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John Fountain: Where was God when John Buckner died?

John Fountain (second from the front) wearing a red jacket, light gray pants and black tie as a boy in a Tom Thumb wedding at the All Nations Church of God In Christ, on South Pulaski Road.

I cuddled next to my mother at bedtime. My younger sister “Net” lay on one side of Mama, I on the other. A bible nearby is spread open like a butterfly. This is among my earliest childhood memories, just the three of us and my early search for proof and the presence of God.

We always said our prayers before bed. We attended church on Sundays — the All Nations Church of God in Christ on South Pulaski Road, where my grandfather was a deacon and my grandmother a devout church mother.


As a young child, I can’t say that attending church had a great impact. At least it did not implant within me a life-long, stirring passion to attend church or to be a Christian. Church was church. I went because Mama took me there.

Among my most lasting memories at All Nations was being in a “Tom Thumb” wedding, where I wore a Valentine-red jacket, white shirt and tie and gray slacks, like the other prepubescent groomsmen. The other memory is of burning my left side on a steaming hot pipe that ran exposed along the church’s northern wall and that posed a hazard to anyone sitting nearby in the pews. I was horse playing during service when I slipped and fell against it. I still bear the scar.

I don’t remember praying much at All Nations. Nor can I recollect lessons of bible study or the imparting of the foundational fundamentals of the faith.

But I can still hear Mama’s lesson to Net and me.

“God always was and always will be,” she told us. Mama explained that the bible was the authoritative Word of God. That God loved us so much — loved me so much — that He sent His only Son.

“But Ma, where did God come from?” I asked completely unconvinced.

“God always was.”

“But where did God come from?” I begged.

“God always was and always will be,” Mama answered again, unfazed by my interrogation.

I fired more questions: About why I couldn’t see God; about why I couldn’t touch Him; about where God lived; about how I could be certain that God really did exist given that by all of the available tangible evidence, God was even less existent than my daddy whom I rarely saw.

As I grew older — amid the violence, the poverty, drugs and hopelessness that I saw slowly encroach upon my neighborhood — I sometimes questioned the existence of God. If He did exist, I sometimes wondered aloud angrily: How can a good and loving God allow so much evil and hate to exist in the world?

I have wondered this while witnessing countless mothers and fathers prematurely bury their sons and daughters. Or while penning, as a journalist, the final words to another incomprehensible tragic shooting and all of its sickening, senseless detail.

I might wonder where was God this week as John Buckner, 59, was unloading groceries with his wife and 11-year-old grandson when, according to police, three teenagers rode up on bikes and opened fire.

Where was God when Buckner became yet another innocent victim of this city’s epidemic of shootings?

Where was God?

Except I remember my mother’s lesson as a child: That God does exist, even if I cannot see, hear, or touch Him; even when I cannot make sense of this world; even when I have more questions than answers.

That there is the evil of men. But there is the presence, comfort, faithfulness and hope of God.

After all these years, I still choose to believe. Resting in this truth, I close my eyes each night.


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