When her first husband died at the age of thirty, two parish priests came to visit my eight-months pregnant mother and told her not to lose faith in God.
“The Almighty has his reasons for everything, dear,” said one of the priests. “We’ll offer prayers for you.”
A month later she gave birth to a stillborn daughter. I’m assuming that God had His reasons for those two tragedies in her life. However, my mother persevered and took charge of her life without prayers.
My mother was Catholic and my Dad, Church of England, but neither of them were terribly strict about religion. Nevertheless, I was brought up believing in God, albeit a rather punishing one according to the good sisters at a private school I attended. One of the nuns there made it really clear that if you did something to displease God, He would punish you. A less than subtle form of brainwashing, to be sure, to keep little girls and boys in line.
At the tender age of ten I tried hard to figure out what my mother could have done to be so cruelly punished by God. I decided she hadn’t done a thing wrong. The nuns were highly mistaken about God.
My own beliefs have undergone major changes over the years. A lot of what I learned, I discarded and made my life more spiritual than religious. Life, travel, and exploration allowed me to make up my own mind about any deities. The only rule I took away from religion is the saying by Ben Franklin, “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s exactly what I did, I adjusted life problems, and made major changes, making my life better. It’s not that difficult to do—all you have to do is take personal responsibility.
So it is disturbing to me to hear those in the political arena call upon God and prayers whenever there is a mass tragedy like the horrifying one that occurred in Sunderland, Texas, but do absolutely nothing at all to ‘help themselves’ or others. I am tired of hearing politicians look into a TV camera and solemnly say, “We’re all praying for the victims of this horrible tragedy. We are asking God to help them through this terrible time in their lives.” They’re passing the buck to God, so to speak, and taking no action themselves. They want to ‘leave it in God’s hands’ thus avoiding any earthly responsibility. You know, guns don’t kill people, people do, right? That’s God’s territory. I don’t think so.
The gun control issue should not be left in God’s hands. Should we stop believing in God because of these recurring tragedies? Should we say that it’s all in God’s hands and take no action ourselves to curtail the horror of these murders? Or should we demand that those in charge do something constructive themselves, you know as in ‘God helps those who help themselves’?
Prayers and condolences are, many times, simply platitudes spoken by people in a position of authority, who refuse to address the real issue behind the tragedy. Maybe it’s time to stop believing in a Deity who is simply a witness to tragedy but still demanding of our prayers. Maybe it’s time to believe that this Deity is waiting for us to help ourselves, and then will be more than willing to lend an Almighty hand.
Perhaps Sophocles said it best in his tragedy, Philoctetes, “And heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.”
Action for change and then prayers. How’s that for a solution? God may be passing the buck back to where it belongs—in our own hands.
© 2017 copyright Kristen Houghton all rights reserved.
Kristen Houghton’s best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation has been voted one of the top five new mystery/thriller series by International Mystery Writers. Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, and a children’s novella. A former political contributor, she now writes breaking news articles and The Savvy Author tips for writers, for The Huffington Post.