CLERGY CORNER: Parkland, Black Panther and God

Posted on 22 February 2018 by LeslieM

Why did God allow this to happen? That was the question my youngest daughter asked as we watched the news coverage and wrestled with our emotions over the recent tragedy at the High School in Parkland. I’m not sure that my answer satisfied her, or me for that matter. The question is always difficult to answer whenever it is asked in times of personal or public heartache. I mumbled something about our freedom to make our own choices in life, and how God does not force His will or His way upon any of us. We are free to choose and, unfortunately, some choices result in pain and suffering, for ourselves and others. The young shooter made some decisions last week that have severely impacted families, our community, and our state. Much hand-wringing, anger, despair and frustration are being displayed as a nation comes to grip with another sad 21st Century reality.

If God did, in fact, intervene to give us all only what we desire, and prevent any loss, would we be happy or satisfied? An affirmative answer is too easy to express, and the question demands further consideration. We’re all different and have varying tastes, preferences and experiences that combine to make us as unique as we are. What pleases one horrifies or offends another, and, when we are thrust together in community such as we are, it is inevitable that conflict will arise. Laws are enacted to provide boundaries for our protection by limiting our freedom. For the most part, we all try to live peacefully and make compromises when necessary to maintain harmony; but, every now and then, something happens to remind us of our imperfection.

Why did you leave him behind? That was the question posed by T’Challa to his father in the movie Black Panther. A young boy, of royal lineage, was left fatherless and alienated from his ancestral people, which gave rise to anger and a warped view of reality that he would grow up to impose upon his people and the world. That decision to leave him behind ultimately led to a nation in turmoil and a world in jeopardy. The fictional conflict in Black Panther and the real tragedy of Parkland converge at the point of consequences to decisions that are made by broken individuals. The villain of the movie and the shooter in the school are both tormented souls in need of healing and guidance. Proverbs 14:12 notes, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” When we reject the collective wisdom of family and community, we are left to our own imperfect perceptions informing our decisions, with potentially disastrous consequences.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers us guidance as to how we should live. With respect to those with whom we differ and oppose, Matthew 5:44 records, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The implementation of that directive alone would spare us from many of the tragedies we impose upon each other. God will not force us to do it, however; we are left to choose our own way.

It is my prayer that more of us would choose the way of love and peace, the way of God. My heart goes out to the victims of last week’s violence, along with prayers for comfort, peace and strength for their families. I pray for the tormented souls among us who need to be heard, healed and cared for. I pray for our government and legislators to heed the cries of the children in the streets, and to take steps to better protect them. I pray for a return to the safety, guidance and stability that used to mark the nuclear family. I pray that all of us would heed the wisdom of God and make better decisions for ourselves and those around us.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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