15 December 2012

Who to Blame

In case you didn't know, a bad man killed a lot of people (including 20 children between preschool and 4th grade)  in Connecticut yesterday. This was an abhorrent act, perpetrated by a strong man in the prime of his youth on some of the weakest people around.

Of course, cable news networks being what they are, the "experts" started coming on within minutes of the event, making intelligent-sounding noises for as long as the show's host would allow them to. They claimed to have the answers for the questions each viewer was asking: Why did this tragedy happen? Where does the blame lie? How can we fix this?

It seems like heartbroken people are most easily comforted when they can pin the blame down. That way, at least you have someone or something to direct your anger toward.

You would be at least partly right to blame any of these:

  • People who insist on having the right to obtain and keep deadly weapons, regardless of how this right (or these weapons) could be misused
  • A culture that doesn't take mental illness seriously ("If I can't see it, it doesn't exist!")
  • Parents who get divorced when they discover that marriage is hard, leaving their children with gaping emotional wounds
  • A media establishment that glorifies violence until it actually happens in the real world, at which point it becomes, of course, an unthinkable tragedy
  • News shows that run stories with headlines like "Inside the Mind of Evil," trying to define what makes "those people" different from good, normal, upstanding folk like you and me
  • A community that doesn't engage people, connect to their places of greatest need, and bring them the deep and abiding healing of true fellowship
As you listen to the "experts," you'll notice a pattern. Most of their ideas involve legislative fixes to perceived problems. 

This is true for the rest of our culture, too. We feel that if we can all just agree on the problem and the solution, then we can simply change the law, and voila! No more problem. So we lobby for stronger gun-control laws, for more mental health funding, for better security systems in schools.

But regardless of how hard we work to fix them, the problems keep recurring. No matter what laws are made, we can't seem to get past the fact that people do terrible things to each other.

So who do we blame for the deeper problem here? The one we can't seem to solve? Here's what I believe: 
The light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. (Jn. 3:19-20)
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom. 1:28-32)
 Making laws, starting committees, and working for social change might have some effect on the world, just as a properly applied piece of gauze might have some effect on a gushing carotid artery. But this patient is going to need surgery if we're going to keep him from bleeding out.

That's why the story of the school shooting is a perfect accompaniment to Advent. It is yet another example of the pain, sorrow, and utter brokenness that Jesus Christ was born to heal.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. (II Cor. 5:19)
I haven't shot 20 children in cold blood, but my sinful heart is capable of such evil. And so is yours. He came to right our wrongs and to bring wholeness to a people sickened unto death. He came to heal the rift between God and man -- a rift that we feel most keenly in tragic circumstances.

His death and resurrection on our behalf offers redemption and restoration to you, me, and others just like us whose faults are more evident (and seemingly more tragic).

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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