As is typically the case following these all-too-familiar tragedies, folks have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why Sandy Hook Elementary was the scene of a bloody massacre that took the lives of 20 precious children and 6 devoted faculty members. How could someone kill those babies? What motivated him? Why does this keep happening? Is the scope of these tragedies going to continue getting worse?

The possible causes considered by leaders, experts and laymen range from the likely (our cultural obsession with violencee), to the under-explored (media coverage of mass murders) and on to the absurd (gay marriage? Seriously, it is time to label Westboro Baptist Church a terrorist organization); most seem to agree that conversations about mental health and access to guns are the most salient ones at this critical moment.

However, there is an oft-repeated “reason” for this sort of tragedy that has reared its head here and I find it to be both insulting and confusing. Various forms of “This is what happens when you take prayer out of schools” have made their way across social media and have tumbled from the lips of some of those same conservatives —IRONY ALERT—who oppose gun control measures that could prohibit access to the sort of assault weapons that were used to storm classrooms full of children last week.

The debate over prayer in public schools has been a quiet one, largely because it’s pretty clear that setting aside time for prayer in public schools violates our Constitutional separation between church and state. In 1962, the United States Supreme Court ruled that public schools cannot have official prayer times for that reason. Yet with every school tragedy, there is always some outcry that ‘removing God from the classroom’ is to blame. There’s a cringe-worthy meme traveling across Instagram that features a letter exchange between a child and God:

Dear God: Why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, a concerned student.

Dear Concerned Student: I’m not allowed in schools. God”

REALLY? God is out here acting like a dude who showed up to the club in sneakers and got turned away at the door? That’s what we’re preaching in these streets now?

In all seriousness, my personal spiritual beliefs make it hard to reconcile the idea that God is launching an attack on children at school because they don’t take the time to pray as a class. People who pray, worship and serve a higher power as they see fit are often the victims of violence, illness, tragedy and strife. We can’t say that the Sandy Hook killings would never take place at a Baptist or Catholic school.



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