Why must it be a natural expectation that any such national tragedy will be accompanied by prayers, including from the president, to at least one version of the very God, who apparently in his infinite wisdom, decided to call 20 children between the age of 6 and 7 home by having them slaughtered by a deranged gunman in a school that one hopes should have been a place of nourishment, warmth and growth?
We are told the Lord works in mysterious ways but, for many people, to suggest there might be an intelligent deity who could rationally act in such a fashion and that that deity is worth praying to and thanking for "calling them home" seems beyond the pale.
Let me be clear that there may be many grieving families in Newtown and around the country who have turned to their faith for solace in this difficult time. No caring person would begrudge them this right to ease their pain. But the question that needs to be asked is why, as a nation, do we have to institutionalize the notion that religion must play a central role at such times, with the president as the clergyman-in-chief?
Since this tragedy, cable TV networks have been flooded with calls to faith and have turned to numerous clergy as if, as a matter of principle, they have something special or caring to offer. Often what they provide is quite the opposite.
On CNN the other day, Bishop Robert Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta suggested that people who don't have faith in his deity can only go so far in our emotional capacities to love and forgive, that without faith "we lack the strength to take us the full way of ourselves, the best of ourselves."
Besides being offensive, this is nonsense. We don't need faith to empathize with the grieving in Newtown. We can feel real connections, whether we are parents, or neighbors of families, or simply caring men and women. And we can want to help simply because of our common humanity.
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