Monthly Archives: December 2012

Think Before You Blame

Shift + Blame

Shift + Blame (Photo credit: Cyberslayer)

The conversation about Newtown has continued. There seems to be a natural human cycle. The first part of the cycle is shock. We’re angry, scared, confused, and generally upset. The biggest question is “why?” Outside of the fact that the shooting at Sandy Hook School was evil, we may never know why. Evil, by very definition, doesn’t make sense. Which is why the next stage of the cycle is the most confusing – blame.

The commentators have begun. Some blame violent video games, despite the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that violent video games cause pe0ple to commit violent acts. Some blame poor upbringing, broken homes, excessive media coverage, weak consequences for committing crimes, and much more.

Misplaced Blame

Then there’s been a dangerous blanket evangelical response. Not everyone has issued it, but enough prominent evangelical leaders have to be alarming. It goes something like this: “We’ve turned our backs on God as a nation and now we’re reaping the consequences.”

I consider myself to be an evangelical. I believe the Bible is 100% true and inspired by God. I believe Jesus has been God for eternity. I believe that He entered human history for 33 years, lived a perfect life, died in my place for my sin, and was literally, physically resurrected from the dead. I believe we are born sinners and enemies of God and our only hope is to put our faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. However, I do not believe people are walking into schools, malls, and other venues to kill people because we have turned our back on God. Here’s a couple reasons why:

  1. Canada and Europe: Canada and Europe have similar media coverage as the US. They have similar access to violent video games. They also have weak broken families, and weaker consequences for most crimes than the US. Finally, those nations have “turned their back on God” for far longer and in a much more drastic fashion than the United States – yet they have fewer violent crimes. So you cannot say that God is allowing these violent crimes because we’ve kicked Him out. Canada and Europe have done it more than we have, and they don’t seem to be getting the same consequences.
  2. Moral Decline is Relative: Sexual sin, and a few other immoral categories, are much more socially acceptable today than in the 1950’s. However, the 1950’s were far from perfect. There may not have been a national push for gay marriage, but the way we treated minorities was reprehensible. If you were not Caucasian you were treated like a second class citizen – at best. That means that millions of people who are equal to me in dignity, because they are image bearers of God, were not recognized with equality. That’s the epitome of immorality. We’re not more immoral as a nation, we’ve simply exchanged acceptable sins.
  3. Violence has always been around: There has never been a time, in World or US history, that violent crimes did not occur. For example, during the “wild west” era of the 19th century violent crimes were far more prevalent than they are today. If anything, we are now living in one of the safest eras of US history.
  4. Following Jesus is Dangerous: Jesus told His followers to take up their cross, that means to live like you’re a dead man. Paul said, “I die every day.” While some of that was figurative language, the fact remains that becoming a Christian was one of the most dangerous things you could do for the first 300 years AD. All but one of the Apostles died violent deaths. The only exception was John, who survived being dipped in boiling oil. Early Christians were persecuted, shunned by families, exiled, and killed on a daily basis. Becoming a Christian was dangerous. So to suggest that putting your faith in Christ, even on a corporate level, is putting yourself in greater physical safety is absurd.

Just like everyone else who has watched from a distance, I’m upset about the tragedy in Newtown. I hate that people will kill innocent children. I want violence to end.

I’m also a Christian pastor who wants everyone I encounter to know and love Jesus. It’s an endeavor I’ve given my life to. But I want to reach lost people, not blame them for their influence on our country. So please, don’t blame Friday’s tragedy on a nation that has “turned its back on God.” People don’t turn their back on God, we’re born with our backs turned on God. It’s our job to point them to Jesus. Blaming people for a posture toward God that they are born with is not going to help anything.

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Reflecting on a Tragedy

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happened at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday was a tragedy. Parents of a 5-year-old should never have to kiss their child goodbye for the last time. As a father, my heart and prayers go out to those who woke up grieving a lost child this morning.

Whenever violence of this nature occurs we always want to know why. Why does someone take innocent lives? Why would anyone want to hurt children? Why? There are some reasons that we will not understand, like Adam Lanza’s motivation.

There are other reasons that can be understood. The deepest reason is that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9a). Left to ourselves we are wicked to the core. Our hearts are not pure, they’re evil. We know that to be true, but we don’t like to face it. This doesn’t mean that we all want to be violent, but we all have desires in our heart that are wrong. Tragically, Adam Lanza had violent desires in his heart, and he followed his heart.

Poor Reasons

On the other hand, this did NOT happen because:

  • God is not sovereign or good: It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but God did allow this to happen. He is completely sovereign, so this did not surprise Him. This does not mean, however, that He caused it or was glad it happened. He is still good. Evil grieves Him, and it will not last forever. There will be a day that He eradicates all evil forever. David was anointed King of Israel approximately 30 years before he assumed the throne. Jesus is the true and better David. He clearly proved Himself to be King of kings through His death, burial, and resurrection. When we see events like yesterday’s, we simply have to believe that Jesus has not assumed His throne in fullness yet.
  • The mental health system failed him: Lanza probably was mentally ill. But mental healthcare, even at its best, cannot fix evil. Mental illness doesn’t cause someone to kill innocent people, evil does.
  • Prayer was taken out of the schools: God doesn’t have elementary age children killed (or even passively stop protecting them) to wake our nation up from a court decision in the 1960’s.

Comfort

Typically verses like Proverbs 11:21, “Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished” don’t offer a lot of comfort. Usually we like to focus more on God’s love than on His justice. Yes, I am glad that God loves me. There is no better news than that.┬áBut after days like yesterday, I’m also glad that God is angry at sin and evil. It’s good news that He is just and does not let evil go unpunished.

I obviously don’t have all the answers. But I do know that God is good, God is in control, we don’t always understand why things happen, evil will not last forever, and hope can only be found by putting your trust in Jesus. Even though we don’t have all the answers, He does.

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