Thursday, December 27, 2012

Are We Ignoring the Obvious?

Shootings take the lives of 20 young children and six adults in a Connecticut elementary school. Similar senseless, horrific events claim many other lives at high schools, colleges, entertainment and retail centers, and businesses across the country. Each tragedy prompts us to ask, “Why?” The question seems to defy answers.

We struggle to determine what can be done to curb such shocking outbursts of anger and violence. Debates about gun control intensify. Curiously, the morning of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings, a man went to an elementary school in China and slashed 22 children and one adult with a knife. Should knife control be added to the debate?

“How could a good, loving God allow something like this to happen?” some people ask. It seems strange that when something terrible occurs, people want to know why God didn’t intervene, but when things are going well, they hold Him at arm’s length as if to say, “Mind Your own business.”

At the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. earlier this year, the gunman’s weapon jammed or more people might have been killed. At Newtown, police said the gunman had additional weapons and ammunition, but took his own life. Perhaps God did intervene?

I’m not a gun person, and have no idea why anyone other than military and law enforcement personnel needs semiautomatic or assault weapons. Perhaps bans on those would be warranted.

But I doubt more stringent gun laws will end growing mayhem in the United States and around the world. Those intent on performing violent acts, especially people with imbalanced mental states, will find ways to obtain what they need. If not guns, they’ll opt for knives, machetes, sharpened pencils if necessary.

The problem is far deeper than available weaponry. Look at our entertainment industry. It glorifies killing in the movies, TV, and computer and video games. Just the other day, at the close of one of my favorite crime shows, one of the detectives killed a criminal, and moments later he and his partner walked away, sharing a joke. As if taking the life of a human being – even a bad one – was of no greater consequence than flicking lint off their slacks.

Video games turn killing into contests. The more you kill, the higher you score. “But it’s only make-believe,” game designers and movie producers say. “It’s just fantasy.” Perhaps, but these aren’t Pac-Man or Donkey Kong graphics – they’re designed to look as real as possible. And with mentally unstable individuals that easily mix reality and fantasy, are we surprised when they move “fun” from the world of fantasy and into the real world?

Daily our minds are bombarded with images and messages of murder and mayhem. No wonder some are adversely affected. As the Bible states, For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). Or to borrow the old computer phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

But I believe the greatest factor is that for decades society has systematically and aggressively sought to eradicate God – and thoughts of Him – from our collective psyche. We’ve made the Ten Commandments (including “you shall not kill”) abhorrent. Symbols of faith are treated as offensive. Anyone expressing spiritual beliefs is conveniently discredited as “religious.”

When I was a boy in school, every day started with the Lord’s Prayer and reading a passage from the Bible (usually the Old Testament, perhaps in deference to Jewish students), along with the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t fret a single day that some gunman might enter the school and cause us harm.

Today, these practices are either prohibited in public schools or opposed. We’ve “evolved.” We’re “enlightened.” Really? Seriously?

I don’t believe we “took God out of the schools.” As they say, wherever there are tests and exams, He will always be summoned. And God is not subject to human legislation. But by attempting to remove the divine from our daily consciousness, whether in school, business, or even the playing fields, we’ve discarded our moral compass, the foundation for making good and informed decisions.

Proverbs 29:18 states, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild” (New Living Translation). Another version puts it this way: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” Then the verse ends, “…but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

“Running wild.” “Casting off restraint.” Observing the landscape of 21st century society, don’t these descriptions sound appropriate?

When are we going to acknowledge the obvious – that there is evil in the world, and God is the only solution to this growing evil presence?

On Dec. 14, a troubled, perhaps deranged young man terminated the lives of 20 children and seven adults (including his mother) in Newtown, Conn. The chapter from Proverbs coinciding with that date included these words: “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).

In refusing to rightly fear God, are we depriving our children of refuge?

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