Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tolling the Bell

The Connecticut Governor has asked for bells to be tolled on Friday morning, 26 times for the victims at Sandy Hook school.

But this leaves out one victim:  the shooter's mother.  Are people trying to "punish" the mother by not memorializing her loss?   And actually, 28 people died on Friday:  26 in the school,  the shooter's mother and of course the shooter himself.

Last Sunday, the bell in our church tolled 28 times, an aural prayer for all the dead.  This was picked up by the local news, and then apparently made the subject of conversation on a local talk-radio station, which was unhappy that the community prayed for the shooter as well as his victims.

It seems to me, though, that this prayer is essential.  If you really are a Christian, then isn't it required to pray for all the dead?  Isn't a tenet of the faith that God's love is infinite?  If you believe in God, isn't it possible, nay, even likely, that He will take the tortured soul of the shooter, forgive, and heal him?  And shouldn't you pray that He does?

On the news, we're hearing much about how the Evangelical voices like Huckabee and Dobson say that the Sandy Hook tragedy is God's "punishment" for abortion, gay marriage, or school prayer.  It's a quite pathetic view of God to presume He'd slaughter innocent children because He's miffed at two gay guys tying the knot.  But then, these voices are the hellfire voices, strident for punishment and supportive of the death penalty, while perversely claiming to be "pro-life".  They almost never speak of mercy, nor of love.  

When  I go to the Episcopal Church, I am told that I am a child of God, who loves me beyond my wildest imagining. But if such a God loves me, He must also love Adam Lanza, and must weep over him as would any parent.

It seems to me that if you buy into Christianity, you don't get to choose whom God loves--or forgives.   Which leads me yet again to think much of the conflict between conservative and liberal forms of Christianity is the conflict between desiring retribution, and allowing redemption.

So, will your church bell toll tomorrow morning?  and how many times?

6 comments:

James said...

Unpopular, but 28 times.

Grandmère Mimi said...

As I see it, the bells should toll 28 times. I listed 28 names in my post asking for prayers for those who died.

dr.primrose said...

Jesus is reported to have said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matt. 5:43-47, NRSV)

Luke's version is, "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." (Lk. 6:27-28, NSRV)

And Paul says, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." (Rom. 12:20, NRSV)

This is very radical and counter-cultural and goes against every fiber of our being. But, yes, I think we're required to toll a bell for the shooter and to pray for him as well.

Paul Powers said...

"If you really are a Christian, then isn't it required to pray for all the dead?"

That's actually a matter of debate among various Christian denominations. Many Evangelical Christians are opposed to prayers for the dead on the basis that they are ineffective for those who are condemned and unnecessary for those who are saved. Until the 19th Century Oxford Movement that was also the position of most Anglicans.

However, if one believes in prayers for the dead, then one should pray for all the dead.

The mother may have been excluded because technically she wasn't a victim of the shooting at the school. However, she was a victim, so I think she should be included.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that the Governor's proclamation doesn't call for prayers for the dead. It calls for the church bells to be rung in honor ofthe 26 children and adults that were killed at the school. Praying for the shooter is one thing. Honoring him is a whole other matter, and I can understand why the governor didn't ask that of the people of Connecticut.

dr.primrose said...

It's my understanding that, in the Angican tradition, prayers for the dead were included in the first English prayer book (1549) but excluded in later English prayer books, includng 1662. Prayers for the dead continued in some gropus of Anglicans thereafter, however, including the non-jurors (those who could not swear allegiance to Williams and Mary after the Glorious Revolutoin of 1689). The bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church were initially non-jurors and the Scottish Episcopal Church had a signficant influence on the American Church.

In England, prayers for the dead became more acceptable after the Boer War and the First World War because of the huge loss of life among the troops.

Prayers for the dead were included in the 1928 American Prayer Book's burial office for the first time. In the 1979 Prayer Book, there is a list of subjects that are supposed to be included in the as intercessions in prayers of the people at every eucharist; these include "The departed."

JCF said...

Many Evangelical Christians are opposed to prayers for the dead on the basis that they are ineffective for those who are condemned and unnecessary for those who are saved.

I understand that, at the time of the Reformation, "Masses for the Dead" was part of the general Roman racket.

Still, the attitude of "ineffectual/unnecessary" seems like such a *stingy* attitude towards prayer, and our brother and sisters "whom we no longer see."