This past Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, was indeed a tragedy. And while our country, like any country, has gone through many tragedies, this one had something raw, something previously unseen. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and Oklahoma City and Virginia Tech were tragedies, but we sense something different in them being attacks on soldiers and grown adults and college students. For that matter even Columbine, which felt closest to what happened in Newtown, CT, was a massacre of teenagers. And while no one would doubt it was horrific, we’ve all been teenagers. We’ve witnessed firsthand (and perhaps still feel some pain from the memories of) the evil that teenagers are capable of. When “bullies” die, we’re sad, but we don’t scratch our heads.
In several ways, Newtown is unusual, at least for this time and space in history.
Like all of you, this past Friday I was saddened and angered by the murders. And, of course, I’m sympathetic to the families and the victims. What additionally saddened me, as a pastor and Christian, however, was the media coverage. And it wasn’t so much the fact that media coverage at a moment like this always feels a bit exploitative. Fair or unfair, I’ve always gotten the impression that every news anchor, as well as those interviewed, at least in tone, seem to feel a need to express how they personally are the most saddened by the events, for fear that they might sound callous if they don’t. No, the new wrinkle that troubled me this time was the ongoing line-up of “experts” – doctors and psychologists and politicians – who were brought in by each media outlet to comment on “Why?” Everyone wants to know how something like this could ever happen.
The experts generally responded by saying something to the effect of, “Well, maybe Adam Lanza wasn’t loved enough as a child.” Or “Maybe we need tighter gun control policies.” Or “Maybe we need to beef up our security in our public school system.” And please understand, I’m not at all trying to dismiss these as legitimate concerns and valuable talking points moving forward. But I think the country senses that these are answers that only scratch the surface. It eats me alive as a pastor that such feeble attempts to answer the question “Why?” are given, when the answer has been sitting there the entire time.
The Bible states the reality that our world refuses to admit: We are ALL killers responsible for the murder of a man named Jesus. “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth……was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:22-23)
By God’s grace and providence, I was scheduled this past Sunday to preach on the Luke 1 account of Mary (the Annunciation from the Angel, her visit to Elizabeth, and her Magnificat). Mary is an interesting character. But perhaps even more interesting than Mary herself is the misconception that hundreds of millions have about Mary. I was reminded of this recently as I reread through historian Paul Maier’s In the Fullness of Time. In it (pg. 86), he informs readers that in 1854, Roman Catholicism officially defined Mary as both sinless and immaculately conceived, and in 1950, it declared her bodily assumption into heaven. This is incredibly strange in that the Bible so clearly paints Mary as a sinner. Mary, trembling from fear, was “greatly troubled” in the presence of God’s holy messenger Gabriel (Luke 1:29). And then, when she bursts into her joyful Magnificat, she refers to God as “my Savior” (Luke 1:47). And yet, despite her own testimony to the contrary, so many are still inclined to consider her sinless and perfect. Apparently there is something inside of us human beings that is delusional about how sinful we really are as a species.
Therefore, when experts roll in with their theories about “Why” the Newtown murders happened, they’re missing the most fundamental explanation – Adam Lanza is capable of horrific murder because, as part of the human race, we are all in fact guilty of horrific murder. Ironically, one of the most dangerous things about us is a sociopathic refusal to see that truth.
If you were to poll the majority of American citizens, I’m sure most of them would tell you that they are entirely incapable of murder. However, consider this: since Roe v. Wade (1973), there have now been an estimated 50 million plus abortions, a number which doesn’t even include some methods Christians would categorize as abortive. A little quick arithmetic would tell you that this amounts to approximately 3,512 legally induced abortions/day in the US. No media coverage has been given, at least that I’m aware of. In the Newtown massacre, 20 first graders died (and 8 adults). Tragic? Of course. But this points us to what should be an obvious societal inconsistency. It’s much like what we’ve seen in Britain in recent weeks. A prince has a baby and the whole world rejoices. And yet, the number one cause of death in Britain is abortion. Delusional.
Quite honestly though, this post is really not about abortion. I’ve already written about the issue recently. No, this post is about how blind we are to how sinful we are.
There’s been a link floating around on social media recently citing things from the past year that “restored our faith in humanity.” I have no faith in humanity. I have faith in one man, who happened to be God himself. In the form of Jesus, God, as a man infinitely more innocent than a first grader, took our bullet. He carried our ultimate sorrow so that crap like what happened Friday can someday come to an end.
(Adapted from 12.16.12 sermon at Resurrection)