As a father of two daughters I found myself at a loss for words on Friday. The unthinkable had happened: a young man named Adam Lanza entered an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and began shooting children. Little children. Six, seven, and eight year old kids. The most innocent of our society caught in the crossfire of an obviously distressed and lost individual.
As of today, the following Sunday, there is still no idea as to why this young man opened fire. We know that he killed his mother, a teacher at the school, before he left home. We know that he went to the school with one thought in mind: shattering innocence. We know that after his act of inhumane violence, he took his own life. 27 lives stolen away from this life, 20 of them who were just learning to read, to write … to live.
The finger pointing has already begun:
- Liberals are calling for gun control, some pushing to throw out the 2nd Amendment all together.
- Conservatives are revisiting the "prayer in school" issue, many assuming that if "God was still in the schools this would never have happened."
- Many across social media platforms are yelling at Hollywood to stop glorifying violence, while some in Hollywood are pointing at major media outlets for turning mass murderers into celebrities.
- Atheists are questioning a deity that they don't even believe in, while churches across America will talk about the power of the Devil and the evil in this world.
Everyone is trying to explain the unexplainable, trying to make sense of the senseless. A nation grieving over the horrific loss of innocence and looking for someone to blame.
Don't get me wrong. For the record I believe there should be tighter gun control laws. I believe God and prayer should be allowed back in the public schools. I believe that both Hollywood AND the media glorify violence too much in order to turn a profit. I believe that God could have stopped this tragedy, but He didn't (and while I may vehemently disagree with HIS choice, it was not MY choice to make - that's another blog). And I absolutely believe that there is an overwhelming darkness in the world today called evil.
As my very wise big brother wrote the other day:
The thing is, we live in a fallen world. We want to find reasons, explanations, something we can wrap our minds around. We live in a culture that cheapens life, glorifies violence, demands unearned "respect", idolizes self, and marginalizes faith. All of this is true, but none of it is new. Human history is filled with examples of the unthinkable things we can do to each other. We live in a fallen world; but not a world without hope…
But there is one person that no one is pointing the finger of blame at: themselves.
- Could this tragedy have been avoided if guns were harder to get, or even illegal? Maybe.
- Would things have ended differently if prayer will still a part of a school's day? They might have.
- What if society viewed violence as reprehensible instead of profitable? Maybe that would have made a difference.
But try this one: what if young Adam Lanza and his family had been so loved, so cared for, and so accepted by a church somewhere, or by Christians who knew them … what if society would have pursued him as broken instead of branding him as
"an emotionally off-kilter loner, sometimes dressed in black, who moved on the margins of his community?"
Would Friday have turned out differently? While I would never be so arrogant to say that would have changed everything (no one can), I believe it would have had a bigger impact on Adam Lanza than all of the other social issues listed above combined.
I look at the life of Jesus and see him hanging out with prostitutes and alcoholics. I see him spending time with social rejects and community misfits. I see him healing people who are considered unclean, undeserving, even crazy. Jesus moved among "the margins of his community." Too often the Church spends its time condemning those on the margins instead of loving them. We so badly want to "fix" people instead of seeing people redeemed. We start off with judgment instead of approaching them with compassion.
I can't change the gun laws, I can't force the schools to allow prayer again, and I can't pursued Hollywood or the media to change their views on violence, but I can do my part.
- I can do a better job of reaching out to the broken.
- I can try harder to see through eyes of compassion instead of eyes of condemnation.
- I can pray that God would help me love the "unloveable" as much as I love those who are "easy to love."
- I can actually try to be a light to others instead of trying to shine a light on their issues.
Maybe in doing so, the next Adam Lanza will know that there are other choices, better choices to be made. Maybe the next "shooter" will know that there is a light in the darkness.
In J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, the following exchange takes place between Frodo Baggins, bearer of the ring, and the grey wizard Gandalf:
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
"So be careful how you live. Don't live like fools, but like those who are wise.
MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY IN THESE EVIL DAYS."
- Ephesians 5:16,17
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.