Since Friday, when the news began to break of a shooting at an elementary school here in Connecticut, I have been struggling to think about how to even articulate a response to this tragedy.
On the one hand, this entire state feels weighed down with unbelievable grief at the tragedy that has happened in our backyard. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel that a tragedy like this should never have happened, that there are things we as a society could and should do that would prevent this pain from being felt again.
I have wanted to write about both of these feelings a great deal in the past few days, but I haven’t been able to find words of my own, so I have largely resorted to absorbing and sharing the words of others.
In the course of this, I have had many conversations with other Christians and have been astounded by the number of times that I have encountered two responses to this tragedy which utterly belittle both the grief that is felt by those it affects and the ability of our society to learn from it.
The first response is to belittle this tragedy itself by making reference to what is, in the minds of those writing, a bigger tragedy.
I have seen numerous memes/posters/images and status updates online that say something to the effect of “I’m sorry that 20 kids got killed the other day, but xxxxxxxx number of kids get killed every day by abortion and no one seems to mind.”
However large of a tragedy the epidemic of abortion may be in this country, the effect of this statement is to say to someone who is grieving that their grief doesn’t matter. That you don’t care about their loss, their child being ripped away from them in such a violent manner.
To be quite frank, reading these words makes me disgusted and ashamed to claim the same faith as those who utter them.
If we are to be those who show the light and the love of God to a fallen and broken world, how can we tell those who are grieving such an unbelievable grief that their loss doesn’t matter, or at least doesn’t matter as much as some other loss? Why are we even engaging in the ranking of evils? How can we possibly justify being so callous when people need us to offer them hope?
The second response I have seen from many of my Christian friends is to minimize anything that can be learned from this tragedy or done to prevent future tragedies like it by arguing that “human sin” makes such things inevitable.
The logic seems to be that because people are sinful they will always engage in despicable and horrible acts. We can’t fix that problem apart from the grace of God, so rather than try to enact preventive measures, we need to turn to God as a nation and repent.
While I believe very much that humans are broken and damaged by sin, that we have done and will continue to do terrible things to one another because we are sinful beings, and that the grace of God is needed by all of us as individuals and collectively as a nation, I don’t think that this means we are unable to learn or to do anything in response to tragedies such as this one.
I refuse to accept the logic that because we can’t solve everything we should give up on trying to solve anything.
And I refuse to accept the double standard that says that we should push hard for laws to prevent or restrict access to abortion because it is a sinful plague on our nation, but we shouldn’t make any moves on preventing violence against children because people are sinful and will always do sinful things.
As Christians, we have to take seriously the idea that God has called us to shed light in a dark world, to bring hope to those who need it most, to show love to those who feel lost and alone. In times of tragedy like this one, that means grieving with those who grieve and showing wisdom as our society attempts to make sense of the madness it has just experienced. If we cannot do that, we have failed in our calling.
- First Day Back to Sandy Hook Elementary and Grieving (coachirisblogs.com)
- We grieve for CT – words of caring for the families of Newtown, CT – Articles (wilmingtonfavs.com)
- Our President And America Grieves With Newtown, Connecticut. (theobamacrat.com)