When terrible things happen, people search for meaning. Such events can shake a person’s faith. “How could God have let this happen?” “Why did it happen to me (or to them)?” “Does God even exist?” “Where is God?”
Following the bombings in Boston, some people are asking these questions. There are no easy answers, but struggling with the questions can help us go deeper and develop a more mature faith. “At the Boston Marathon, where was God?”
First, the bombings in Boston were not God’s plan, fault, or idea. Just because something happens does not mean it was God’s will. We live on an evolving planet in a physical universe with natural laws. Suffering and death are part of life as we know it. In addition, we human beings have free will, and our choices have an impact on others. To claim that the bombings in Boston (or U.S. drone attacks the next day in Pakistan) were God’s will puts God in cahoots with killers. That’s not the God I know.
Second, God is Love, even in the midst of the terror of Boston. In Christian terms, God was and is present in those who suffer trauma, injury, death, and loss. As Dorothee Solle said, “Jesus continues to die before our eyes; his death has not ended. He suffers wherever people are tormented….Insofar as we forget the continued dying of Jesus in the present we deny the passion itself.” God is Love, not detached or distant, but intimately present. God is the suffering One, the One who bears the pain of the world.
Third, God is present in those who came to people’s aid. In Boston, many people rose to heroic levels of service to those who were injured and traumatized. God was there. One day later a quote circulated through social media, a quote from Mr. Rodgers, the great children’s television personality, who had said, “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would always say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I’m always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers, so many caring people in the world.” God was there in peoples’ loving actions for the sake of others.
Finally, God is present in today’s prophets, who warn us of the dangers of “blowback,” the unintended consequences of both domestic and foreign policies that enrich the few, impoverish the many, and use violence to dominate the world. What do we expect? We promote austerity at home and abroad, abandon programs that support the common good, cut basic services to the most needy, imprison more people than any other country on earth, and defy international law in our foreign and military policy. Such policies do not lead to a more secure world. Our prophets also call us to conversion, away from the deadly status quo and toward policies that lead to abundant life, social equity, environmental sustainability, beauty, and peace.
“At the Boston Marathon, where was God?” Suffering with the victims, inspiring and motivating the helpers, empowering the prophets. God was in Boston–as Love.