This new year starts with mixed emotions. The events of December 14 are still on my mind, and they are painful and sickening. No reason or justification exists for the taking of innocent lives, and that the majority were children makes it all the more devastating. I think of my own daughter- her sweet face, her joy, her laughter, how much life she brings to a room- I can hardly imagine life without her, and the thought of losing her brings tears to my eyes.
A month has passed. No longer front-page news, the tragedy in Newton has given way to other stories. The media frenzy has died. The emotional responses have quieted. Perhaps it’s time to talk. Still too early? I beg to differ. In Washington, the conversation is well underway. It’s time for tough questions, it’s time to talk about violence, it’s time for uncomfortable truth, and it’s time for honest talk about guns.
Why did this happen? Allow me to back up a few weeks. In early December, my wife and I went to see a movie. In the previews alone, the amount of brutality on the screen made me physically uncomfortable. Violence, shooting, and brutal fighting seemed the order of the day. Our culture revels in it. We pay to watch men fight bare-knuckled. We wait for the next shockingly gory film. Most disturbing: there were children in the theater. Young children. We’ve grown up on violence. Even our games are violent; kids spend hours replaying death scenes and trying to improve kill ratios. Violence is common. Life is no longer sacred.
No, this isn’t a rant against any one industry, and pervasive violence is not the lone culprit. The problem is systemic but I believe there is still good in this world (and it’s worth fighting for). Our entertainment simply reflects who we are. So, then, who are we?
We are a nation no longer in control. We are a people with a grey moral standard, a public that no longer recognizes evil. We have asked God to leave us be, and He has granted our request. Oh, that this were not so, for in the absence of Holiness, evil creeps in. With each day, it creeps into our neighborhoods, our schools, our work, our play, and our lives, until it becomes a permanent fixture. The answer is uncomfortable, for it lays the fault- and solution- squarely at our own feet. No one person, president, or object is to blame.
The root issue is that we have turned from what is right. We have made truth a subjective matter. We celebrate power and attention. We ignore evil. We render God irrelevant, and in doing so we introduce frightening possibilities. It’s time to revive and see that evil does exist, that we are fallen, and that the absence of God, the absence of Truth, the absence of Love, is a terrible thing.
The sobering reality is that an immediate fix is impossible. How can we even expect effective, decisive action when ambiguity is the order of the day? No one person, president, or object is a cure-all, and searching for such is a waste of time. Claiming such is foolishness at best and willful misdirection at worst. Tragedy will happen. There is no fix- but we can turn the tide.
Love. Call me old-fashioned, but yes, we need a return to Love. And lest I be accused of submitting a feel-good answer to a huge problem, let’s define love, as we’ve replaced it with far too many lesser notions. Love is hard, and sometimes requires a lifetime of investment. Love takes responsibility, and we need to follow suit. Love sees a hurting, lonely person and gently heals. Love is not afraid to recognize someone in need of extra help. Love holds at bay the worst possible version. Love can soften tragedy, but even moreso, Love can prevent tragedy.
I don’t know an outright solution, but perhaps change comes from anything that opposes the root issue. What that means for you may be, and probably is, different that what it means to me, but we need to start. Truth is absolute, evil exists, and life is sacred. Love values life, and that’s a great place to begin.