— It’s not about gods or guns, it’s about us. Part 1 —
The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there.
– St Macarius of Egypt
The atrocious mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School has left our country in shock. How could a young man kill twenty kindergartners and several school staffers? Our nation has been asking tough questions: how could this happen? If God is good, why did he allow this? How are crazy people allowed to own guns?
Skipping healing for blame
Fingers are being pointed and blame is being assigned before the grieving process is even over. People’s minds are reeling with questions, and rather than attempting to grieve, heal, and then ask questions, we are skipping straight to the last step: we want a villain. We feel the need to direct our anger toward something, be it God, guns, or whatever else.
But in our frenzy of finger pointing, I believe we are losing our own hearts. I understand our minds naturally move toward looking for a reason behind everything, but I really think we need to force ourselves to hit the pause button and just grieve. It is for that reason that my last post did not attempt to answer questions: it simply focused on our present moment.
We cannot hope to heal and become better as a people and a nation if we are not taking the time to properly grieve.
About the media
Our country’s opinions are created and swayed by the wealthy, powerful media machines. They toy with us, find what angers us, and they profit off of sensationalism. They are for-profit entertainment companies under the guise of providing us news.
They turn murderers into celebrities and quite possibly encourage mentally unstable people to try to outdo the last psycho who went on a killing spree. These unstable individuals know that if they do something horrible, they will die in fame and their name will live on in infamy.
Even worse, we enable this by watching the media’s broadcasts and visiting their websites. We cling to every update they post, while the selected news stories they produce are picked with a particular broad purpose. My advice: turn off the TV and only access the news on occasion.
Neither God, nor angel, nor demon entered into the school to murder those children. It was a human. Some people wonder though: how could a loving, all-powerful God not stop him? Anyone of us, if we had the power to stop that murderer, would have done so.
To that I cannot give an answer that is easy to swallow. It boils down to two inseparable things: free will and love, which I will address briefly.
God is love, and love cannot exist outside of free will. Love does not control or coerce. Love allows freedom and risk. By creating us in His image, He has given us the power to love Him more than any other creature and, conversely, to plunge deeper into evil than any other creature. Mankind has been shedding blood since the beginning of our days, and I believe God’s heart has been grieving ever since.
More on free will and love
At one point in Genesis, the Bible mentions that God regretted creating mankind, largely due to our violence. Free will cannot exist if God intervened every time somebody attempted to do something evil or violent. There’s a judgmental, sinful part of me that wishes God would strike people dead before they had a chance to do something like this, but He doesn’t.
He does not intervene because then we would no longer possess free will. If we do not possess free will, than we cannot love fully. Because of our being made in God’s image and possessing free will, we have the greatest capacities toward good and evil.
WHY IT’S ABOUT US:
I am the chief of sinners
In the Orthodox Church, every week we confess before communion: I am the chief of sinners. That means, if I am to be sincere, that I must believe that I am an even worse sinner than the young man who committed the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School. While the prideful part of me wrestles with that, something in me knows it is a true statement.
That young man did not receive a revelation of God’s love like I have or else he would not have committed that crime. God has been working on transforming me and changing me for years, yet I still deliberately and willfully sin against Him on a daily basis. I have no excuse. I know better. I am not mentally ill. I can accept no conclusion but that I am the chief of sinners.
In that humility, I must acknowledge that in my worst of times I am perpetuating a culture that allows something like this to happen. I am partially at fault for what happened. And I believe that if we would all take the time to analyze and evaluate ourselves, we would find that it was our entire nation that sinned on December 14, 2012.
How many people have stopped me and asked me for help? How many people have I ignored because I’m busy with life? How many people have I betrayed or wounded in my life? I am the chief of sinners.
Our pointing fingers condemn us
In the end, we must realize the old saying is true: when we point our finger at someone, we have three fingers pointing back at us. The shootings that have happened over the past several years must show us that we have made mistakes as a society and individuals. We must take personal responsibility for what happens around us.
There is hope. Once we have realized our mistakes and have repented, we have the freedom to make positive differences. Instead of holding to our guns or screaming for more gun control, we can touch the lives of those around us, creating a society in which love prevails and violence is rare. We can nurture a culture in which people who need help can turn to their neighbor and not be ignored because we’re too busy.
A call to action
It’s not about gods or guns or laws. It’s about us. This is the hardest course of action by far. It requires we completely change our lives. It requires us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It doesn’t ask for a few laws to be passed or to have some money thrown to mental healthcare (though those things aren’t necessarily bad), it does ask that we attempt to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us on a daily basis.
Some people may think that I am living in a fantasy land if I think love can change our entire society, but I believe God’s love is really that powerful. Until the people who believe in Him are willing to throw all of their effort into loving, I don’t think we’ll see the change. As long as we cling to other methods like legislative action or finger-pointing, we will never be free of this violence. So, not only as a Christian, but as a fellow human being, I urge us all to live out love and to never be too busy for our neighbors.
As the opening quote by St. Macarius explains, while our hearts are capable of the worst evils, we are also capable of the greatest acts of love. So let that love prevail in your heart!