Like the rest of the country, I’m attempting to obtain some sense of normalcy since the Newtown shooting. When Adam Lanza barged into an elementary school and killed 26 unsuspecting children and adults, the country is taken to a rightful standstill. The only person not engaged in the conversation in America is the one we would like to receive answers from – Adam Lanza.
In the ensuing moments, our minds linger elsewhere. For some of us, we thought of our children. For some of us, we thought of policy changes. For all of us, we naturally went to what what have fixed this situation.
Well, what could have stopped the Newtown Massacre?
Gun control? Many automatically went to a political defensive stance. The gun control debate will rise to an escalated level like never before. America is complex. We are currently living in a time when many are calling for strict stances on gun control all the while that the highest-watched show on cable right now is Duck Dynasty (my personal favorite show right now because it is basically the only one devoid of moral filth). It features a group of God-fearing men using every opportunity they can to get into the woods to use weapons to kill their next meal and groups like PETA would love to have them put in jail. I mention this to remind the reader: we live in a very Divided States of America. And we are not getting closer to each other’s ideals. So, everyone feels like they have something to lose in this fight? PETA vs. NRA. Pacifists vs. Hunters. It’s going to get nasty. No God-fearing hunter rejoiced in what happened on Friday, but they will fight to maintain their rights. Had better gun control laws been in place, would Adam Lanza found a way to pull off this massacre? We don’t know. And so we passionately argue in “what-ifs.”
Media regulations? This introvert recluse of a young man was an expert shot. It wasn’t because he hunted or joined the ROTC. He stayed in his room and played video games for much of his life. Studies tell us that young men in the army are better natural shots than what they were 20 years ago because of the amount of hours spent in front of a screen playing out a virtual war. In the one and only time this young man would ever be in a combative stance, he was good. He was an effective marksman. Had he been exposed to too much blood and gore? Did the movies he watch raise his thirst for violence? Did the websites he frequented spur on his quest for blood? He was of enough right mind to destroy his hard drive before he traveled to the school. Could a ban on certain type of media stopped this situation? Maybe. But we live in a time that he would have found it if he wanted it.
Mental health precautions? In all of the recent discussions about these mass murders, you always hear the same thing from people who knew the killer: “I was shocked. I never thought he would have been capable of this.” And in each situation, the more you learn about this person, you find out warning signs along the way. The scary thing is that the warning signs given are warning signs that citizens all around us exhibit. Some in this country would feel safer if there was a “Guantanamo Bay” for those showing warning signs. Think about it though: how many people would you know in your town that exhibit scary, awkward, creepy tendencies? The fact of the matter is all of our judgment is subjective and honestly, we couldn’t find a place to house the amount of people that creep others out.
Family fix? Brother hasn’t spoken to him. Father is not in the home. Mother has automatic weapons. What was going on in this home? Was enough done? Could more have been tried? Right now, we honestly don’t know.
School security? One of my first prayers was this: “God, please don’t have let someone in the front office goof up and their mishap allowed this massacre.” I was thankful to know it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The doors were locked, and so he broke through the windows. So now every school in America is reviewing their safety plans, which by necessity were thought through and had many precautions taken, and yet they proved not to be enough in this situation. Locked doors and check-in systems couldn’t stop this intruder. So, where does this go? How far do we have to barricade the fortress to keep our children safe?
Prayer in school? Many have said this happened because God was pushed out of schools. While I absolutely loathe the way that the Bible and God are being pushed out of the public square, if you believe that God couldn’t have stopped this situation because the American government wouldn’t allow people to pray to him, your perception of that god is not one powerful enough to be prayed to in the first place. The God I serve does not need a governmental amendment to be back on the move. He was there the entire time. He has not and will not leave these grieving families’ sides. This happened because a sinful person decided to try to be God himself.
The real problem? It’s that we aren’t dealing with the matter of the heart. We want a policy to fix as a whole what can only be repaired at the individual heart level. Shame on us who tried to use this tragedy to push our specific agenda. Can and should things get better to make these situations less likely? Absolutely. But, when we deal with people, we never know how the sinfulness of one man’s heart can hurt others. No policy can remedy that. And unfortunately, Adam Lanza is not unique. He is what happens when someone continues to go down a path to rebel against any type of authority setup. A trap that any and every person can fall into. The real problem is that Adam Lanza has a sin problem. The person that called and threatened the Catholic Church in Newtown the following Sunday has a sin problem. And so do I.
God, as one who struggles with sin, forgive me for the times when I don’t listen to Your Word and I try to determine my own reality. Forgive me for the times when I think if policies would shift perfectly my way, all would be right again in the world. And God, help me be an instrument to bring hope and direction to the Adam Lanza’s of the world and comfort to their unfortunate victims. And, Jesus, please come quickly.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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