Last week, another tragic mass shooting occurred, this time in Oregon. Nine people lost their lives at the hands of the gunman. Before we go any further, I think it’s important to acknowledge how the families and loved ones of the victims are walking through pain, the likes of which most of us cannot understand. Any discussion surrounding this issue that doesn’t start with their pain and loss, in my opinion, is ridiculous.
This is not
a political issue,
a gun issue,
a mental health issue,
a religion issue.
This is not an opportunity for candidates to draw support for their campaigns or a chance for others to push their agendas. This is tragedy, and tragedy isn’t meant to be a tool in the hands of any man.
We can speculate all day and make claims saying; if we only had more gun control or more guns, if only we had better mental health availability, if only we had less media coverage, then these things would stop happening. Both sides of the political aisle hurl insults at each other and act like they have the solution to the problem. It’s crap. And it’s just not true.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t advocate for safer environments or seek to provide solutions to help curb the frequency and magnitude of these things. It would be asinine not to. What I’m trying to say is, in the end, the only thing tragedy is really good for is to point us toward the end and it should never be someone else’s means to an end.
Tragedy should remind us that life is sacred. Tragedy should remind us that life is valuable. Tragedy should remind us that life may not last as long as we had hoped. Tragedy should remind us to mourn. Tragedy should remind us to cry alongside others. Tragedy should remind us of the gift of breathing. But lately, it seems like all tragedy reminds us of is soundbites and politics.
Tragedy is death's harbinger, and we'd be wise to listen to it's message.
God’s Role in Tragedy
I heard someone once say, “either tragedy proves there is no God or tragedy proves God is real and evil. Take your pick.” I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s a third option. I think tragedy shows us how severe the absence of
There’s this idea in Judaism — a thought — about how God was able to create the world. While I don’t fully subscribe to the belief, I think there are parts of it that hit the nail on the head. It’s called tzimtzum.
When you boil the word down, tzimtzum means contraction. The idea is that God, being infinite, created the world and then contracted, or withdrew, part of Himself to create space for the finite to exist. If God were all powerful (which I believe He is), and He wanted to create beings capable of having free-will (humanity), He would need to limit His power to give them the ability to exert their own.
It’s kind of like when I play with my son, who is 11months old. When I have one of his toys in my hand and he tries to grab it, I contract — tzimtzum — my strength to give him the opportunity to exert his own. I could easily overpower him and force him to play with the toy how I want him to, but then he wouldn’t learn. When I withdraw a part of myself, I create space for him to grow.
Why do horrific things like this happen? Because tragedy is a negative effect of tzimtzum. It’s God withdrawing a part of Himself to give humanity free will. Without tzimtzum, we would have no tragedy and without tzimtzum we would have no love, no choice, no chance to discover life, no opportunities to grow and no chance to make mistakes.
Does God sometimes choose to enter into situations and alter them? I think He does. So then why didn’t He intervene this time? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I just long for the day when God’s presence is fully established and tzimtzum isn’t needed anymore.
Until then, I guess it’s up to those of us who feel called to represent Christ to enter into the space where tzimtzum has negatively occurred. Maybe that’s part of God’s solution anyways. Maybe He withdraws to create space for us to enter into the tragedy of others.
soli deo gloria