As all times when we are so shockingly rattled, the race to reaction is furious and fast. When scenarios and circumstance significantly disturb us, we immediately jump to the solution. “If we only had tougher gun laws… eliminated the violent video games… cared more for the mentally ill… if we put an end to all the ‘war’ rhetoric…” (note that the last of those suggestions seems oft hypocritically proclaimed, as violent rhetorical usage is often chastised until it’s convenient to employ for personal passion…)
The reality is, friends, that I understand the rapid reaction. We probe possible cause and means of prevention. We want justice. The disturbance demands justice! And when the victims are obviously, especially innocent — as in Newtown, Connecticut, where reportedly 20 of the victims are under the age of 10 — many of them kindergarteners — kindergarteners! — our need for justice is only magnified.
Thus, in our quest for justice, we attempt to find the way or the one thing that would solve the seemingly inherent problem, such as the gun laws, video game and rhetorical restrictions, etc. “If we only had that!…” Those are wise, appropriate conversations that we should have. The challenge, however, is that none attack the root of the issue; none address the actual bottom line, and if we fail to tackle the bottom line, shocking scenarios will continue. They may look a little different — possibly utilizing different weapons and words — but we will feel the same. Still shocked. Still rattled. Still so disturbed.
“How could someone actually do this?!” It doesn’t make any sense.
It’s sad. It’s grievous. But evil exists on this planet. I recognize that such is not a popular thing to either say or believe. In fact, I have been a part of many discussions where at some point in the conversation in order to press home a point, one person inserts their passionate perspective that “all people are inherently good.” Some may be messed up or mentally ill or a ‘switch is off somewhere,’ but for the most part, we’re all pretty good.
Popular or not, the Intramuralist respectfully disagrees.
Each of us have witnessed friends and loved ones make some rather confounding choices. We’ve known persons who’ve engaged in violent crime, salacious infidelity, and unfathomable professional wrongdoing. Simply put: we’ve known people who have made bad choices.
What we now identify as a “bad choice” has somehow changed.
The closer people are to us, the more likely we are to offer grace and potentially, possibly, even alter our moral standards. We have become, it seems, as I like to describe, “selectively moral.” The closer we are to the perpetrator, the more morally selective we’re tempted to be; on the other hand, the more emotionally distant we are, the easier it is for our need for justice to trump any extension of grace. What could instead cause us to attempt to offer full justice and full grace — simultaneously? The recognition that none of us are “pretty good.” It’s about capability; we are each capable of becoming confused in our moral standards — thus each capable of making bad choices.
Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. The invisible qualities of an omnipotent creator have been made manifest. Yes, evidence of God is all around us. But yet, even though we’ve known God, we sometimes refuse to worship him or even give him thanks. We begin to instead think up our own ideas of what God is like — as opposed to seeking what he says he is like. We craft our own ideas — our own solutions — perhaps ideas that fit better with our individual experience and thus passions. As a result, our minds can become confused.
When a person’s mind becomes confused, they typically come to worship or value something far lesser than the divine. And my sense is when that happens — not knowing exactly how things work here on planet Earth — that at some point God abandons them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desire. It’s similar to a parent/child relationship; we teach and encourage obedience, yet over time and the repetition of wrongful thinking and poor behavior, at some point, we give our children over to their own desires, hoping that they learn wisdom the hard way, potentially via the consequences of their own behavior.
As a result, therefore, of the shameful things in some persons’ hearts, people will do vile and degrading things. That’s what we witnessed in Newtown on Friday.
It’s shocking. It’s tragic. And it doesn’t make any sense… even with our admirable demand for justice.
Respectfully… and with an incredibly heavy heart…