The National Catholic Review

“God Isn’t Fixing This,” trumpets today's headline in “The New York Daily News,” apparently in response to some politicians’ promises of prayers for the victims of the horrific shootings in San Bernardino yesterday, only the lastest in a string of mass murders. 

The implication of this ridiculous and insensitive headline is one of the following:

1) God doesn’t care.

2) God isn’t willing to act.

3) Prayer is useless.

4) The politicians are insincere.

Let’s take these possibilities one by one.

1) God doesn’t care. 

God cares more than we care. In fact, God cares more than we can possibly imagine. For God is all love, and so God weeps when we weep and mourns when we mourn. This morning Pope Francis talked about God as a “Father and Mother.” So we can imagine God weeping as much as a father or mother of one of the victims. Can anyone doubt this after reading the Gospel stories that describe what happens when Jesus encounters suffering? When he encounters those who are suffering in any way, his heart is “moved with pity.” The original Greek is much stronger: Jesus feels it in his guts. Jesus is moved with compassion when he sees the poor, the sick, the outcast. He weeps when his friend Lazarus dies. God cares more than we care. God is care.

2) God cannot or isn’t willing to act.

This is perhaps the worst conclusion to draw from that headline. How does God most often act? Through us. The disgust and anger and sadness that we feel over these kinds of violent acts are precisely God’s disgust and anger and sadness. This is God inspiring us, urging us, begging us to act. How else would God act in our world other than through us? This is God’s voice in us, also called our conscience. It’s up to us, however, to decide to act. Or not. In other words, it’s up to us to listen to that voice. So don’t blame God for not acting. Blame us.

3) Prayer is useless.

Another ridiculous conclusion. Prayer is a natural human impulse. In times of tragedy, is it impossible not to cry out to God in pain. And God, who is all compassion, hears and attends these prayers. Again, as a father or mother would. And then, again, God responds to these prayers not only through inner consolations, but by urging us to act. In prayer, we can hear God’s voice more clearly. And that voice says, “Do something.”

4) The politicians are insincere. 

I’m not going to get into political analysis here: too many people online—on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere—have already done so. But is it too much to ask to give politicians the benefit of the doubt in a time like this? I believe them to be sincere as they grieve the deaths of these poor innocent people. What kind of monster would not grieve such events? But grief and promises of prayer are insufficient. And that is the only possible positive interpretation of what is still an insensitive headline: We must expect those who can act to act. That is, I hope that their sincere prayer urges them on to listen to God's voice. And that voice says: Act. 

God isn’t fixing this? 

No, we’re not listening.

Comments

MICHAEL PAINTER | 12/9/2015 - 9:59pm

As much as we might wish it otherwise, the politicians quoted do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. "[G]rief and promises of prayer are insufficient." Unfortunately, that's all those particular politicians (and too many others) have offered us over the years.

Actions speak louder than words, as out mothers used to say, and the votes cast by Messrs. Cruz, Graham, Paul & Ryan over the years have shown that doubting their sincerity is the only logical choice.

And as for points 1-3, I think Fr. Martin, you're misinterpreting what the headline is saying. It's not directed toward God at all or even commenting on HIm. It's all about the politicians.

Stephanie B. | 12/6/2015 - 10:04pm

Honestly, I could not even read all of this because some fail to see the big picture. Someone made a comment on here and they said "GOD is LOVE." Yes, yes HE is and HE is LIGHT..I find it offensive that some politicians would like to bring God into the equation,when some politicians in society today have had no problem taking God out of the equation...I say, Hypocrites, to those who slap God in the face by denying HIS presence within the institutions where we gave Him recognition and praise,but there are some that try to appease others by taking God out of the schools, taking away the 10 commandments in some government buildings, and trying to modify other things that leave what was once acknowledging God. This is just a few examples,but I am sure you understand. Does GOD not weep? Does God not hurt? Does God not feel rejected when some, take out the very principles that made this nation strong and our forefathers who acknowledge God,and acknowledge the FATHER in so many of our legal and governmental documents and institutions. "IN GOD WE TRUST." Yes, those whom have faith and truly know the FATHER, IN GOD WE INDEED TRUST. I hear we have to appease those whom come from other cultures. I find this total crap. Yes, we should respect everyone and treat everyone with respect...but, let's be real here. We could not enter another country and make demands to reconstruct government, societal and educational institutions because it offends them and our request would not be honored because we have no rights to make those demands, just as others do not have the right to rip out the foundation below us and that foundation is GOD. Look at history, look how we have been blessed. It is by no coincidence and yet, some continue to little by little take GOD out of the equation,but then some of the very same people want to say GOD Is not fixing it. ...Wow, that is such hypocrisy. GOD will bring Justice and HIS WILL,will be done. GOD is a GOD of LOVE,but HE is also a GOD of JUSTICE....Let's stop providing an enemy of Israel's, with the means to hurt the Holy Land....Those who want to blame GOD..How about acknowledging HIM and not blame him...We have been a blessed nation for a reason and that is GOD....Nobody is untouchable,not even those who are saturated in their money and whom hold these titles.....Those whom have rejected GOD and have tried to get ahead of GOD,by thinking they can do whatever they want and it will be ok...Humble yourselves and cry out to the Almighty Father....In regard for those whom have victimized and those whom have lost loved ones, Let us pray to our Father, that they are given strength, restoration, blessings, be embraced and surrounded by The Holy Trinity, The Father, The Son and His Holy Spirit, His Love and Protection and His Guardian Angels. Let us pray that the enemies be binded in the name of Jesus...Let those with wicked hearts, fall into their own snares to the longevity and degree according to God's will and let who have not been humbled and arrogant, be humbled. Let all of our brothers and sisters in CHRIST, even those whom do not know they belong to Christ, be protected by the Love and Protection of our Father. Let us pray for those whom don't know the Lord because of the days to come, He loves them too,so Let us pray that they come to know their Father,whom loves them so. Let All their needs and hearts desires be fulfilled according to HIS will and Let us pray the wicked are exposed and be binded, in Jesus name..Those of us whom listen to the voice of GOD...you know seasons are changing and they will continue to change...Let us have Faith. Let us not look at the darkness and allow any element of it, to impact our LIGHT....We know what is to come...The last chapter is already written....Glory Be to God in the Highest..AMEN...God Bless

Mary Keane | 12/6/2015 - 1:10pm

Some days finding God in all things requires digging deep. I have no issue with anyone who questions where God is in these slaughters. Everything in which God subsists can be distorted. This is a sad reality of this world, in which redemption is offered, but not infrequently rejected.

However, all must take heart and run to brush up on Ephesians 5:22. Elsewhere in the commentariat, a poster predicted that in his speech tonight the President will announce the imposition of "marital law."

Albert Victor | 12/4/2015 - 10:33pm

GOD IS NOT PERCEIVABLE

God does not care whether you believe in Him/Her or not but wants you to live a life of good thoughts and actions. So God exists and does not exist at the same time. A possibility, after all this IS God. Therefore God exists within each and every one of us or does not exist.

God does NOT communicate with you, influence you, nor reveal His/Her presence or existence to you in any way if He/She exists.

Moses' Burning Bush is NOT God otherwise this would contradict the statement that God exists within each and every one of us and God does NOT communicate with you, influence you, nor reveal His/Her presence or existence to you in any way if He/She exists.

The belief of Jesus Christ as the only Divine Savior of the world and that you must accept only him for Salvation is questionable. Specifically, the Divinity of Christ must be disbelieved otherwise this would contradict the statement that God exists within each and every one of us and God does NOT communicate with you, influence you, nor reveal His/Her presence or existence to you in any way if He/She exists.

God does NOT send agents on His/Her behalf otherwise this would contradict the statement that God does NOT communicate with you, influence you, nor reveal His/Her presence or existence to you in any way if He/She exists.

A spiritual statement or belief does not need to be proved. It may be accepted or rejected.

J Cosgrove | 12/5/2015 - 11:19am

God does NOT communicate with you, influence you, nor reveal His/Her presence or existence to you in any way if He/She exists.

There are lots of ways that the creator communicates to us. The nature of the creation is one way. There can be many other ways that are more explicit but there is definitely communication. From all these communications we have a greater understanding of Him and what His plans are.

Nothing is certain. It cannot be. There must be doubt and then faith. Otherwise free will would disappear and our existence would be meaningless.

Bruce Snowden | 12/6/2015 - 6:24pm

Mr. Schneider,
Trudging through the Dawkins search for spiritual certitude, for that’s what his vitriol suggests to me, there is a mix of truth in that, some parts of the OT deal in cesspools of human rot, overpowering stench , truth nonetheless because with God there is no “watergating” no coverups. Divine Truth tells it like it is interested only in truth, often using human quills to get to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, too often formulated in disgusting human behavioral pattern. Yes, humanity (you and me) can sometimes make truth reality horrendous!

Read on in the OT and especially to the NT, there to discover the whole human story, the whole truth, one of forgiveness, faith, hope, love, The Bible is really our autobiography written by us, for us, a “best seller” when in an educated and intelligent way it is ingested and appreciated .Or better, the Bible is our biography, written by God!

As an aside, electronic genius and atheist Steve Job’s Sister said that Steve’s last words before death were, “O Wow! O Wow! O Wow!” Interesting. Did he finally "get it?" May he rest in peace.

Victor Kacharski | 12/4/2015 - 12:54pm

Maybe I'm misreading this article. My understanding of this article is that it's an attack on people in power who refuse to do anything to change the liberal access to guns in our great country and not an attack on our religious beliefs.

Rebecca Krier | 12/7/2015 - 7:59am

Victor, I agree. I think the reaction to this article has been taken in the wrong direction. Not to say that the headline isn't harsh--it is--and it opens itself to this kind of criticism. But a more charitable reading of the intended message is what you said: it's an attack on the politics surrounding gun control.

KC Mulville | 12/4/2015 - 10:44am

They’re scorning prayer because they believe that passing gun control laws is how to fix the problem. And yet, where is the proof of that? Barbara Boxer said yestrday, absurdly, that California’s laws “proved” that gun control works … even though this happened in California. As it stands, California is among the most heavily gun-regulated states, and those regulations didn’t stop this. Besides, even if they passed laws forbidding anyone to own guns, the two murderers would still have had their homemade pipe bombs and IEDs, made from common materials. I see nothing wrong with sensible regulations, but let’s not kid ourselves that those regulations will stop every possible attack - any more than thgey would have stopped this one.

Some want to portray themselves as practical problem-solvers, but what they propose has no chance of solving the problem. Their scorn is nothing but posturing.

Besides, praying for the souls of the victims, and consolation for their families, isn’t intended to “fix” violence. It’s intended to support people who are suffering.

John Stefanyszyn | 12/4/2015 - 9:07am

The terrorist attacks....as hail (small & numerous, here & there)...on fire and mixed with blood, as a foul & loathsome sore...being cast onto the earth; What then the Mountain on Fire?

Patrick Murtha | 12/3/2015 - 10:59pm

No, we're not listening. There has been no consecration of Russia. When will man learn to do things God's way? This reminds me of Jonah, stubbornly resisting the call of God. And he nearly condemns an entire city to destruction. Only this time, by ignoring Mary's plea at Fatima, the whole world is being destroyed.

Andrew Rollason | 12/3/2015 - 7:35pm

I think that it is fair to assume that point "2) God cannot or isn’t willing to act" is perfectly valid.

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.
- Isaiah 1:15-16

God openly told Israel that he wouldn't listen to them; why isn't that also true for the United States? This is a country which has "In God We Trust" on its money and the only possible way that that is actually true is if the god America trusts in is called "Gun" or "Dollar.

This point "4) The politicians are insincere." is also valid.
When Congress votes to strike down legislation which might curb violence (and in the wake of this have again done nothing) then what else do we assume.
James tells us that faith without works is dead; just like 11,000 people every year who also continue to die because politicians will not and refuse to work.

God does care but if as a nation, you consistently disobey him, he will and does let you live with the consequences of sin.

Annette Magjuka | 12/3/2015 - 7:05pm

Fr. Jim said over and over in his comments that God is urging us to ACT, to DO SOMETHING. I think this is what the headline was trying to convey, but it is unfortunate that they chose to "dis" God. Religious people do not like this. However, it is time for us to pray, then TAKE ACTION. We need sensible gun control, closing of loopholes, and awareness training for all of us since we live in a contentious and dangerous world.

Bruce Snowden | 12/3/2015 - 6:02pm

Mr. Schneider, "Educated, intelligent people (do not) understand this," your denial of God. I don't understand why people deny what doesn't exist. It should be obvious there is no God, if God did not exist, but it isn't. So, keep looking, you may find that Mysterious One who continues to hurl universes off his fingertips, in an ongoing, unfinished creation!

karl schneider | 12/3/2015 - 6:50pm

A couple people in California who professed true and sincere belief in God yesterday used their faith as an excuse to kill at least 14 people.

Richard Dawkins distilled the attributes of the god of the bible succinctly:

"[it] is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic capriciously malevolent bully."
---------------------------------------------------------------

That is no joke, any scholar of the Old Testament will immediately recognize these characteristics in the first three chapters.

It's a peculiar insanity of our species that some of us think it's a good idea to acknowledge, let alone worship such a monster.

Those who are inclined to believe in absurdities such as imaginary gods can easily be persuaded to commit atrocities...a pretty accurate evaluation of most contemporary American "christians".

J Cosgrove | 12/5/2015 - 12:33pm

Those who are inclined to believe in absurdities such as imaginary gods can easily be persuaded to commit atrocities...a pretty accurate evaluation of most contemporary American "christians".

What imaginary gods did Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao believe in?

Your statement is not reflective of reality.

joseph o'leary | 12/3/2015 - 5:44pm

I actually read it to mean "We have to fix this, not someone/something else." But if my wife and I raise our boys to respect life, not to harbor anger, and love their neighbor as themselves, what else beyond that can we do?

karl schneider | 12/3/2015 - 5:24pm

God has never 'fixed' anything because all gods are imaginary.
We have learned more about our universe and how and why it operates in the last 30 or 40 years than in all of previous human history.

Because of this we have no further need to invent imaginary, magical, supernatural 'gods' to explain thunder, disease, planetary motion, electronics, evolution, chemical reactions, etc.

Hundreds of religious belief systems that humans invented, along with the imaginary gods that supposedly give them provenance have gone down the toilet of history and the few remaining ones are circling the bowl as we speak. Theism is a dying enterprise.

Educated intelligent people understand this.

J Cosgrove | 12/5/2015 - 12:37pm

We have learned more about our universe and how and why it operates in the last 30 or 40 years than in all of previous human history.

A true statement and all that we have learned points to a creator of massive intelligence.

Hundreds of religious belief systems that humans invented, along with the imaginary gods that supposedly give them provenance have gone down the toilet of history and the few remaining ones are circling the bowl as we speak. Theism is a dying enterprise.

Educated intelligent people understand this.

If this is what they understand then they are ignoring what science has discovered. What does this say about educated intelligent people if they ignore what is obvious?

t degas | 12/3/2015 - 3:34pm

I also think Fr. Jim may have missed the point of perhaps the only NY Daily News cover I've ever agreed with. Didn't Jesus and the prophets in fact regularly criticize what the scriptures portray as hollow prayers, or prayers which seemed hypocritical in view of unjust actions and policies? Even the Pope is staggering at the level of violence and despair and cautioning against too-quick responses. We all can certainly recognize that God's power is great and have faith in that. But it is up to us to at least partner in the building of the Kingdom of God through action. Many of the GOP candidates should be rightly called out on what seems less like genuine prayer and more like a passive 'digital wish' designed to please focus groups and raise poll points in Iowa. It's not cynical to see that; perhaps it is line with the challenging of the Pharisees who made too great a show of their prayer as they continued to outcast. We should be alert and vigilant about those who defend guns and attack weapons, advocate cutting budgets for programs that serve the neediest (including the disabled served by the attacked center) and scapegoat immigrants on one hand, and then type a twitter 'prayer' of 'support' on the other. Perhaps missed here in Fr. Jim's post is the hope shown when even conservative, mainstream and progressives newspapers are agreeing 'enough.' At the very least, if you're running for the highest office in the land, learn that in these times 'active prayer', and prayer accompanied by a just and inclusive vision, offers far more in the way of comfort than a few words that don't seem to match the long, long campaign speeches taking us farther and farther away from anything resembling the Kingdom of God.

Mark Ungemach | 12/3/2015 - 3:24pm

With all due respect, the headline is expressing frustration with all of us humans and our elected officials, and has nothing to do with God!

The headline echoes Ben Franklin, or Algernon Sydney, "God helps those who help themselves."

I have every faith in God, but have lost faith in much of my fellow man, whose mumbling they say are prayers seem meaningless.

karl schneider | 12/3/2015 - 6:56pm

We clearly see that evil exists.

Is God willing but not able to prevent evil?
Then he is weak and useless.

Is he able but not willing? Then he is himself evil.

Is he both able and willing? Then how can evil exist?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

J Cosgrove | 12/5/2015 - 11:26am

This is an attempt to state the theodicy issue. The logic falls apart when one considers the question of evil. There is only one truly evil thing in Christian theology and that is lack of salvation. All other misfortunes that happen in this world are trivial compared to the lost of it or its attainment.

It is interesting that as humans get better at alleviating earthly misfortune the more they pay attention to the remaining earthly misfortunes and not to eternal fortunes.

Mary Sweeney | 12/3/2015 - 2:06pm

It is a rare occasion indeed when I find myself in fundamental disagreement with Fr. James Martin, SJ. The headline and the responses it has drawn are not at all about God, about whether He cares, about whether he hears our prayers. The headline and the comments reflect the "fury", carefully chosen word, that citizens feel when politicians who have the power to act to make citizens safer REFUSE to do so. Politicians were NOT elected to pray for us. I really do not care if they pray for me. I would feel very uncomfortable, indeed endangered, having some of them praying for me. Their job is to pass legislation which promotes the common good. The "pray-ers" refuse to do this because they are in the pockets of the NRA. They instead insult us with words which have NO currency, no sincerity, no value. Yes, they are insincere. NO, they do NOT deserve the benefit of a doubt. We are not stupid. Follow the money.

Rick Poster | 12/3/2015 - 12:50pm

I think Father Martin is way off on this one. The headline is not addressed to God, but to the politicians who sit on their hands and piety and do nothing. If the only thing these politicians are going to do is pray, than their prayer is nothing but useless piety. Prayer should transform us, not God, and lead us to action, not God. God is already acting, and does not need our encouragement or direction to do so. When I vote I am not electing a prayer leader, but someone who I hope will provide leadership and action. Unfortunately, for most of these guys we have put up with their empty words and prayers for too long. It's well past time for them to act, and I think we have given them the benefit of the doubt for far too long. God is not going to act for them, or us, but acting with God all things are possible.

Bruce Snowden | 12/3/2015 - 12:40pm

"God Isn't Fixing This." The Management of the New York Daily News who determine headlines, show by that headline, to be deaf, dumb and blind, leading many like-minded people into a "pit" similar to what Scripture says, of "ridiculous and insensitive" conclusions, the latter quoting James Martin, S.J. as above. As a matter of fact God "fixed this" multi-millennia ago in His 5th Commandment, "You Shall Not Commit Murder" often proclaimed as, "Thou shall not Kill." If God had said that, humanity wouldn't be able to eat, sustain or defend itself. God however did condemn murder.

Also two thousand years ago Jesus showed HOW in the following teaching, "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you," and in many other ways. Read the New Testament and it will quickly become apparent that God didn't "screw-up." We did and continue to do so!

Kevin McDermott | 12/3/2015 - 12:34pm

I think you misread the intentions of the Daily News, Jim. It is calling on people to act, not recite the ritual platitude of "thoughts and prayers". The Daily News deserves praise this morning for calling out the fake concern.

Gawker gets it right: http://gawker.com/a-theological-debate-1745949649. I'm heartened by ita data comparing the crowd response to the News' cover with that of the NY Post, which is more deserving of scorn. (What's a stronger word for "scorn"?)

Crystal Watson | 12/3/2015 - 12:27pm

Prayer can't just be about us doing all the heavy lifting - the God of the OT and NT acted: stilled storms, healed people, raised the dead. I don't understand why we shouldn't expect the same now.

Reggie Birks | 12/3/2015 - 11:51am

When I saw this headline, I thought it was good. I thought its intent was to clarify that we need to pray to the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of Congress for the need to change our laws...and that God isn't going to do it for us. We should pray for God's help...but we, the people, have to start demanding change. Change won't come unless a majority of people want it. It's up to us.

Paul Gross | 12/3/2015 - 11:16am

No question that God cares. And, I believe He acts through us. And, yes, God does answer prayers. I need to act. How remains the question. As for politicians? Actions speak louder than words. If politicians were sincere, something would have been done by now.