A Christian Response To Tragedy

April 16, 2013 in Misc,Theology · 9 comments

Amid the unfolding news of yesterday’s Boston marathon bombing, I saw this message on Facebook:

Facebook screen capture

Really!? This is the sort of question that pops into the mind of some supposed “Christians”? People are dead and injured and scared and traumatized and panicked and you dare to question the sincerity, motivation and consistency of their prayers? And regarding the comment appended to that post, you dare to make a horrendously distasteful joke when there are still bodies and body parts strewn across the street? That’s what you, a self-proclaimed Christian, choose to say while people are still crying out and wondering where to turn for answers? This sort of self-righteous theological arrogance and uncaring smugness makes me embarrassed to be even nominally associated with Christianity.

I wonder:

  • If someone says they’re praying for something, why should we doubt that to be true?
  • Would praying for Boston have prevented this tragedy?
  • Would praying regularly in general have prevented this tragedy?
  • If you’ve never prayed before and only begin to do so in the face of tragedy, does God not hear those prayers? Do they somehow count for less than the prayers of those pious Christians who pray every day?
  • How more #real can you get than crying out to God amid horrific tragedy?

What should the Christian response to tragedy be? The exact same response as the human response: heartbreak and sympathy and sorrow and pain and an overwhelming desire to help those in need. In this case, it seems that the only thing a distinctly “Christian” response offers us is cynicism and smugness and a decidedly un-Christ like response to pain and suffering.

Thankfully, shortly after reading that disturbing Facebook post, I saw Pope Francis say on Twitter: “Let us not forget: if we are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, our lives must bear witness to what we preach.”

The Pope’s wise words are a reminder of the power of words and even more importantly, the power of our actions. Is the Gospel of Jesus about judging the prayers of others, or is it about showing love to the world?

9 comments… read them below or add one

mickholt April 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Dan,
Excellent points. If this came from someone from within our ranks – it’s embarrassing. But hardly surprising. I have said several times in my posts that we’re our own worst enemies. I wonder, frequently why God would choose US to be his representatives on earth – I guess lack of options…?

The truth is though I am not surprised the question is asked. We, as Christ followers, have a horrible reputation – on many subjects.

I have to ask – do you know this person to be a Christian or claim Christ as their savior? Based on several comments you make I assume that is your understanding.

It’s sad that anyone would have have so little heart that they cannot keep their mouths shut or fingers off keyboards at times like this. What’s that saying “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and have people wonder if your stupid than open your mouth and prove it.”

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Dan April 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm

To answer your question, sadly, yes I know who this person is and they are a professing Christian, as are many of the individuals who “liked” the status.

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MickHolt (@PickADandGO) April 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Sad

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Jill April 16, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I am thankful pretty much daily that there are Christians like yourself that *model* Christ-like kindness in real time. It is for that reason I’ve been able to start over. Thanks, Dan. 🙂

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Dan April 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Wow…that’s certainly a humbling compliment! I’m not sure to what extent I actually do model Christ-like kindness — it seems to me that I constantly fall far short of that goal — but nevertheless thank you for such kind words!

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Shannon Montgomery (@GrumpCurmudgeon) April 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I don’t agree. Blast-phemous was callous, but the original post made a valid point. Many people throw the word prayer out there, but it seems few of them really actually pray.

I’ve actually been guilty of this in the past, and that post hit me, reminding me of times I’ve done the same.

Sometimes a word of prophecy–a word that points out sinfulness–isn’t “nice.” And that original post pointed out an area of sinfulness, of prayer as pose rather than genuine communion with God.

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KatR April 17, 2013 at 5:32 am

This wasn’t “prophecy”. This was a self righteous jackass taking to Facebook to show everyone how much holier he was than the unwashed masses.

Can’t Christians just BE with people in their pain? Show some empathy? Emotion? Common humanity?

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Eliza April 17, 2013 at 7:05 am

Who cares if they don’t “really” pray? I happened to be an atheist who posted a status that I was praying for Boston. Just because I am not thinking in my brain a message to “God”, doesn’t mean that my feelings aren’t just as sincere as yours. If you think praying to God is actually going to help the situation, then I guess I understand why you’d be mad, but I don’t believe that just thinking in your head is going to change anything. How about you go to Boston and help the victims… like Jesus would have done.

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Dan April 17, 2013 at 8:49 am

What makes something a genuine prayer?

Do you have to clasp your hands together? Close your eyes? Kneel? Move your lips? Consciously think the words you’re saying? Mentally send out those words in the direction of God (up towards a specific cloud)? Have a completely correct and confident understanding of where/who/what God is? Know for sure that God even exists?

If you answer no to any of these questions, are you no longer praying? And if you answer no to any of those questions and yet still claim to be “praying” are you sinning?

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