Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut

It was a bright, clear day in Bath Township, Michigan. The students at Bath Consolidated Elementary school were counting down the days until summer vacation. Just outside of town, Andrew Kehoe began his day by bashing in his wife’s head with a shovel. He placed her dead body in a wheel barrow and rolled her into the barn out back. He then set the barn on fire. Just before the fire trucks arrived, he remotely detonated a bomb that he had spent the better part of six months assembling at Bath Consolidated. As the stunned rescue squads and fire crews began arriving at the school, Kehoe drove his car into the midst of them and set off his car bomb with a single shot from a Remington rifle he had purchased two days prior. When all the dust had settled, there would be 38 school children dead, 6 adults dead, and an additional 58 injured. News organizations didn’t ask questions about what social pathology was to blame for this horrific crime. No one thought to blame the decaying culture, violent movies, the insidious influence of video games, or lax gun laws. In fact, the nation wasn’t moved very much at all to lobby their elected officials for remedies. There were no live reports from the scene, no 24/7 blanket coverage, no interviews with grieving parents. No one suggested that the killer had a mental illness, or was the victim of a bad economy, or lacked education or opportunity. That’s because the killer was 55 years old and the President of the Bath Township school board, and this unimaginable horror took place on May 18, 1927.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said it best 3000 years ago, “…there is nothing new under the sun.”

I watched the terrible story from Newtown, Connecticut unfold yesterday for much of the afternoon. I switched back and forth between CNN and Fox. I became sick to my stomach. I felt the need to drive over to check on Pam at her school. Even though as an American, this sort of thing has become all too routine, this one felt different. Maybe it was the fact that the victims this time were children. They never had a chance. The longer I watched, the more despair I felt. By the time the President made his brief statement, I noticed that my hands were shaking. I watched him catch himself, looking rattled and anguished. He was processing this not as the President, but as a father, and I felt for him.

The first reaction of some of my friends on Facebook was a call for political action of some sort, tougher gun laws, or banning guns all together. Part of me sympathizes with them. Much was made of the fact that half way across the world in China a 38 year old man had knifed 22 kids at a school, the point being that even in a country where gun ownership is punishable by death, crazy people still find ways to do crazy things. But, 22 knife victims, all of whom survived, sounded a lot batter to me yesterday than 20 dead 7 year olds.

 

I don’t own a gun. I have never fired a handgun. When I was a teenager I hunted a little with rifles and shotguns, but as an adult I have never had the desire or felt the need to own a gun. I’m not a zealot on the subject of the second amendment one way or the other. But when I hear people say that these types of crimes wouldn’t happen if we outlawed gun ownership, I have my doubts. There are currently over 270 million firearms legally owned and registered by U.S. citizens. My question is, how do you gun control advocates suggest that we confiscate these guns from their legal owners? The guns used in Newtown yesterday were all legally purchased, with background checks etc. The last time our government tried to criminalize a formerly legal and widely accepted activity cold turkey was Prohibition, and history tells the sorry tale of how that turned out.

I heard a commentator suggest that maybe we have gotten to the place where we can’t handle our freedoms any longer, so they should be handled for us. Watching the events of yesterday gives me great sympathy for that argument….until I think it through to it’s logical conclusion. The only thing that frightens me more than living in a country with 270 million privately owned firearms in circulation, is the thought of living in a country where only my government and criminals have access to guns. After all, every totalitarian government in history has had one thing in common,… an unarmed population.

Still, I think of the horror in the eyes of those precious children as a twenty year old man stands in front of them firing a Glock point blank, and something inside me dies, and a place in my broken heart wants to destroy every gun ever made.

We live in a Therapeutic Age. We have bought in to the conceit that no human pathology exists that cannot be mollified by the right combination of medication, psychoanalysis and government program. But history tells me that there lies within the human heart the awful capacity for evil. We are children of the fall, in desperate need of redemption. There exists no pill that can cure us of our inclination towards sin and rebellion.

 

One of my friends on Facebook observed that while offers of prayers were all well and good, they served only to make the one offering the prayer feel better, but did little real good. His preferred remedy was political action. He is young. I will allow him his naiveté. But there is nothing in this universe that will do less good and serve only to make us feel better than yet another law. The great human disease can’t be cured by the stroke of a politicians’ pen. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves with his Emancipation Proclamation, but our hearts are still enslaved by racism. Thousands of statutes live in dusty books outlawing every conceivable human cruelty, yet that cruelty marches on in defiance. The human race is in open rebellion against our Creator. When I am exposed to the fruits of that rebellion, the only thing that makes any sense to me is the grace of Jesus Christ.