18 December 2012

meandering for meaning

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy there is no shortage of ideology, resolution, or blame.  Right away there were calls for a strict gun restriction, while others were making every attempt to decipher the cultural influences which may have led to these horrific events.  Evangelicals have entered into the fray as well, for everyone is doing their best to make sense of the world these days.  Tragedies have a way of making us ponder big questions.

One such question that ought to be considered: What if nobody is to blame?

Let me say at the outset that I believe in personal responsibility for one's own actions, and am not making any attempt to relieve Adam Lanza from the horrific crimes which he chose to commit.  But to think that we can understand the complexities of the world or the actions which come from free will is to be highly and arrogantly mistaken.  We can attach a moral blame to the shooter for what he has done, but we cannot rightly judge him for eternity - we simply do not understand enough about the world.

Scripture says that Satan entered Judas as he left the upper room and wen to betray Jesus.  There is a powerful evil in this world, and it is at all times at work to distort and destroy God's good creation.  Our headlines serve to confirm that the devil still enters people to this day.  Whether or not the Christian wants to advocate for more restricted access to firearms is for another debate, but to think that even the removal of all guns will eradicate human violence is a grave mistake.  Before there were firearms, there were knives, swords, clubs, rocks and even the brutal force of human hands.  We can drown others, poison them, throw them under buses, or even give enough emotional stress to end another's life.  The root problem is, of course, the evil that is among us ... and within us.

It is imperative that we be mindful of our own corrupted nature and bent towards sinning.  The Bible says nothing about Satan entering Cain, but gives his story as the first in a rapid decline of the human condition as it moved east of Eden.  The only way forward is to remedy the very nature of ourselves and our world.  And we must also remember that there are some events which defy goodness, logic and God.  In other words, there is such a thing as senseless violence and tragedy.  Sometimes our world gives us realities which we cannot comprehend, and which do not allow for any simple solution.

This leaves us as a culture which is meandering for meaning, though rarely finding any.  Since we have been told that public education and Christian morality have nothing to do with each other, and that any talk about faith in the public square is foolishness, we try to discover the reasons for violence and tragedy without an appeal to the will of Almighty God.  And thus we place blame on inanimate objects, like firearms or medication.  Or perhaps we place blame on an intangible aspect of our collective selves, like society or culture.  Maybe we look towards our own entertainment and artistic subculture for someone to blame for all of this.  The truth is that we are living the human condition and can only discover the stuff which will fill our hearts when we look heavenward.

When we see beyond ourselves and our pseudo-answers which pander to public opinion, we open our eyes to see the loving creator who seeks to reveal himself and share his goodness in every moment of this world's existence.  And we will see the contrasting world which promotes its own power and significance, and which exhibits none of the radiant holiness of him who sits on the throne.  We will see that, contrary to his will for the world, there are some men and women who have the devil inside of them (just as those who were released from such condition by Jesus himself) and commit senseless acts of hatred and evil.  We will still puzzle that there are some men who simply want to watch the world burn, but we will begin to see that this love can overcome all of this incomprehensibly complex mess.

The church can join in the fray of seeking for solutions, or we can choose to shine the light of the gospel into the darkness which overshadows our nation in this season.  That we are days away from Christmas is a powerful reminder of the light which came, ever so humbly, into a darkened world for the purposes of overcoming it and transforming it into the creation it was intended to be all along.  This is the charge for all believers in the face of tragedy: point towards the light of the world.

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