Reflections on a day that will live in infamy

15 Dec

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My head has been spinning since I first heard the news yesterday of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I truly could not believe that something like this could happen. I wandered in a daze at work last night, the wall-to-wall TV’s in the background blaring the breaking news updates. My customers were somber. Can you believe it? No, I can’t. I can’t believe 20 innocent children have been slaughtered. This is America. It simply can’t be true. And then the inevitable, How could this happen?

As a Christian, I of course subscribe to the notion of original sin. Evil has existed in this world since it first slithered its way into Eden. And just as God’s love and mercy knows no limits, so the evil one’s hatred and destruction are boundless. I believe this. It makes perfect theological sense to me. But when it manifests itself in the face of a murderer of innocent children, I am shell-shocked. I cannot imagine the evil in someone’s heart that would allow him to look twenty children in the eye and murder them.

I’ve read that the parents of these children are trying to find out if their children’s last moments were painful. What a heart-wrenching question. It is despicable that these babies’ last moments on this Earth were filled with violence and chaos. But I think what these parents need to hold onto is that we can rest assured that their Heavenly father has erased every last painful memory and is holding them safe in His steadfast love. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). We can move forward with the confidence that these babies are no longer in pain. But what does that mean for the ones left behind to pick up the pieces?

It means that they will mourn, and that during their grieving process they will seek answers. Some will want to try to stop this from being allowed to happen again. So gun control laws will be brought up in conversation, as they always are when this kind of thing happens. By no means do I want to go into a political rant on gun control on this somber day, but I do think a short discussion on our culture is appropriate.

Evil is real, yes. As a Christian, I believe it is a living, breathing, spiritual force that is battling for the heart of man. While I recognize that this is a part of it, I think that we as a society have made it much easier to latch onto us and influence us. We have made it a part of our culture to accept that basically any movie we go to will probably contain violence, and that it will be graphic. I mean, I’ll admit that two of my favorite shows to watch are AMC’s Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. But I honestly had to build up a stomach to watch Walking Dead. The first episode almost made me throw up because it was so disturbingly graphic, and after that I had to build up an immunity to seeing zombies’ limbs being torn off and their entrains being devoured by fellow dead people. Breaking Bad is one of the best shows on television right now, but in the last season, the main character has completely lost his sense of humanity and orders the systematic murder of ten people. In other seasons, we have witnessed him murder his enemies and dissolve their bodies in acid in order to cover his tracks. Once, this was done to an innocent young boy who had witnessed part of their operation. Although I think the show is well written and I enjoy following it, the inclusion of this kind of violence and disregard for human life disturbs me. Similarly, while I understand the social commentary being made in The Hunger Games series, I was thoroughly disturbed in the theater witnessing Hollywood’s portrayal of children murdering each other. And the fact that this series is aimed at young adults is quite unsettling to me.

We have created a culture where it is normal to expect graphic violence in our TV shows, movies, music, and literature. I’m one of the more sensitive of my friends when it comes to this, and am usually the one to make a stink about there being too much blood and gore when watching something. I haven’t yet been desensitized enough to not be disturbed by these things when I see them. My boyfriend is a wonderful and perfectly normal person, but he grew up on the video games and shows I never participated in as a kid, and, like most of the people I know, these things don’t bother him to watch. I am almost always the odd one out for reacting the way I do.

I bring up all of this to say that I don’t know of any empirical evidence that says our violent culture inspires these kinds of tragedies. But these mass school shootings have mostly occurred in my generation and the one before. Columbine in ‘99, Virginia Tech in ‘07, and now Sandy Hook Elementary in ’12 make up three of the five deadliest mass murders committed on school campuses. The other two are the Bath School murder in ’27 and the University of Texas murder in ’66. It would be hard for me to believe that our entertainment culture that continuously portrays a sense of disregard for the sanctity of human life has no influence on these horrible atrocities. You can only say “It’s just entertainment” for so long. There are consequences for constantly advocating the portrayal of evil for the sake of entertainment.

I think these are the things to think about when the question of change comes around. The fact of the matter is that everything the shooter did was already against the law – unlawfully taking his mother’s legally registered weapons, breaking into the school, etc. Evil people will continue to break laws in order to do evil things. It’s not an issue over what is legal and what is illegal, but over what is moral and immoral. What we perpetuate amongst ourselves via our social culture and our entertainment industry will not leave us untouched as a society. We reap what we sow, and we must become conscious of what we are normalizing to our children and fellow citizens.

I am fervently sending prayers and thoughts to the families in Connecticut, and I sincerely hope that they will somehow find a way to make it through this impossible tragedy. God has a way of bringing miraculous healing through the hardest of times, and bringing understanding into the inexplicable questions of our lives.

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