What The Talk Must Include

Posted: January 12, 2013

Grief once again enveloped our nation as Americans struggled instinctively with the anguish experienced by families whose innocent children were cruelly murdered at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn.

The horror of this crime was further accented by the heroic deaths of schoolteachers and administrators who put themselves in harm’s way. “This was not supposed to happen, not here,” some in Newtown softly whispered. Such a thing should not happen anywhere! Others, frustrated by numerous mass killings since 1999, asked, “How could God let this happen yet again?”

As a retired pastor, I have heard similar questions many times when unimagined tragedy strikes. Isn’t God in control? Why does God allow evil to exist and operate in the midst of a creation He declared as good? It may appear to some that God is absent and even uncaring, particularly when innocent lives are taken. But we must not be deceived into thinking the Giver of life has abandoned us when death strikes unexpectedly.

At such times, a paralyzing fear of loss seizes us, spreading rapidly from the epicenter of tragedy. As anxiety rises, we want to blame someone, and who better than God. But the Creator of life has made us stewards of His creation, and we were created in His image. As such, we are free to choose between right and wrong, but also we are responsible for the outcomes of the decisions we make in relation to one another. Sometimes, God works for our good in spite of our maligned behavior. At other times, however, the consequences of human apathy and selfish behavior cause suffering that lasts from generation to generation. God working for our good we call “grace.” The latter we call “judgment,” but it is judgment we bring upon ourselves when we ignore the way God made the world work.

The headline in the Daily News-Record on Dec. 17 was troubling, quoting words from President Obama’s eulogy at the Newtown prayer service. “God has called them home,” the president exclaimed, as if the God who suffers with us, and knows the meaning of a Beloved’s loss through the death of His own Son, had something to do with the killing of innocent children. Granted, it is comforting to hear that God receives our loved ones in death. But the Creator God does not call for an end to our lives, and certainly not at the hands of one whose purpose is to murder innocent children and their caregivers. We must not be diverted from the real causes for which we are responsible.

In times of overwhelming grief, well-meaning people often say too much to the bereaved. At a time when fewer words would have been enough, the president could have spoken more to the suffering parents of Newtown and said nothing to the nation and the gun control advocates within his own party. It was hard not to notice that calloused politicians were quick to respond, anxious “not to let a crisis go to waste,” even before the first child was laid to rest in Newtown. A month would not be long enough to wait before beginning a national conversation on the causes underlying this and earlier tragedies, much less initiating another campaign for gun control.

No matter how worthy, the subject of gun control can become a “red herring” if the following are not included in the conversation: (a) the effects of progressive secularism and the modern movement to eradicate historic Christian culture and values from schools and the public square; (b) a culture desensitized to the reality of violence through adolescent addiction to interactive video killing games, murderous television episodes, and abortions of convenience; (d) the social epidemic of broken families, single mothers, absentee fathers, and children growing up unsupervised and without social values and skills; and (e) the unpredictable effects on young adults when mood-controlling drugs such as Ritalin are used by parents and teachers to control behavior and then discontinued after grade school.

Now is indeed the time to begin this conversation. It is what God expects of us.

Mr. Buie, a retired pastor and family counselor, lives in Harrisonburg.



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