Theologians have for centuries grappled with thorny questions about the nature of God and how humans should relate to the divine. The answers they’ve come up with have pleased some people and angered others. Such is the nature of the job.
When politicians pontificate on pointed questions of faith, there’s usually something going on other than an attempt to provide legitimate spiritual guidance. For some of them, especially those who embrace Christian nationalism, invoking God and his mysterious ways can be a way to dodge doing the hard work of actually governing.
Consider the case of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Shortly after the horrific school shootings in Uvalde, Paxton was asked during a podcast what he would say to the parents of the murdered children.
“I’d have to say, look, there’s always a plan,” Paxton replied. “I believe God always has a plan. Life is short no matter what it is.”
Paxton’s answer leaves a few things to be desired. For starters, yes, life is short – but it’s usually longer than 10 years, the age of many of the dead children in Uvalde.
Secondly, an explanation that amounts to “we can’t know why this happened because we don’t know the mind of God” is a monumental cop-out and a terrible basis for public policy. The people of Uvalde – and indeed the entire nation – would benefit if political leaders stopped asking, “What would Jesus do?” and instead start asking questions like, “What’s best for the people I serve?” and “What will it take to protect our children?”
Paxton’s comments are an excuse to do nothing. He’s foisting the issue onto God and then throwing up his hands as if to say, “We can’t fathom why God allowed this tragedy to occur, therefore, we’ll simply bow to mystery and do nothing.”
The people of Texas, from the most devout believer to the most committed atheist, should not accept that. Paxton needs to either lead or get out of the way so those who are willing to devise real solutions can take over. Passing the buck to God is an insult to the loved ones of those whose lives were so tragically lost.
Photo: Ken Paxton, Getty Images