Was God at Work During Poway Shooting?

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted April 29, 2019

Violence continues to stalk America’s houses of worship and their worshipers. On April 27, during Sabbath services on the last day of Passover, a 19-year-old man, a student at California State University at San Marcos, entered the Chabad Center of Poway, California, a San Diego suburb, and opened fire.

One woman died and three others, including the group’s rabbi, were injured. One of the injured, an 8-year-old girl, had recently moved with her family to the area from Israel after rocket attacks from Gaza had placed her family in danger.

The alleged shooter, who surrendered to police shortly after fleeing the scene, posted a hate-filled message to an online forum in which he “praised the suspects accused of the deadly attacks on Muslims at mosques in New Zealand last month and Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue,” the Voice of America news service reported.

The suspect’s screed also slammed U.S. President Donald Trump: “You mean that Zionist, Jew-loving, anti-White, traitorous [expletive]? Don’t make me laugh,” he wrote, according to a news article in The Washington Times.

The California attack came exactly six months after a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 people were murdered, the worst attack on Jews in the United States. That alleged assailant also employed anti-Semitic words and castigated the president for his ties to Israel and Jews, including family members Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who are Orthodox Jews.

The Tragedy Could Have Been Worse

Whatever the motives, the Poway attack could have been much worse had it not been for a succession of events that slowed, and then stopped, the violence.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who founded and led the congregation, suffered injuries to both hands and lost an index finger to the violence. He appeared in front of television cameras the following day with both hands heavily bandaged and one arm in a sling, and described the shooting, as well as the things that may have prevented greater tragedy and loss of life.

According to media reports, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a 60-year-old member of the Chabad congregation, stepped between the gunman and Goldstein: “Lori took the bullet for all of us,” he said, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. CNN quoted the rabbi paying tribute to his friend of 25 years: “She died to protect all of us,” he said.

An emotional Goldstein assessed the reason for his being spared: “I have lived through this horror for a reason,” radio station WLS-AM reported. “God didn't want me to die yesterday,” Goldstein said. “I will never forget yesterday. My missing finger will forever scar me physically, but it’s going to remind me how vulnerable we are, and also how heroic each one of us can be.”

NPR quoted Goldstein as noting one of the fortunate occurrences during the shooting: “Miraculously, just miraculously, the gun jammed,” Goldstein said. “And in attendance at the synagogue there was a border patrol, off-duty agent ... who recently discovered his Jewish roots.”

Jonathan Morales, the agent, had been asked by Goldstein to bring his service revolver to services, USA Today reported: “Please arm yourself when you are here. We never know when we’ll need it,” Goldstein told Morales. Though the agent and another person were unable to capture the gunman, Morales was able to shoot at the suspect’s car as it fled the scene.

It’s sad, even tragic, that a spiritual leader would have to tell a worshiper to bring a weapon to services, but today’s world seems to now require such security measures. Continued violent attacks against churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship in the United States and around the world have heightened tensions in many places. For a number of years, churches have hosted safety classes, and some recruit members to serve as armed security during services, NBC News reported.

Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?

Such events leave both the religious and skeptics asking, "What is the source of evil in today’s world?" And will terrorism bring about changes that many simply don’t see coming, changes that will have a negative impact on our freedom to worship and serve God? And how should believers react when facing difficult, even calamitous, situations?

Evil exists, as the Jewish congregants of Poway know all too well. “Did God Create the Devil?” is an informative biblical study that will take you through this question and show you the answers from the pages of your Bible.

At the same time, terrorist activities could be part of a series of actions that provoke a government crackdown on civil liberties, in the name of “security” and “peace.” Such a change could very well restrict believers from Sabbath worship, according to “The USA in Bible Prophecy,” another free Bible study to guide you through this interesting topic.

And what happens when disasters and violence strike? Should believers expect God’s protection? “Is it wrong to expect God's protection when facing calamity?” is a Bible question-and-answer segment discussing this topic. According to Pastor Doug Batchelor, “We ought to do what we can, using common sense, to protect ourselves. God protects those who trust in Him and have peace, but bad things can happen.”

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