“Jacob speak comfort to me Jacob!” he said imploring. “I have no comfort to give,” replied Jacob Marley “That comes from other regions and ministers than me” (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
Last Friday news outlets across the nation sprang to life covering an unfolding grade school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. There were, according to Police: 20 children among 26 victims of Connecticut school shooting. Somehow the word “tragedy” seems an understatement. As I listened to the coverage, I thought of my grandchildren, two of which are in that age range. One of our supporters e-mailed looking for words of consolation. She said she could not stop weeping and even though this occurred in a distance state and her children were safe she felt completely crushed by the incident. Oddly, Ebenezer Scrooge’s request and his late partner, Jacob Marley’s response came to mind. Sometimes, it seems, no words of consolation can mitigate such an evil event, but I did my best in my e-mail response. Like many parents and grandparents, we looked on and participated in the grief vicariously.
The questions immediately began and seem to be added to daily. How did the shooter get into the school? Was he an employee or disgruntled parent? Did the weapons cause the mayhem or was it something else? According to NBC news the next day, Newtown gunman forced his way into school, police say. The claim is being made that this is the worst school shooting in US history and in coming weeks there will be analysis and counter analysis. Anti-gun advocates will use this as a reason to attempt to ban most or if possible all guns. It will likely escape their notice that Adam Lanza, the shooter, do not own the weapons he used in the shooting. In fact, his mother owned them and he had killed his mother prior to going to the school. So, although the weapons had been legally purchased, they had not been purchased by him had been obtained illegally, taken by him after killing the owner of the weapons. The clamor to “do something” will place the focus on the instrument of death rather than the evil act and will result in being an impetus to punish law abiding citizens for illegal acts of a non-gun owner.
Some Evangelicals trying to answer the question as to why will point to a culture that has devalued life. After all, Barack Obama who played his role as consoler in Chief quite well, defends the right of a mother to dismember her child in the womb. More than that he voted against the Born Alive Act. This was a bill which called for the protection of an infant that was born alive but that the mother had intended to kill in the womb. In other words, he favored allowing infanticide by taking a newborn baby that the mother did not intend to give birth to and throwing the child on a counter until it dies. His fear was that eliminating infanticide in these cases might undermine Roe. v. Wade.
Can it be demonstrated that human life has become of less value since Roe v. Wade? After all, there was a bigger attack on school children and teachers, the Bath School disaster which occurred in Bath Township, Michigan on May 18, 1927. 3 bombings killed 38 elementary school children, 2 teachers,4 other adults and the bomber himself. There were at least 58 people injured in that incident. It should be noted that no one called for new laws to make using bombs on school children illegal. The reason is obvious. Like using guns which you did not legally obtain is already illegal so also is making a bomb and killing innocent children in school illegal. Laws already exist for both of these crimes. But does this incident demonstrate that there has not been much change in culture’s value of human life since 1927? I don’t think so. The event in 1927 was an anomaly. The Connecticut shootings are one in a string of similar attacks. The events seem to be speeding up, happening closer together and becoming more ferocious. Has the Judeo/Christian worldview lost its influence on culture to such a degree that human life really is of less value today than in years past?
Some might point back to the Christmas story in the first century where we see that a Jewish king, Herod, ordered the execution of the children in Bethlehem as evidence that little has changed:
Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”(Matthew 2:16-18)
Perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps this shows that as our culture becomes increasingly pagan it will correspondingly view human life as of less value. Herod was a puppet king, set up and maintained in power by a pagan government. In its early years Israel had been directed by God not to sacrifice their children to pagan deities, including Moloch ( Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35). Child sacrifices had also part of the Greco/Roman culture which made child sacrifices to another deity, Kronos. The pagan Roman Empire of Herod’s day ascribed so little value to children that abortion and infanticide were common as children were seen as interfering with personal pursuit of pleasure. This changed as Christianity and the Judeo/Christian worldview came to dominate Western civilization. If a Roman was pregnant and didn’t want to have the child she simply aborted it. If she and her husband had a newborn which they didn’t want to keep (that was the father’s decision), they would abandon it in the woods. Early Christians placed such a high value on life that they would go out looking for these abandoned infants and bring them home to protect and raise as their own. As culture moved further from paganism, human life became more highly valued. The role of women was elevated and children were protected. People were regarded as having been created in the image of God. Our culture has been moving steadily towards the paganism of the first century and along with it the proliferation of evil becomes more common. Rather than address the evil as evil the tragedy will be blamed on the instruments by which the evil was inflicted, guns. Perhaps it will attributed to a combination of other excuses but with the abandonment of God there is nothing by which anything can be truly measured and shown as evil.
Oddly, the answer here is the same answer which the Christmas narrative tells. Evil was a part of Christmas history. Herod killed the children in the village and:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more.”
If we were left there, we would have no hope. Like Jacob Marley, we would have no words of comfort to offer. The other part of the Christmas story is what gives hope in the midst of otherwise overwhelming grief:
…for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:20-23)
Those who are in Christ by faith will grieve but as the Apostle Paul wrote they don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The loss is painful but temporary for the parents will be reunited in the not too distant future with their child. The separation is painful but in view of eternity, short lived. With that in mind I would like to offer you something we offer annually, The Gift.