The psychologist on one of the cable networks said it best perhaps: “we have now crossed a red line” in terms of evil. For as shocking as the senseless shootings in colleges and high schools and even shopping malls have been in the past, the violence which took place in a Connecticut elementary school today pushed us well beyond the unthinkable when it comes to just how reprehensible human behavior can actually be.
Oh, there will no doubt be all manner of explanations offered in the days ahead. Some will point to the problem of guns in this country and argue quite logically that if we only had stronger laws restricting their purchase that such inexplicable acts of mayhem couldn’t happen. Others will suggest, also with some good reason, that we as a society have systematically desensitized ourselves to the very notion of killing others, thanks in part to television, films and violent video and computer games. Still others will tell us that in underfunding mental health programs we have all but asked for such horrific incidents to occur, for if we don’t heed an individual’s cry for help in one place, they will simply yell it–and live it–out louder in another.
Yet in the end, it is not simply sociopathic behavior alone that can explain the problem– it is the omnipresent if often overlooked reality of sin in this world. For the truth is that when someone gives into sin, eventually they may lose all of their restraining influences, and so for them there are no “red lines” to cross anymore. Indeed, the red line of reprehension was actually crossed centuries ago east of Eden and in some ways we have never looked back. Even innocent children, in fact, can become collateral damage, as was the case not just in Connecticut today, but in Bethlehem two thousand years ago when by the command of a maniacal monarch, every boy under the age of two was slaughtered lest they one day grow up to be a threat to him.
Already it has been said, of course, that the tragedy in New Town is amplified (as if such were even possible for those parents) because of the timing of this attack, just eleven days before Christmas. But in truth, there is no more vivid illustration of why the coming of Christ was needed in this world. For God sent His Son into this world not to give us a “holly, jolly” holiday but to redeem the world from its awful brokenness. Christmas was never intended to be reduced to just a seasonal celebration, thus, for at its core, it was nothing less than a rescue mission.
The days ahead will be excruciating ones for the families of those children and others who were killed in Connecticut. They will need our prayers and love. But the sadness that has now punctuated this season is but one more reminder of the reason why we needed a Redeemer long ago, and still do. With those of every age, now is the time for people of faith to simply pray once more: “Even so, Lord, quickly come.”
Thank you Chappell!
The best response I have heard Amen
So true! Thank you for your levelheadedness and wisdom! I wish everyone could be so discerning.
Chappell, while I agree with the theological aspect of your analysis, I worry that your statement, “it is not simply sociopathic behavior alone that can explain the problem,” may give the impression that the social aspects of this tragedy, and of its possible remedies, can be dismissed because the ubiquity of sin makes such occurrences inevitable. But doesn’t sin manifest itself in our world precisely through these kinds of death-dealing behavior? And aren’t we called, as salt and light and yeast, to combat these sociopathic manifestations of sin and their effects–especially on the weak and defenseless?
Why should we “simply pray”? Can’t we pray AND work toward reasonable, compassionate solutions to this epidemic of violence? Shouldn’t we sensibly address the proliferation of weapons of death, the systematic desensitization toward killing, and the obstacles to access to mental health care WHILE we pray? Because, if Jesus’ quick coming continues to be delayed, the world in which we live and pray and preach the gospel and make disciples and raise our children will only continue to grow more dangerous unless we work tirelessly for Shalom.
Keith–thanks for your response and I would certainly agree that the task of the church is ora et labora–work and pray. The point I was making, however, is that if we try to explain this incident using only psychological, sociological, or even forensic categories of human behavior that we will come up short, for essentially the ontological origin of this action is rooted in the theological absolute of human sin. Your call for us to work for Shalom is a much-needed one, though, and I appreciate it.
Not to be a pest, Chappell, but one more word if I may.
I understood the point you were making. My comment was motivated by a concern that others might get the impression, in spite of your use of “only,” that you were dismissing the possibility of our having any beneficial impact on societal evils and, thereby, recommending that we not even try.
I am confident that you don’t embrace a quietistic approach to Christian discipleship, but there are many who believe we are called only to pray . . . and who feel relieved by this belief from any need to get their hands dirty.
“Christmas was never intended to be reduced to just a seasonal celebration, thus, for at its core, it was nothing less than a rescue mission.”
What a profound truth. Thank you Chappell for saying it so perfectly. May we feel it in the depths of our soul. This Advent, like no other.