Q: So often, deadly attacks like the one in Colorado are perpetrated by someone who is mentally ill. Let's leave aside the discussion of gun control. One thing that always haunts me is the line where evil ends (or does it?) and madness begins.
If a deranged person commits a terrible act, where is the ethical aspect? If this person is actually unable to connect to his basic humanity, what is the meaning of his actions? Is he evil? If not, has a good person been trapped in his own mind simply by faulty wiring? How does that jibe with the relationship of all of us with God?
Of course, such a person must be brought to justice, and perhaps punished, but can he be blamed for his actions? Sometimes I'm tempted to agree with the people of ancient times, who said the insane were possessed by demons. At least that makes sense of behavior that otherwise seems outside of the realm of moral choice. Even if the answer remains a mystery, I think we're obligated to ask the question. -- J., via email@example.com
A: This is all I know and all I believe and all I hope:
Praying for the dead and injured following an attack like the one in Colorado is a powerful act of love, not, as some skeptics believe, just an impotent spiritual reflex in response to mass death. In a profound way, praying is the only way we have to link up with each other and express our compassion, grief and sickness of the soul.
Knowing that I was not praying alone gave me comfort, and I know from speaking to victims' families after other catastrophes, that all our prayers might bring a measure of comfort to them. Our prayers are the way we affirm that the killer in Aurora is not like us, and that the victims are not alone. We're together in a world where we still believe that goodness will win out over evil -- even though goodness was just defeated before our grieving eyes. For prayer to accomplish all this is not a small thing. It's a great thing that we cast out against great evil.
Pray for the victims in Aurora.
--It's OK to feel lucky.
Many survivors of the Colorado massacre, and many of us, are feeling guilty. We say very quietly, "There but for the grace of God go I." It's OK to feel lucky that sudden death missed us. "Luck" is the right word. We're not more worthy than the victims. We're not more righteous than the victims. We're not more beloved of God than the victims. We're just luckier, and that's the way life is. Why them and not me? This is not a real question because sheer dumb luck has no reasons.
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