Thursday, December 20, 2012

On The Newtown, CT Shooting

This is not meant as a consolation or an accusation. This is not meant as a way to blow off or condone the actions or deaths that occurred today. This is my sorting out and my reflections of what happened today, and my thoughts concerning the implications of my reflections.

            The shootings that happened earlier today, I think, affected our lives in a number of ways. First and foremost, I think it shattered our illusion of a perfect world. Especially since we’re so close to Christmas, we’re tempted to look at our glittery lights and shiny stars and believe that we have reached peace and perfection; we’re tempted to look at time off from work or school and anticipate dinner with the family and believe that, for at least a couple weeks, we’ll have some rest and quietude. However, the reality of human nature and of the fragile balance between life and death made its face known to us today. The world isn’t what we want it to be; when we take off the makeup, we see a face pocketed with scars and marked by bitterness. Secondly, today’s shootings bring us deep sadness. As President Obama said, “Our hearts are broken” and indeed they are; I don’t think anybody would ever condone such violent actions, but I think these deaths hit home especially hard because the victims are children. These deaths are saddening, they are confusing, and they are troubling.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In the closing of his letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul emphatically tells the church to rejoice in all circumstances. In light of the recent shooting in Connecticut, we may find ourselves confused and troubled—how can we rejoice? Children died—children who will no longer be able to play at recess or find a spouse or have kids of their own. These children did nothing wrong—how can we rejoice at the fact that a man with guns and a corrupted mind took away something so precious and so delicate? The answer, I think, is simplistic in form but complicated to understand; I believe we can rejoice because, in essence, this shooting is insignificant in comparison to the omnipotence and omniscience of God.
I believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the grave, and, by doing so, conquered our sins and death. Jesus’s sacrifice reunited humanity with God once more. This belief is one of the strongest and most powerful tenants of the Christian faith—the intercession of God himself to fix man’s brokenness.
When we try to reconcile these two points, however—God’s love for mankind and the treachery of this incident—we reach a harsh conflict. Sure, God coming down to save us is great and all, but that happened years ago; these kids died today. Inflight of the recent sufferings we face, we are forced to ask ourselves and God, “So what?” Jesus is great and all, but an evil occurred that we all wish would have been avoided.
            Allow me to borrow an idea from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce: in it, a character finds himself in Heaven, a place where everything is so vivid and so real that the grass digs into his feet when he tries to walk on it and his flesh is considered “ghostlike” in comparison to the world around him. The point, as we later find out, of the contrast is that Heaven is so much realer, so much larger, so much more fulfilling than Hell that if we took all the “loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itching’s” that it contains and “put into the scale against…Heaven”, Hell “would have no weight that could be registered at all”1.

1: As qtd. on pg. 538 of the Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, pub. Harper One, New York, 2002.

My point is this: As a Christian, I believe that Jesus’s Crucifixion and his Resurrection are a big deal—so big that, in comparison, the disheartening things of the world can take no root in the peace of God the apostle Paul mentions. I certainly hope not to minimize the scope and implications of what happened today; no one would take the death of anyone, much less that of child, and even less of so many people! Lightly, and I do not either. What I’m saying is that, from a Christian humanistic perspective, while it may be intuitive tube immersed in our confusion and sadness, to be so would be in direct opposition to the entire concept of the Redemption by Christ. Christ died so you could be liberated from sadness, not bewildered by it. Granted, I do not think that we should be willy-nilly and ignore the sufferings of those who are affected by this tragedy. On the other hand, I cite the example of Jesus when he visited the tomb of Lazarus:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” [John11:33-36]
Jesus, too, wept at the death of his friend Lazarus—a real, genuine sadness. I think one of the greatest mysterious of the Incarnation is the humanity of God—Jesus didn’t dabble in our emotions of sadness but he soaked in it. Jesus didn’t seem sad; he wasn’t affected by sadness; Jesus was sad. There’s just so much power in the words the present Jews said: “See how he loved him!” I think that’s a truly wonderful phrase—it’s a testament to the humanity of Christ in that Christ was capable of sadness and great love. But see how Christ’s sadness did not come directly from the death of Lazarus; rather, it came from His love of Lazarus. Christ wept out of love, not out of sadness.
I think a similar idea holds for us: We may take part in the sadness but we are not—or, as Christians, cannot—be overcome by it. Think about it: Christ saved the world from sin! And, more importantly (this small part took me a very long time to realize), Christ saved you from sin, and the Cross and Blood cover all who seek their refuge, no matter the time. To be blunt, you won. Death is beaten; Satan is defeated; and you are freed from the evil desires of your body and of your mind. You are freed from the grip of sadness and despair; Christ has overpowered sin and death for you. This sadness we have is so small or insignificant in comparison to the Redemption that it cannot take hold of us. We can take part in it to empathize with others (as taught by Jesus, and in accordance with the command to be benefactors to the less fortunate), but sadness cannot take away the joys and the peace of God found in the wonders of the Savior.
To conclude from the Revelations of John, there will come a time when
God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” [Revelations 22:3b-4]
I believe that God will come back again to judge the living and the dead, and that includes those who were killed today and those who are responsible for such killing. I cannot judge the character of the kids or adults who were slain today; nor can I judge the actions or the morality of the perpetrator of today’s crimes. I trust in God’s omniscience to deal justice out accordingly to His standards, and I pray that I may refrain from passing mine. I believe God will come again to rule over the Earth and, as stated in the Book of Revelations, there will be no more sadness—there will only be the fullness and the glory of God so vivid and so real that everything else will be negligible in the light of God. Jesus Christ is coming again—there is nothing to fear, and we cannot be conquered by sadness. Rejoice! I say it again: rejoice.

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