Over the past week there have been numerous comments from people reflecting on the tragedy in Connecticut which have referred to the role of angels. For the most part, grieving people have said that the 20 children gunned down in their classrooms have “gone to Heaven to be angels.“ It is a convenient idea which comforts some people, but it is theologically suspect.
I was horrified when someone identified as “Dr. Drew” (Drew Pinsky,) an internist-turned TV personality, said that God needed these children in heaven to serve him and that they are now angels. (paraphrased) I gagged.
There is an ad for a medicine on television in which a doctor attempts to be a major league pitcher and the pitcher is attempting to make a medical decision. The commentary is that they should stick to their own professions. I feel similarly about Dr. Drew.
First of all, what a horrible thing to say that God needed these children more than their parents, family and friends, so he “took them.” What kind of god is that? Not the God I have come to know. I fail to find those words comforting.
Secondly, it is fairly common theology in mainline Judeo-Christian-Islamic thinking, anyway, that angels are not dead humans. They are celestial “beings” understood by some to be genderless, and … despite artistic license … there is nothing in scripture or accepted theology about wings and halos. They are amorphous beings who are subservient to God and deliver messages and carry out God’s wishes. The only official doctrine I can find that supports the idea of humans becoming angels upon death is that of the Mormon tradition. I haven’t researched Eastern religions so there may be others out there that agree with Mormons.
Granted, there are people who are angelic, in that they do good things that are pleasing to God. But that’s different from being an angel in the theological sense. In contemporary society we have taken great license in adopting the image of angels into beings who are convenient to our desires, hopes, and aspirations. I have friends who almost worship angels and can’t find enough ceramic angels to fill available spaces in their homes. Some people wear angel jewelry, a benign form of expressing joy and peace.
Literature is filled with references to visits by angels, and many of us will settle down in front of our TVs over the next week to relish It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. Its depiction of a life-changing emissary from God is heart-warming. But even in that story the angel is not exactly a human-turned- celestial being.
I don’t want to be a grinch and suggest that God has not welcomed these beautiful little children into Heaven, whatever that means to you or others. They are innocents who deserve eternal love and peace.
But I’m not sure what is gained by confusing deceased children and angels, except for momentary relief from grief. And the idea that God is the perpetrator of their transformation is offensive and not deserving of media transmission. I’m not sure what it does to help the grieving families and friends of these little children.