This blog explores and examines the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
The Failure of Religion-Based Public Grief
When President Obama spoke at the memorial service for the children, teachers, and administrators murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, I was overwhelmed by dissonance. His remarks assumed that a Christian perspective was applicable to everyone who mourned as he spoke about “eternal glory” and quoted bible verses: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”
I empathize with Obama’s reliance on scripture and belief in a supernatural world with a heaven above and prayers heard by a god who presumably cares. With such tragedy, it is difficult to know what to say without relying on that which is familiar and may comfort the speaker and at least some of the listeners. What to say confounds Christians and non-Christians alike. But my dissonance came from the very words Obama spoke and quoted because for me they are empty and inconsequential in the face of such tragedy.
If there were a god who cared, who answered prayers, the deaths of these 26 people and the killer’s mother would not have happened. We might disagree about the lives of the adults who were killed, but it is hard to ignore the essential innocence of the twenty children whose lives were snuffed out. Unless a person believes in the Old Testament practice of child sacrifice, there can be no justification for a culture that makes it easy to end so many young lives so quickly.