It’s not about guns.

My heart is broken over the 26 women and children who died during the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut this week, just as my heart broke with Columbine, with Paducah, Kentucky and with every school shooting since the one that happened in nearby Moses Lake, WA on Feb 2, 1996. But this one is especially heinous. Little kids this time. Unfathomable. More innocence lost.

As a youth worker for 27 years, I have followed these tragedies with more than just a passing interest. Teenagers have been my life, my entire adult life. Good kids, troubled kids, kids at risk; I’ve literally worked with thousands and thousands of them and helped raised two boys of my own with my wife.

People are asking tough questions right now. How did this happen? Do we need police and metal detectors at every school? How can we make sure this never happens again?

Here’s what I know:

  • It’s much more complex than simply locking all the guns away.  I’m not a gun owner, but I know this: violence is bound up in the heart.  Ever since Adam and Eve’s son Cain killed his brother Abel, violence has been a part of the human condition. If it wasn’t guns it’d be knives. If it wasn’t knives it’d be rocks. You probably didn’t hear about the 22 children that were stabbed at a school in China on the same day as the shooting in Connecticut. (CNN story). In fact, Wikipedia cites 21 dead and over 90 injured in China’s school stabbing phenomenon since 2010, and sadly most have been elementary school children. Here’s a quote from the last paragraph of the CNN article. “A number of measures were introduced at the time, including increased security at schools across the country and a regulation requiring people to register with their national ID cards when buying large knives.” Similar questions, similar issues, different weapon of choice.
  • Societal Factors: While parenting is the single biggest influence in the life of a child, you and I both likely know some seemingly great parents with a teenager that has gone sideways on them and conversely a fantastic teenager who came from a horrible upbringing. It’s a bit of a conundrum. It’s not always a straight line from cause to effect. But something is happening in our culture that hasn’t happened before, so we need to ask: what has changed in our society in the last 15-20 years that could be contributing to this? I’m sure the loss of family is playing a role; but it’s more than just divorce; lots of kids are spending time isolated from what family they do have at home. Parents are overworked trying to stay afloat, while the internet, television and texting all contribute to kid’s isolation. There’s also no doubt that violence in our culture has increased exponentially; with video game industry equivalent to movie revenue now in the U.S., both taking in around 10 Billion each 2011. But there are millions of responsible gamers and movie hounds who don’t act out their fantasies in the real world. Mental Illness is also at an all time high in our culture. “Physicians wrote over 400 million scripts for psychotropic drugs in 2009, four times more than two decades ago, and enough to provide a script for every man, woman and child in the United States and Canada.”  [i]

It’s possible that any one of these could be a contributing factor in what we’re seeing happening in our culture, however, it’s also possible that the answer is:

  • D) None of the Above. Sin never makes sense. As deeply as we search, we may never really know what was going on in the shooter’s mind to drive him to do what he did. That’s because normal people under normal circumstances would never come to that same conclusion. Thankfully. That’s why the behavior is aberrant. We may never understand the reasons why.

Unfortunately, many times I have had the privilege ministering to a family who has just lost their child. It’s usually been a teenager who has died in some tragic accident. The parent’s pain is excruciating to watch. I’ve not seen any other pain that even comes close to losing your child. As a Pastor people often ask: Where was God when this happened? Why didn’t he prevent this? Why did God take my child?

First, I don’t believe God took these children. John 10:10 Jesus says that “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life to the full.” God is the giver of life, Satan is the thief who steals it away.

Secondly, “Why did this happen?” This is a question that people can get stuck on forever. You will likely never get an answer to it other than that there is evil in the world and free will is God’s prime directive. Other people’s bad choices impact you and me. Why did this happen? is perhaps the wrong question.  At some point the question needs to morph into “What do I do now?”

Lastly, “Where was God when this happened?” I believe He is right there with us in our pain. He weeps when we weep. The Bible says in Psalm 23 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” This verse tells us several things. First, God is with us in our darkest hours, even in the valley of the shadow of death, and secondly, that He will walk us through the valley. And while we will never forget, thankfully, this valley of death does not extend forever.

Please join with me in praying that Jesus will bind up the broken-hearted. And that this scourge of evil will cease in our Nation.

~Mark Moder

[i] Selhub MD, Eva M.; Logan ND, Alan C. (2012-03-27). Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality (p. 35). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.


About markmoder

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