By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
In the wake of a senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary, many people are asking, “Where was God?” Our hearts are broken with the tragic loss of innocent life in Connecticut, and we pray daily for the God’s comfort and peace for the shattered lives of the families of these victims. But still people will ask, “Why didn’t God stop this?” That is a question that deserves an answer.
The truth may be that God was made unwelcome and left. God submits himself to the law of faith, and will not go where he is not wanted. He will not force us to put with him if we don’t want him around. It may be that his protective presence is being removed from our land and from our schools because he has been told repeatedly that his protective presence is not wanted.
We have, as a culture, systematically booted God from our public schools for over five decades.. In 1962, the Supreme Court issued a diktat that American schools could no longer seek his help and protection. In 1963, the Supreme Court issued a second diktat prohibiting the reading of his Word in our public schools. And in 1980, the Supreme Court issued a third diktat prohibiting the display or teaching of the Ten Commandments, God’s abiding and transcendent moral standard for human conduct.
So God is no longer prayed to, his counsel is no longer sought and his standards are no longer respected. Is it any wonder that he might not be around when we need him? If we have spent 50 years telling him to get lost, it should not come as a surprise that we eventually begin to feel the absence of his powerful presence.
There is a sobering segment in the book of Ezekiel (8:1-11:25) which describes the glory of the Lord slowly, gradually and reluctantly departing from the temple and from the nation. God speaks there of the “abominations” that “drive me far from my sanctuary” (8:6). Included in these abominations: “the land is full of blood and the city full of injustice” (9:9).
As a result, God’s presence was slowly withdrawn from the temple and from the people. It moved from the “inner court” (8:3) to the “threshold” of the temple (9:3), to the “east gate” of the temple (10:19), and finally “to the mountain that is on the east side of the city” (11:23). And then He was gone. His glory, his power, his protection, his manifest presence was driven from the land by its rebellion, defiance and immorality.
They had driven him so far away that He was beyond the reach of their prayers. “Though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them” (9:18).
Theologians refer to a distinction between God’s real presence and his manifest presence. His real presence is everywhere; there is no place where his existential presence can not be found.
But his manifest presence is a different thing. That’s when God’s power, blessing and protection is seen, felt, manifest. And God has given to us the responsibility to draw forth his manifest, protecting presence through our public acknowledgement of our need for him. This we have obstinately refused to do in our schools for half a century. If God is to be taken at his word, it should surprise no one that we are now reaping the bitter fruit of our defiance.
He will not go where is not wanted. He will give us what we want, a godless, secularized nation, helpless against evil and the evil one.
Benjamin Franklin famously broke a nearly-terminal deadlock at the Constitutional Convention by driving our Founding Fathers to their knees. He reminded them of Psalm 127, which says “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labor in vain.” The Psalmist then adds, “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (127:1).
An observant reader will notice that the “watchman” is still required. God works through us and with us, not apart from us, to provide protection. Without the watchman, there is no one for him to work through. Without God, the watchman is helpless. We must learn from the example of Nehemiah, who recorded that, in rebuilding the fallen ruins of the nation of his day, “we prayed and set a guard” (Nehemiah 4:9). Not one or the other, but both. We need both God and armed guardians for our children to be protected.
The best security for a school as well as a home is God and a loaded gun. I’ve been heartened to see public figures like former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett saying the same thing, that we must begin to allow school staff to carry concealed weapons to protect their precious charges from madmen.
God has given us minds, the Second Amendment, and weapons to use in defense of ourselves and our children. It’s time we started using them all.
Franklin reminded the Founders that God is a “powerful Friend” and that they had foundered because they had “forgotten” him and had “imagine[d] we no longer need His assistance.” He reminded them that during the contest with Britain, they had prayed daily for “Divine protection,” and that those prayers “were heard, & they were graciously answered,” and that as a result they had “observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor.”
He said pointedly that “God governs in the affairs of men,” and added, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” The answer to this rhetorical question was obvious. He therefore begged the Founders to “implor[e] the assistance of Heaven” not just occasionally but “every morning.” We must return to the historic practice of doing the same in our public schools. It is the very least we can do out of our love for innocent children and our desire to protect them from harm.
If the Founders, as wise, educated, intelligent and resourceful as they were, could not accomplish their purposes without seeking God’s help on a daily basis, how can we possibly think we can protect our schoolchildren without doing the same? It is long past time, Supreme Court or no, to return prayer, the Scriptures, the Ten Commandments and God himself to our public schools.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)