We all watch and grieve, seeking a reason for the recent murders in Newtown. Our hearts go out to the families of those whose lives were so irrationally taken from them; so much hope extinguished. I think of the presents under the tree for those who will never open them. Who has the heart to even remove them?
Once, many years ago, a paranoid, evil man ordered the slaughter of about as many young children as died at Newtown. Did the town ask why? I’m sure they did. But mostly,
“A voice was heard in (that town),
Wailing and loud lamentation
Rachel weeping for her children;
She refused to be consoled, because they were no more.”
We are all Rachel today, as we stand alongside the citizens of Newtown, CT.
Many seek to answer that ultimate question – why? Was it something his mother did? Divorce? Video games? Mental illness? Movies? Political persuasion? Those questions prompt other questions. We don’t want to be naïve and shallow in our pursuit of truth. Communities mourn together; but along with the ache of hurting hearts we must then also assess the prevailing moral, spiritual, and psychological climate in order to do our best to ensure the best for all of us in the future.
One question we ask is who is to blame? Many atrocities have happened through the years. Do we hold Hitler’s mother responsible for his acts? Were Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold old enough to be held accountable? When does one become accountable for one’s actions? At age 21? 40? 80? Undoubtedly the environment in which one grows up helps or hurts the prospect for a well-lived future, but should we not hold a 20-year-old accountable? Did Adam Lanza not go to school and receive an education? Did he go to church? In either of those places he heard such important lessons as:
“Love your enemies.”
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“Forgive, seventy times seven.” (infinitely)
Perhaps Lanza suffered from mental illness. Yes, we cannot conceive of someone taking out twenty-six people in an elementary school as sane. But having a mental illness does not mean someone cannot understand right from wrong. No, this was a premeditated act of malicious evil.
What about video games, violent movies, guns and the like. Are they the cause? Well, those things are produced and marketed by minds and hearts of people in this society. What the body is fed has its ramifications for your health. What you feed the heart and mind with must certainly affect the health of a person’s spirit in the same way. Should we not weigh the need to prioritize the overriding good of the community above someone’s “right” or freedom to produce such products/weapons?
Why would Adam Lanza murder? Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Jesus set the standard close to the heart. Perhaps we should take note. In God’s eyes anger and contempt for others are both fertile ground for murder. Therefore it is reasonable to judge things that produce contempt for your neighbor, considering the outcome if you ignore it. God’s been dealing with human beings for a long time. God should know the root of murder.
What, then, should we do? Here’s one way of handling it.
When angry with someone, stop everything and give top priority to addressing your differences; not to win, but to work it out. If you realize your fellow citizen has something against you, go and be reconciled. Don’t let grass grow under your feet. Afterward, go freely to synagogue or church and worship God, for you will then be able to worship with authenticity.
That’s good stuff. Actually, it is advice to avoid murder and it comes from the Bible. Perhaps we might take heed, in order to get along better with one another, gain more respect for each other, and be a light of peace and goodwill for the neighborhood that has been so deeply injured by these murders. I am sure if their experience could bring more peace to other communities it might give at least some purpose out of such a devastating tragedy.
And if we are so changed, there would be less room in this nation for violent entertainment, weapons, fighting politicians, road rage, and domestic violence. Perhaps admiration for one another’s contributions, and patience with our differences would be the result. Then innocent people would not experience inconsolable mourning days before Christmas.
To me, that would be worth the cost of asking these hard questions.
Rev. Ginger Hertenstein
First Presbyterian Church, Duncanville
543 E. Freeman Street
Duncanville, TX 75116