hold up in the face of real life tragedy. (For evidence of this, see the contrast between C.S. Lewis' philosophical book The Problem of Pain and his personal diary A Grief Observed which he wrote and published after the death of his wife. A lot of his previous arguments didn't seem as satisfactory to him anymore in the face of real grief.)


At 4/18/2007 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Robin

I had wrestled over the years with the problem of watching my mother suffer and subsequently grieving her death. I for the most part have come to understand that that was in many ways more about my suffering watching her existing in that manner and the grief over losing the person she was before the cancer. I don't think I even began to think that well into it until the death of my sister. At that time I had to, along with my other sister, decide to remove her from life support. I had to pose the question or thought to myself that in making this decision I wanted to be sure it was what was most beneficial for my sister rather than what it was that I needed to do for myself. So again I had wrestled back and forth over the years with the selfishness of my feelings when it comes to the loss of loved ones. I feel as if I am at peace with all of this now. Although that peace came in stages. Everyone muddles through each emotional stage in their own way and in their own time frame. That is when the rest of us have to remember to be patient and give people their right to their claim to peace.

I really really liked your idea if having a sit shiva? I hope I said that correctly? That would be so awesome to have people around you but not expecting anything from you or themselves for that matter, in trying to comfort you with anything other than their presence.

Thank you for the book titles I will look for them at my next visit to the library.


At 4/18/2007 10:18:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Thanks for sharing Robin. As a pastor I'm sometimes expected to counsel people who have dealt with things like what you have. Not having experienced some of these things myself, I often have to rely on the experience and wisdom of others. (Good literature helps too.) Anyway, I hope you don't mind if I borrow some of your questions and insights in the future.

Actually I wanted to possibly bring up your initial question to me when we talk about Virginia Tech this Sunday at church. I hope that's ok. (Don't worry, I just want to repeat your question to my community and see how they would answer. I wouldn't presume to share any personal details.)

BTW, if you do read those Lewis books let me know what you think (especially "A Grief Observed"). I'm curious how they would come across to an atheist.


At 4/18/2007 11:07:00 PM, Blogger Robin

You have me scratching my head. I honestly know my initial question is such a general rhetorical one that comes from all atheists at some time or the other. There would be no need to ask my permission to use something that is so commonly asked.

But, feel free to use whatever you like.

I am going to apologize for my fingers getting the best of me on your blog. I am not usually so forthcoming with my stuff. Thank you for your patience and feel free to delete any of it to make room for other bloggers. lol at myself.

Now I will be off to see if I can bother some scientist for a bit!


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