The gagging of God, so far as courts, professors and advanced theologians can accomplish it, gets slightly in the way of attempts to puzzle out the Tucson massacre.
God with a gag over His metaphorical mouth was a less usual concept back when people talked more routinely than now about evil, not to mention the devil and all his works. A particular word would come up regularly in those old conversations -- sin, defined as stubborn, self-focused detachment from God, accompanied by defiance of His purposes. Sin was supposed to be bad: the more so because all were involved in it. Because all were involved, no one could tell what would happen next. Some nut might sidle into a political gathering, pull out a gun, and ...
It was not that general acknowledgment of moral deficiency provided quick answers to the questions people asked about the awfulness they couldn't help noticing -- wars, murders, assassinations, massacres worse than anything that took place in Tucson last week. That was, for one thing, before TV and the Internet. No one needed a blogger to explain in outraged tones that loud mouths and gun imagery had precipitated this or that horror. There were fewer surprises back then. The nuttiness of the human species was a given.
The desacralization of American life -- achieved at a speed no one would have foretold even 50 years ago -- leaves the secular-minded to identify secular villains and secular ideas as the cause of life's disasters. There was a "climate of hate" in Arizona! Oh, the violent and military language of the tea partiers! The shouting, the screaming at public meetings! Only bad was certain to come of it.
Among the ironies of the post-massacre "climate" in the media and the Internet is the not-quite-spoken assumption that the war that took six lives in Tucson continues, with the side that was formerly down -- supportive of health care reform and "civility" -- poised now to beat the bloody hell out of the side that formerly was up. The shouting hasn't gone away; different people have gone to shouting -- that's all. There's a triumphalism in the attacks and self-righteous commentary marshaled by the anti-tea party, anti-Palin set in good, reliable we-told-you-so fashion. That's notwithstanding the absence of proof that Jared Loughner derived even a shred of an idea from the political debates of last year.