God’s Plan?

Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives a few miles away from
the shooting scene, said his grandchildren were full of questions when
they came home from another Amish school.

"They were terrified," said Stoltzfus, whose son took the
grandchildren to school Tuesday morning so they wouldn’t have to walk
by themselves. "They wanted to know: What was wrong with him? Why was
he doing that?"

Stoltzfus said the victims’ families will be sustained by their faith.

"We think it was God’s plan and we’re going to have to pick up
the pieces and keep going," he said. "A funeral to us is a much more
important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the
hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors." 
(From Yahoo News, with my emphasis.)

It gets worse. As if the tie-wraps and eye-bolts and lubricants weren’t enough, God is taking the wrap for the heinous crimes committed yesterday in Amish country.

I find this makes me sick to my stomach, and yet I know that the very theology that makes me sick is giving comfort to others.

I reject that limited view of God. It is an act of faith to say that I believe God to be more than a Dictator who swings from Malevolent to Benevolent in order to teach the residents of this Ant Colony called Earth a lesson. And here’s why. Everything I read about Jesus, even some of the things that make me uncomfortable, tell me that Jesus cared most about those who were helpless, marginalized, old or young, hungry or hopeless. When he said, "Let the children come to me," it was an invitation to his arms, not to untimely death. Because no matter how we may wish to romanticize heaven, the deaths yesterday and those that have followed are untimely, not meant for the time and place in which they occured.

Do not tell me that the deaths of little girls happened because God had a plan.  It is not true. I do not believe it.

30 thoughts on “God’s Plan?”

  1. I can’t believe God behaves as this man describes.
    It is difficult, if not impossilble, to make sense of tragedies like these shootings. The man is just trying to make the situtation fit into a familiar space. Doesn’t work but people keep trying.

  2. If somebody said this to me after one of my children had been murdered – even as a believer – I think I would become an instant atheist. What a horrid portrayal of God!
    Did God plan this horrific, unjustifiable abomination against innocent children? I cannot, will not believe it.
    Can God find a way to take shattered lives, shattered trust, and overwhelming grief and rage and bring from it some good, some redemption? God knows, I surely pray so.

  3. Thank you! I know this poor man is simply trying to make sense of a horrible tragedy, but as Preacher Mom said, I can’t imagine hearing this as the parent of a murdered child. God did not plan the killing of these children. God is in the grieving and the horror, but most certainly not in the hand that pulled the trigger.

  4. I, too, dislike this theology. But on a brighter note, I heard on NPR this evening that the Amish community was gathering, not only to care for their own people, but also to care for the family of the shooter. As the commentator (a professor who has been studying Amish education, I believe) said, “They have already moved to forgiveness.” That makes me feel good, and also a bit guilty as I’m not sure I would be there so fast.

  5. That poor man is making sense of something senseless. What I do admire though is that they are putting Jesus into action immediately by not only forgiving (that can be a surface thing) but also reaching out to the family of the victim. That takes courage.
    When we think back to 9/11 it wasn’t our first reaction was it … and that realisation (that I do carry a lot of anger and resentment) makes me realise how far to go in my journey.
    I do not believe this was God’s plan … but I do believe God can use this tragedy IF we let Him.

  6. Based on the man’s religious affiliation, unfortunately I think the man meant exactly what he expressed.
    I thought this week might be a good time to discuss with my congregation these sentences that have been uttered and then I realized that would take me into the question of why God didn’t stop it… and I’m not sure I have the energy for that.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly, and brokenheartedly. . . and wonder how we can blame God when this man could get GUNS so easily: do we not see the errors of OUR society? But mostly, instead of blaming, I work to find God in this comforting us, holding us, in the love of neighbors, not cackling over “His” “Plan” OR taking little girls “home” because “He needs them more than we do.”

  8. I agree wholeheartedly. I know people are seeking solace, but it makes no sense to me that the loving God, the all-accepting God that I was taught was there would have anything to do with situations like these.
    I’m glad that the Amish are certain that their girls are in a better place — I’m pretty sure they are as well — but that God *planned* any of this? No, I don’t think so. I DO hope their faith sustains them, because I would have a hard time believing in something so evil and hate-filled as a God who planned for little girls to die.

  9. Like everyone else here, I totally agree with you. I cannot believe that a good and loving God could have a plan that included, called for even, brutality.
    My last semester in seminary I took a fantastic class on theodicy. Went through all the theological arguments that are used to try to understand why evil and suffering are part of creation. None of them really work for me. The thing I came away with is that I can’t understand how God works, but that what matters is how I respond to evil. But the idea that God would cause evil is an anathema.
    So horribly sad. And yes, what about the issue of the fireplacing guns?! Constitutional right to bear arms be damned–we don’t need guns and having guns does not make us safer any more than the fireplacing war in Iraq makes us safer.
    Ohhh, sorry for the rant.

  10. There is of course no excuse for the actions of this fellow, but there is an explanation. Everything happens for a reason, but it is not always a good reason. There has been some mention in the press of a previous instance of abuse. Two possibilities come to mind. Either those experiences were unsatisfying in some way to this man and he was trying to make these ‘right’ or in accord with some inner vision, or those earlier experiences were what he wanted and he hungered for more of them. Either way he was there in that place, with those girls, to serve a vision in his mind which was more important than anything else in his life, because I am sure he was aware that his life as he knew it would be over afterwards. He is little different than the pilots of the 9-11 planes. They too were serving a vision more important than their lives, although they may have thought that there was an afterlife awaiting them I don’t think the murder of the Amish girls was operating under that assumption. Everything you see around you is there because of the power of someone’s imagination, because of someone’s vision. Its power is hard to overestimate and sometimes, tragically it wanders into the darkness.

  11. Pure Luck, everything does have a cause (non-teleological) But I’m not sure that everything has a reason (teoelogocial)or purpose. We often act as if the two are the same, but they aren’t (as I’m sure you know). This shooter had some experience in his life or some short circuit in his neurobiological functioning (or both) that set off this horrible behavior. That’s a cause. But a reason–a purpose? No, I think this is senseless in that respect.

  12. I don’t believe it either. The best funeral sermon I ever heard included the line “God is weeping too with us.” That’s the God I know. One who is really, honestly with us in our sorrow. We humans make the messes. God shows up in the midst of them, to comfort us, cradle us in God’s arms and walk with us as we stumble on.

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