Why Do We Look to the Church During Times of Fear and Grief?

–Daniel S. Ferguson

Last night, a bomber attacked the United Kingdom and killed, as of this writing, at least 22 people and injured dozens more at an Ariana Grande concert. This moment, no one knows a whole lot about who is responsible or what their motives were. I’m sure the internet will have cohesive and thoughtful notions about that by the end of the day.

But one thing is certain: people have already reached out to churches for help. It happened within hours. It almost always happens after something tragic, whether it’s a terrorist attack or a hurricane or a famine. People reach out to the church.

Even people who previously had nothing to do with the church. Even people who haven’t been to church in decades.

There’s just something about the church that causes people to reach out. Maybe it’s the message of restoration inherent to Christianity. Maybe it’s hope for the afterlife for those who were lost. Maybe it’s just a desire for there to be a greater and higher good that we can’t yet see. Maybe it’s just pain’s gravity, drawing people toward the center. Maybe it’s all of the above and a dozen other reasons beside.

But it’s happened after every major Western disaster I can remember, and even a handful of Eastern ones. The church has shown up, often in spectacular ways. I might even argue that tragedy is when we’re at our best. It’s in the moments when all that matters is life and death and keeping on that all the bickering, all the division, and all the judging just go silent for a moment, and we just concentrate on doing the work of the Lord.

I wonder what it will take for us to commit to that level of unity and vision without there having to be a tragedy to bring us and the world together. If we could figure that out, we might be onto something.

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