When I first found out about the massacre at Sandy Hook I was horrified, shaken to the core. I felt physically ill, horrified at the senseless slaughter. That young children could be cut down in cold blood was not only repulsive, but unfathomable to me. What could have driven someone to do this? How desperate could one be? To my mind, there was no motive. None at all. Logically, there were no answers.
I prayed and reflected, trying to search for some answer to why this horror would happen. Over the next couple of hours I realized the young man must have felt utterly hopeless, alone and unloved. He felt so purposeless that he shot his own mother, then proceeded to gun down children and their teachers in a carefully planned attack before taking his own life. This was no mere violent rage, but a coldly calculated attack. This points to not simply emotional problems or mental illness, as some would like to reduce it to, but rather a disturbed soul. Humanity is fallen and depraved, and this young man saw no alternative other than to give in to that destructive impulse.
Trying to wrestle with what possibly could have stopped this shooter, what could have brought him out of his hopeless state, I logged onto Facebook, Twitter and other social media and news outlets. I was utterly horrified to find that already the tragedy had become politicized and that battle lines were drawn between the gun control and gun rights camps. I began to read the arguments on both sides, seeing both camps placing the blame on the other. In a time when people should be pouring out love to a small town, I saw hateful words thrown back and forth across the political aisles. Both sides completely and utterly missed what caused such a horrific tragedy, and what it will take in the future to stop such slaughter.
There is a saying that unfortunately is many times misused and misinterpreted by both sides: “guns don’t kill people. People kill people”. Often this statement is used to make the argument that since it is a person that ultimately makes the choice to kill, one cannot blame guns for the tragedies committed by them. Then this interpretation is used to argue that, therefore, all good citizens should have the right to carry firearms to defend themselves from those bad “people”. This is a terrible lesson to take from the quote because it completely ignores the central figure: the person firing the gun. Somehow the argument has been reduced to the tool itself, when the true issue is the spiritual and moral state of the person using the gun. Both sides of the argument would do well to realize the problem is one that cannot be cured by either controlling such weapons or by placing those same weapons in the hands of every righteous man and woman.
The problem runs far deeper than the guns themselves. A truly lost soul, hopeless enough to murder children, will find a way to do so regardless of the circumstances (and by circumstances I refer to both the options of gun control and gun rights). Man’s heart is desperately wicked. There is a song that speaks to this problem of our fallen nature, saying “we’re a broken people living under loaded gun and it can’t be outfought, it can’t be outdone, it can’t be outmatched, it can’t be outrun”. The problem cannot be solved by practical and governmental means. The problem with murderers that butcher children is that they are human, and the problem with humans is that we are spiritually broken.
If the problem is intertwined with our very existence, then how can we possibly hope to fix it? It is fitting that we are in the midst of the Christmas Season, the celebration of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, for it is in Him that we can find the solution to find peace in the midst of the aftermath, and to move forward to try to prevent such horrors from occurring again. Man can only be saved from our hopeless depraved state like that of the shooter by having a spiritual rebirth through the love of Christ.
Now is when the political activists and governmental agencies will begin scoffing, for spiritual rebirth is, truthfully, quite an impractical and inconvenient affair. One cannot legislate a spiritual rebirth. One cannot dictate such abstract concepts as love, morality and purpose. But this is precisely my point. We must cease turning to political movements and to man to solve the problems of man. We must look to righteousness incarnate: the Christ. Only He holds the answer that can cure man of his fallen nature, and that is through His love. The kingdom of heaven is not a kingdom that can be manifest in governmental bodies, for as Jesus said Himself, “My kingdom is not of this world”. Christ’s kingdom is made manifest through the love of those who believe in Him. The great command of Jesus is to love one another, and it is through this love that Jesus made manifest in the world that broken man is made whole.
I would argue that the young shooter in Connecticut never truly experienced the love of Christ in his life. I would argue that had numerous people truly striven to love him, rather than allowing his mother to struggle alone, that possibly he might have found hope, found purpose beyond wanton destruction. Of course, I know not the details of the situation, so I cast no judgment, but I simply propose my own perspective. I firmly believe that the central place where our society’s terrible wounds can be healed is not within legislative buildings but in the hearts and souls of the ordinary person. We must manifest the love of Christ to all that we meet, for we know not what hidden demons every soul we meet battles.
There is a story of the Eastern philosopher Confucius in which he is confronted by some people who challenge him on the fact that he does not participate in government. In reply, Confucius first quotes a poem: “Filial, oh so filial, Friendly to one’s elders and juniors; In this way exerting an influence upon those who govern.” Confucius then elaborates: “Thus, in being a filial son and good brother one is already taking part in government. What need is there, then, to speak of ‘participating in government’?”. Confucius grasped that the best way to change society for the better was to live rightly oneself, and if we are called to love, then what have we to do but love the unloved? This Christmas, find ways to truly love whomever you may meet. Remember the teachers at the school whose very profession was an expression of love, and of whom many died in the ultimate act of love: sacrifice. Let the spirit of giving extend beyond family and close friends this year, even to strangers. You never know when the divine love of Christ may manifest in a powerful way.