I was listening to local talk radio the other evening and the subject of the program was the tragedy at Virginia Tech. A caller was saying that we, as a country, need to pray. The host said, “Okay, that sounds good, and what do we pray? God, where were you?” I remember thinking that those are two very good questions: What do we pray, and God, where were you? When I was a full-fledged “believer,” I would have thought that those would have been horrible questions to ask. I would have thought, who are we to question God? His ways are not our ways. Now, as a nonbeliever, I realize how relevant those types of questions are. What should we pray and, yes God, where were you? Where were you when a psychopath mercilessly gunned down thirty-two students, just beginning to live their lives?
The day after the shooting, I received an email from the daughter of a friend. She was on a “fact finding” trip in Europe (letting “God” lead of course) to see about going into missions there. She wrote about how her god had answered her prayers, how “God” had brought some new friends her way and how “God” had provided a place for her to stay and even how “God” had allowed her to get her package onboard her flight, even though it was 3 lbs. overweight. She had prayed to her god, and “God” had done all of these things for her and now she is in Greece waiting for “God” to show her the way to go (not a bad place to be waiting on God, I might add). All I could think of was how can she believe God would do all these little things for her and yet not intervene to spare the lives of those Virginia Tech students? Did she even consider that?
Most Christians would say, God could have intervened at Virginia Tech, but chose not to, and that we will have trials in life, and that “God works all things for good for those who love him,” and “His ways are not our ways,” and don’t forget about the free will of the shooter. That is how Christians rationalize the obvious evidence that prayer does NOT work, and that there is NOT a personal God that intervenes in any of our lives. Sadly, when I was Christian, that’s how I rationalized it too. Now I think differently, perhaps more rationally. What about the students who didn’t believe in God or Christ? According to Christianity, they are now all burning in hell—forever, by the way. How in the world does that exemplify a loving God? What about their families? Even if they believe in God and Christ, is their suffering somehow lessened because of that? Absolutely not. How could a benevolent God, who could, not intervene and spare his children such horrible pain? How can Christians not ask these questions of their god? How can they not ask, “God where were you?” The truth is, they can’t let themselves do that, because deep down they know all they will get is silence…stone cold silence.