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A Different ‘Christian’ Take on Newtown Tragedy

Pastor Jon Storck

Opinion:

Dec. 21, 2012 By Jon Storck, Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Sunnyside

Dear Watching, Skeptical-of-all-organized-religion-but-especially-of-Christianity, world,

On behalf of all of us Christians who refuse to confuse our political agendas with our faith, I want to offer an apology for comments made after the Newtown shootings by those who claim to represent the rest of us.

Deplorably, pronouncements were made that that tragedy was due either to “a systematic removal of God from the public arena,” or to the legalization of abortion and/or state-recognized gay marriage.  As a Christian pastor, I want to offer an alternative response that is consistent with historical Christianity and the clear teaching of the Bible which these men have apparently disregarded.

First of all, no one can speak on behalf of the will and mind of God and claim knowledge of culpable sources for such tragedies.  Not only is this colossal arrogance but it completely ignores and even trivializes the sorrow experienced by our fellow human beings.

The most noted emotion experienced by Jesus in all the gospels is compassion.  And almost without exception, his compassion was in response to some form of suffering by fellow human beings.

Secondly, the Bible denies anyone’s ability to make a direct correlation between moral failure and tragedy.  In Luke 13, Jesus responds to a tragedy where a tower fell and killed 18 citizens.  He insists that those killed were no worse morally than anyone else and that no moral failure of any kind had anything to do with it.  In fact, he rebuked those that suggested such a thing!  In John 9 when Jesus met a blind man he was asked if it was he or his parents who were at fault for his blindness.  He made it clear that no one’s transgressions were the cause.  In fact, not only did he repudiate the idea that someone’s misdeeds directly precipitated the man’s blindness, he also compassionately healed him.

Regardless of whether or not one accepts the supernatural claims of the Bible, the principle is clear that the comments made in the past few days by some Christians are completely lacking in Biblical support.

There are no easy answers in response to such tragedy.  All of us, including we Christians, can’t help but respond with, “Why, God?”  However we interpret God’s connection to the Newtown tragedy, at least one thing we can’t say is that he doesn’t understand the sorrow.  As the late essayist and women’s rights advocate, Dorothy Sayers, says, “Since God became man, we can say that for whatever reason God made man—limited and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from trivial irritations to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, despair and death. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while.”

This message, which is the message of Christmas, would have been a much more timely and charitable response.

Sincerely, Pastor Jon Storck

Note: these are the opinions of Pastor Storck and not the Sunnyside Post. 

email the author: news@queenspost.com

38 Comments

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real reporting

Tapenade just closed. Thanks for the reporting SunnysidePost!

I look forward to Pastor Stork’s comments on this matter in a new post.

Reply
RMR

A lot of you religious folks need to stop being so sensitive. You all run around telling everyone they will burn and then when you get called out you whine and cry.

Here’s some real advice: don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. You should have learned this when you were about five, but better late than never I guess.

Also to the esteemed keepers of this site, it might be nice to hear from somebody else other than Storck for once. You claim his views are his own and not yours but you feature him so often that I am starting to wonder.

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JuliaJ.

Jesus did not comment on automatic weapons. He was, however, familiar with death by crucifixion and suffered it without complaint. I am not into rehashing the past sins of members of one faith against another. What is in the past, is in the past.

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Sycamore

@RD Your response was as dissatisfying as your earlier posts were saddening. But, you have a right to believe as you do and think as you do. I can see we only talk past each other, so I won’t continue this discussion. More power to you.

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Thomas

What about the violence and hate that Christians have inflicted upon the Jews? This is never mentioned…..not one post on this board. Its time to recognize and atone. Then we all come together. This would be a good time for Christians to reflect now that thier Holiday is upon them.Happy New Year to all!

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Rick Duro

Sycamore, Im not the kinda person to correct someone’s syntax, spelling, etc. It’s what they write. Sorry you are hurting.

Religion is simply ‘philosophy’. While I DON’T believe in the man-made creation called ‘god’, and absolutely disagree with how major religions like Islam and Christianity have gone about their way conquering the earth. I DO believe it is your right to believe what’cha want:)

My Grandma, before her hips started to go, went to Church just about every day. That suits her, it’s what she believes in. I respect and love her for that. Just as she respects and loves me for what I believe in.

One doesn’t need religion to know right from wrong, to love, to give, to forgive and live on a daily basis. Our grandparents, parents, teachers, brothers/sisters, teachers, life teaches us this every day.

RD

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Sycamore

@Rick Duro I’m so sorry I read your comments. They hurt and anger me, but I know I am not up to all your arguments. You seem to have thought your way all around the subject and have it all tied up. For me, my faith comes more from my heart. I see that no matter what my parents do, no matter what my children do, I will never cease to love them. They don’t earn my love by good deeds, they have my love by virtue of our relationship. If I can forgive and continue to love, I’m going to have faith that the all-loving creator I believe in can do it, too. Whether my faults ever heal or not. P.S. Please don’t pick on my spelling, grammar or punctuation. I was an English teacher, copy editor, writer and editor, but I’m out of practice and my eyes aren’t what they once were.

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GM

Hey Rick, honestly, I just meant that time spent looking into the person of Jesus (and those who really follow him) would be time well spent, but you’re always welcome to join us!  😉

You pose an excellent question.  As a Protestant, I’m probably not well equipped to speak on Catholicism in an educated way.  However, there are some theological similarities here, so I’ll try to address your question from my point of view.

Though the MANY denominations within Christianity disagree on a myriad of lesser points, what holds us together is the central idea that an eternal salvation is available via faith in the death and ressurection of Jesus.  We believe that God forgave our sin in Christ once.  We now confess, not in order to reacquire forgiveness, but instead to restore our fellowship with God.  If I offend my Dad, the relationship is genetically impossible to change, but the quality of my relationship with him is affected.  In a similar way, we believe that God adopts us and the status of our relationship to him is unchangeable, but the quality of the relationship can be greatly damaged.  So, we consider it not a duty to confess, so much as a privilege.  Through it, we’re able to restore fellowship with one we love.

I actually think our beliefs are even more scandalous than forgiveness-per-confession-visit.  We believe that God will wash your record completely clean: past, present and even future.  There really is something innately offensive about that, even to most Christians!  We want to earn it.  But the Christian “good news” is that it could never be earned.  The Bible says that people are naturally worshipers (made to serve something) and that our default setting is self-worship, instead of worship of the source of everything good that we will ever experience, God.  It says that the beginning of all evil is this self-centered, self-serving, misdirected worship.

The idea of the suffering savior that Pastor Storck talked about is stunning, and I think confusing at first.  The short story of why Christ had to die is that he was taking the full weight of punishment for the evil of any person who rejects their own self-worship, and that life trajectory and trusts in him
to give us real life.  Therein is a part of the answer to your question.  For me, this actually makes the way I live here and now matter more.  Because my life is now all about serving God & making him look good, things like treating others as better than myself, & working for restoration, justice, & beauty in the world are now my heart’s desire.  I still “self-worship” & mess up plenty (being an insensitive jack-ass to my wife the other day comes to mind), but it’s not my desire.  In fact, it breaks my heart, & I long not to repeat it.

Genuine Christians have had a desire shift.  They seek to renew, restore and redeem, in those areas where they have caused harm or pain.  The threat of sin haunting us in the next life is unnecessary because our highest desire in this life is to follow Jesus & bring his love, peace, & goodness to our neighbors & even those who don’t like us!  Where you see people that seem to take the free forgiveness of Jesus for granted, regardless of Catholicism, Protestantism, or any denomination, you have likely not encountered a Christian.

I know that might be a bit difficult to discern on the outside.  However, we would not call someone a Muslim just because they say it is so.  My limited understanding of the Q’uran is that someone is a Muslim when they repeat the shahada three times.  If they do not embrace the pillars of Islam, they are still a Muslim, just a bad one.  The Biblical definition of a Christian is a bit more nuanced.  One who does not desire to live a righteous, merciful, loving life is not a Christian.  

That said, I think it’s important to reiterate that Christians must confess & repent for “our” sins, be they Inquisition, Colonialism, Crusades, prejudice, or saying insensitive & stupid things after a tragedy in Connecticut.  For all of that and so much more I am so profoundly sorry, and I long to be a small part of erasing those things in this life.

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Rick Duro

i appreciate the time you took to write that well worded response, GM. Thanks for the offer of joining the flock, but, well, I don’t want to offend your belief system, we’ll just leave it @ that:)

Here is a question my students often pose to me in their confusion about religious tenets, when we discuss the major world religions:

Why is it that in ancient religions such as Hinduism, your discretions/sins follow you to the next life. How you act/behave in THIS life has consequences in the next. This makes a lot more sense to them than in Catholicism where one only needs to go to confession and ‘poof’ all is ‘forgiven’ upon completion of a ‘task’.

I think this absolution of sins is a tremendous weakness for Catholicism, basically giving the sinner a way out, and then allowing for MORE sin, repeat process….

RD

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GM

Rick, you make some great points. In the Bible we are actually given the example of repenting as a community for the sins of that community. Christianity actually teaches us that we need to acknowledge and agree when those representing us have propagated evil in our name.

The interesting thing about Christians and injustice, though, is that the path to reform is to call Christians deeper into their faith, not to abandon faith. The evils of the Crusades, the Atlantic slave trade, segregation, etc. have been eradicated through a distinctly Christian message that such things cannot rightly coexist with a people who claim to be Christ-followers, because they are so unlike Christ! While that can never excuse injustice, it certainly does not invalidate the message of the cross in times of great tragedy either. Quite the opposite. We believe in a King who suffered in order to set us free. We really don’t have to shove that down people’s throats. We believe he changes us to act like him, to speak like him, to embrace a way of changing the world that is not about governments and power (though we certainly believe in voting).

Long story short, Jesus says that Christians will be known by their love, and their similarity to him, not by their set of beliefs. If a hardware store paints the word “restaurant” on their sign, you wouldn’t get a sandwich there. Likewise, a person or nation that calls itself “Christian” simply is not so if you do not see Christ exemplified in them. That is exactly the kind of thing that Pastor Storck is calling out here. Even though you do not seem to embrace Christianity, I’d encourage you to join Jon in bringing this to light. Look into who Jesus was, find those who strike you as similar, and don’t hesitate to say when “Christians” don’t look very Christian.

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Rick Duro

Hide guns? Um, no. LOCK THEM UP/BE RESPONSIBLE, especially with children in the house, let alone someone that obviously had mental issues.

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Get a Life

Human sacrifice practiced by the Aztecs was ugly evil and violent. Missionaries put a stop to that and yes, Chrisitans have persecuted Jews and non-believers. The shooter was a disturbed person and it seems his own mother was afraid of him. How do we know she did not hide the gund and he found where they were? It seems she was trying to have him put away. She was his FIRST VICTIM. It is difficult to institutionallize the mentally ill and we can thank the ACLU for that one! Guns can SAVE PEOPLE ALSO. I have a relative whose life was saved when he showed hisw gun!

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O'Shea

20 white kids got shot up by another white kid….
what makes our kids better than other kids with the 24 hour news coverage?
What if we randomly selected, herded into a big ditch, and shot 10000 Americans to death all at once. Would this create enough shock value? Would it stop people from buying even more guns?

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almighty one percenter

crazy people will get guns, and they can also buy a 3D printing machine and print and assemble one at home and walk into any place at any time and start a rampage. cant stop that.

guns at the front door of the school, yeah that would work.

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86Mets

Re: access to guns

Far more people have been killed in wars by guns this last century so perhaps we should consider disarming the military if we really want to save lives and stop violence. The police have also been known to blow away innocent civilians so perhaps their access should be more limited as well. Let’s not forget how many people are killed by the automobile yet they are not banned.

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Oppressed Masses

Thank you Pastor Storck for your well stated, thought provoking article and for reminding us of the true message of Jesus this Christmas season.

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Pete

@Its All True:

“Sociology is the scientific study of human social behavior and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions.”—Wikipedia

If one accepts this definition, or others similar to it, then we can say that sociology and political science are closely related and thus I’m not sure what distinction you’re trying to make. Anyway, I agree with you insofar as this person was clearly unwell. But we need the discussion to go further. The “he was just a nut job” explanation isn’t working all that well for us. This keeps happening over and over. Why? Because people like this continually get access to guns through black markets, family or friends, and even legal markets in some states. Last year, we had over 10,000 people killed in this country due to gun violence. This number is staggering when compared to other advanced countries. Why does this keep happening? Access. How do you prevent it in realpolitik terms? Legislation, vigilance, and enforcement. And it will keep happening so long as we idly stand by and allow thousands of our own citizens to die each year for the sake of the misinterpreted “rights” of a fringe lobby group.

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Pete

@Its All True: my last post disappeared so I’m trying again:

“Sociology is the scientific study of human social behavior and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions.”–Wikipedia

If one accepts this definition, it is very closely related to political science, so I’m not sure what distinction you’re trying to make. Anyway, I agree with you insofar as this person was clearly unwell. However, the discussion needs to move beyond that. The “he was just a nut job” explanation isn’t working too well for us in this country. This keeps happening over and over. It keeps happening over and over because “insane” people are able to easily get their hands on guns, wither through black markets, family or friends, or even legally in some states. Last year, over 10,000 Americans were killed due to gun violence. This is a staggering number when compared to statistics in other advance countries. Also, the percentages are significantly higher here than in other comparable countries. What’s the variable? Access. How do you prevent unfettered access? Legislation, vigilance, and enforcement. These are political solutions. If you want to call that “sociology,” fine, but let’s be clear on what the problems and the solutions are.

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Pete

@It’s All True: I agree that this person was obviously very disturbed. The problem becomes political insofar as people like him are able to readily get their hands on guns. As I said, there are violent, disturbed people everywhere but in other countries they don’t stand by and watch as thousands of their own citizens get killed each year for the sake of the misinterpreted “rights” of a fringe lobbying group.

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Rick Duro

Julia: What of your god’s violence toward his own people, as spelled out in your bible? For silly, miniscule things.

As for the indigenous Americans/Africans/Asians/etc, don’t be so naive to think that Euro Christian missionaries arrived just to spread the love of their god. It was about control, land grabbing and profit, plain and simple. They came to the new world, forced their religion on people that had their own vital, and yes sometimes violent, cultures. Europeans were just as savage. What was wrong with their worship of nature gods and idols? Nothing, unless you were a christian….

Do you really believe that Euro Christians weren’t savages? Please. Don’t be blinded by your devotion.

Persecution by Christians toward Jews, Muslims and ‘pagans’ is well documented over the centuries as well. Just as they have been persecuted against

Be like us! Or else!! Witch Hunts anyone?!

I respect everyone’s right to their philosophy, and by the way that’s all that it is, but don’t force it upon others.

In the end, the person that committed this horrifying act of violence was mentally unstable. We can’t blame video games, movies, TV, music, etc for it. He needed help and his Mother should have been a more responsible gun owner, had those things LOCKED UP in such a way that her ill son could never gain access. I read a study that said there may be as many as 1.7mm guns in homes that are NOT secured, with ammo in them already. That has to change.

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It's all True

This is NOT a political issue. This is a sociological one. The shooter is to blame and he was a very disturbed person. I am furious that the gun grabbers are exploiting this for their agenda. It should be easier to confine people who are mentally ill.

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Pete

This is a political issue first and foremost. The Second Amendment was written in an era of violent revolution and certainly wasn’t written with automatic weapons in mind. What we need here is legislation and enforcement. These are both a function of political will, which has been lacking in this country up till now. Hopefully that will change.

How is it that a private organization like the NRA, with only about 1% of the national population as members, controls our entire gun policy? Answer: money & lobbying. We need real world solutions for real world problems. Until we have them we can pray all we like but this won’t change the culture. Americans have been praying for centuries, and yet many of these same people have a overseen a national history that includes slavery, Jim Crow, indigenous genocide, racism, endless wars, and now mass shootings. This doesn’t happen in other civilized countries because common citizens aren’t permitted to obtain automatic and semi-automatic weapons. It’s not that Americans are exceptionally immoral. There are immoral people everywhere. But in this country anyone with a few hundred dollars can purchase an automatic weapon virtually right off the street.

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GM

86Mets Pastor Storck was critiquing men who claim to represent Jesus on the national stage and I was supporting that with my statement. It was in no way aimed at you. Sorry for the confusion there. I see that you stood with Jon recently to help his church stay in the facility they were renting. Jon is a friend, so I applaud and thank-you for that!

Just to be extra clear, I don’t think that these nationally known Christians are insensitive because of their views. It is that irrepressed need to share the view and coopt the spotlight that should rightly be placed on the victims and mourning that I find incredibly unlike Christ and inappropriate. In gentle love and peacefulness, we can give our world a taste of the surpassing greatness of Jesus, instead of opportunistically commandeering conversations for socio-political gain as some of these men seem to have done. Here’s hoping and praying that followers of Jesus will do more of just that, and less playing of the political power game.

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JuliaJ.

Rick Duro: The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice – absolutely deplorable, violent and bloody. Christians ended that practice. Also, in the Old Testament, the prophets preached for people to turn away from sin. Unfortunately, there are many people in the USA who now believe that life is cheap and meaningless and unworthy of protection.

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JuliaJ.

Rick, the Christians put an end to the human sacrifice that the Aztecs and Mayans practiced. Let’s not forget that. The Aztecs in particular, were brutal, bloodthirsty and violent. Also, when certain segments of the population and political parties send out the message that life is cheap, it becomes easier to think that all lives are cheap and not worthy of protection. In the Old Testament the prophets preached about the consequences of sin. Unfortunately, the innocent frequently suffer with the guilty. Ultimately, it is a mystery.

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86Mets

@GM

I beg your pardon….

Where on earth did you read that I “claim to represent Jesus on a national platform”?

If you want to have a discussion, fine, but please don’t put words in my mouth, or rather, type words on my keyboard for me. And please don’t insinuate that my perspective on this issue somehow makes me unsympathetic to the families of those murdered – my mind boggles at the anguish they must be going through, or that I feel less vehement about the unjust Jim Crow laws or the abomination of slavery.

You mention “the embrace of eugenics by America’s elite.” I agree with you there, and abortion is a pillar of the eugenics movements.

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GM

Well said, Jon! 86Mets, regardless of how much that sentiment seems perfectly logical to you, it is irresponsible & insensitive at best to inject that sort of cold cultural calculus in the wake of immediate and visceral family tragedy (Let’s remember that’s what this is. It’s not a referendum on political parties or entertainment companies. Real families were devastated here.) when you are a person who claims to represent Jesus on a national platform. It’s beyond unacceptable to many Christians, even conservative evangelicals like myself. I can’t help but wonder why America is NOW a “culture of death”? While I agree 100% that we have massive cultural problems and sins, are they more grievous than institutional slavery, Jim Crow laws, or the embrace of eugenics by America’s elite that all occupy significant portions of our history?

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86Mets

@sunnysider4life

In my first sentence I rejected the idea that God caused the massacre as some sort of divine punishment and called it absurd.

And for the record, when Pastor Storck and his congregation were kicked out of the space they were renting in a public school, I stood firmly in their defense.

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Sycamore

Thank you, Pastor, for writing and Sunnyside Post for publishing. I’m enlightened, heartened and encouraged.

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Rick Duro

What of the violence propagated upon indigenous peoples around the world in the name of ‘Christianity’? I think Africans, Asians, Native Americans were perfectly happy with their Animist/etc beliefs before European Christianity was forced down their throats.

Man has, and always will be, violent. The old testament is pretty violent. “god” was an ANGRY dude.

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html

Also, there is no correlation between violence in video games/movies and actual crime. if anything, crime/violence are DOWN in the dawn of the age of video games….

Here is a pretty well done youtube video on the media’s hand in all of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uwAo8lcAC4

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MattB.

Well said Jon. Thanks for taking the time to write these thoughtful comments. We need more men like you. -Matt B.

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Sunnysider4Life

@86Mets, if I understand the Pastor’s logic and his comments correctly, I don’t think he was arguing that there are no societal consequences for social offenses. Rather I think he was trying to challenge the idea that God, himself, intentionally inflicted this tragedy on the little children in Newtown in direct response to the wider society’s offenses as a direct act of judgment, which was the sentiment you got listening to men like Mike Huckabee and James Dobson.

There is a difference between natural consequences to one’s actions and society’s actions and a claim of God’s direct judgment on someone or some people.

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86Mets

The relationship of the abortion issue and the Sandy Hook tragedy is not that God deliberately caused the latter because of the former. I have heard nobody suggest that. That would be absurd. The pastor is correct that no man can know the entire mind of God, that would be hubris. However, abortion and its legitimization do create a culture of death as Pope JP II pointed out and that when we cheapen and discard the lives of the unborn for the sake of convenience and hedonism, we cheapen human life in general. Add to that the glorification of violence in entertainment, music lyrics and video games and we cannot be surprised when atrocities such as Sandy Hook sprout from the moral decay like some evil fungus.

Job 4:8 – Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

I am curious as to what exactly is the pastor’s stand on abortion and the amount of violence in popular culture.

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