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"Pray for the Dead . . ."

Apr 12, 2009 — Categories:

Twenty years ago, 14 people were shot and killed in a classroom at a University in Montreal, Quebec, where they were studying engineering. Last week 14 people were shot and killed in an immigrant social service center in Binghamton, New York, where they were studying English.

Twenty years ago, 14 people were shot and killed in a classroom at a University in Montreal, Quebec, where they were studying engineering. Last week 14 people were shot and killed in an immigrant social service center in Binghamton, New York, where they were studying English.

The 14 people murdered in Montreal were women whom the killer thought were “feminists.” The 14 people murdered in Binghamton were immigrants who came to the US for a better, safer life. Their killer was one of their own, a man struggling to learn English and keep a job.

I understand violence against women and I know that it is based is misogyny, the hatred of women. I understand despair and mental illness. And I understand that somehow all of this comes back to fear. In my head, I understand it but in my heart I cannot fathom it.

So I expect that as I and many others read these news stories (and others) we pondered once again the theological challenge of theodicy, i.e. the question of why there is evil and suffering in the world. For some this is a question: “Why does a good and loving God allow suffering?” They look around seeing suffering everywhere and conclude that God cannot be a good and loving God.

Rather for me, understanding is grounded in seeing the brokenness of people, brokenness that is yet unhealed and too often then is turned outwards to do harm to others. I understand it but I don’t fathom it. And understanding it in no way excuses those who do harm to others.

I also know that brokenness does not predict that someone will do harm to others. There are so many survivors of abuse who not only do not do harm to others but indeed dedicate their lives to ending abuse. These are the people who have found some measure of healing and justice.

The fact is that suffering happens. God does not will it or cause it. God grieves even more deeply than we do. It is so important that we do grieve and take notice of all of those who are victims of this violence.

Mother Jones had possibly the best advice: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” Perhaps this particular fight is to continue to work to ban public access to semi-automatic weapons.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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