Local Pastor Challenges Arguments Around 'God & Schools' After Newtown Shooting

Rev. Rolf Olson of Richfield Lutheran Church says the belief by some that the school shooting resulted from "taking God out of schools" is unfounded.

In the days following the horrific Newtown school tragedy, discussions of gun control and school security to mental illness and warning signs of a killer ran rampant across the country.

Everyone was just trying to make sense of it all.

Of course, God's role was also questioned. The following was written on the Facebook page of Golden Valley-based Spirit of Hope United Methodist Church by local pastor, Rev. Rolf Olson, of Richfield Evangelical Lutheran Church.

He too knows the pain of having a child murdered and addresses arguments surrounding God in schools:


In the days since the tragedy and evil that befell Newtown, I have heard and read comments about the event occurring because "they have taken God out of the schools." As a Christian pastor and husband of a public school teacher, I want to challenge these unfounded and often thoughtless comments.

Assuming that they come from people of faith, I wonder how they believe that the creator of the world could be excluded from some part of it through human effort. The Bible clearly affirms that God is everywhere (Psalm 139). Schools are obviously included.

I want to affirm that God is in our schools each day:

• In dedicated teachers and staff, many of whom are people of faith.

• In caring students who share their lives in many servant efforts.

• In supportive, involved parents.

When our daughter was murdered five years ago, some of the greatest evidence of faith and love came from teachers, students, parents and staff who supported us with prayer, gifts, cards, hugs and tears. Some of my wife's deepest faith conversations have occurred with fellow staff members -- in school and out.

If people are advocating public school prayer as the sign of the divine's presence, then what shape would they like that prayer to take, in whose name will they pray, and to what deity will they pray?

The challenge in public schools is to respect all perspectives. The teachers I know refrain from telling others what they should believe, but they are certainly open to sharing their personal faith outside of class when asked.

I have no doubt that God was present at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, just like every other day. When those children and staff fell, God's arms held them close. And when they died, God's heart was the first to break.

In our anger and frustration, it may make us feel better to rage. But let's choose appropriate targets that lead to constructive solutions. I trust that God will be with us in the conversation.

THE REV. ROLF OLSON, Richfield Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Where do you stand on this? Tell us in the comments section below.


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