This latest mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, is the latest in a series of shootings that goes back many years. I addressed some of the issues surrounding these mass shootings in a previous post. In this post, I just want to give a few personal reflections on this particular tragedy.
As I look back over my 60 some years, I can think of many high profile tragedies that I lived through. Many of them involved guns. Probably the first one of any significance was the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I remember it vividly. Probably the next series of tragedies that I recall happened in that terrible year of 1968, when both Bobby Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated. And we had the Challenger explosion and more recently we experienced 9/11. The events of September 11, 2001, were personal to me for a number of reasons. First, I knew people who worked in the towers who were killed. Also, I witnessed it from my office window as well as on television.
The killings in Newtown were also personal to me. I don’t think I know anybody involved in this tragedy, but I can very much relate to it. We used to live in New Fairfield, Connecticut, a town not unlike Newtown. As a matter of fact, New Fairfield isn’t all that far from Newtown. We have driven through Newtown any number of times, so we know it well. In addition, our two grandchildren attend schools in Danbury, not all that far from Newtown. The Danbury schools were locked down during the crisis.
These killings and superstorm Sandy were events that took place very close to home. Usually it is “other people” in other parts of the country or the world who experience these terrible tragedies. I’m thinking of New Orleans; Joplin, Missouri; Aurora, Colorado; and other parts of the country. But this year, between Sandy and Newtown, we have had devastation and death much closer to home than we are used to.
With Sandy, I believe we are reaping the results of the seeds of destruction we have sown by polluting the atmosphere to the point where we have climate change. With Newtown, we are reaping the results of the seeds of destruction we have sown with respect to filling our children’s minds with violence and garbage. We can’t just keep going on the way we have been. 9/11 resulted in significant changes in our systems of airport and other kinds of security. Sandy will hopefully result in building codes or zoning laws that will prevent people from building in places where it is just too dangerous. Newtown will hopefully result in changes to the way we treat the mentally ill, improvements to gun laws, and perhaps some restraints on what we allow the media to portray.
Pray for this country, because we are confusing freedom with license. Pray that our leaders will do something to address the issues I’ve mentioned. Most importantly, we need God back in public discourse. How do we expect people to behave when we’ve eliminated the transcendent moral compass provided by religious faith?