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Words failed me when I first heard about the shooting in Newtown last week. Even now, a few days later, it’s hard to know what to say.
Sadly, for the last several decades, the numbers of mass shootings in America have escalated. And we ought to note that this is not just an American phenomenon. Such tragedies happen in other countries, and in some tragic places these incidents have become a daily occurrence.
Every time this happens, the same questions are raised: What about modern-day America provokes such random violence? Is it the decline of traditional morals? The depiction of violence in entertainment? Is it the availability of lethal firepower?
In an exhaustive study of mass murders taking place in the 20th century, Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota State Department of Corrections, said the availability of guns was not a factor. Duwe found that the prevalence of mass murders tends to mirror that of homicide. The increase in mass killings during the 1960s was accompanied by a doubling in the overall murder rate after the relatively peaceful 1940s and ’50s. It ought to be clear that guns by themselves aren’t the problem.
It is people who are mentally unwell and angry, people overcome with evil that kill. Shooters tend to blame society for their failures, sometimes singling out members of particular ethnic or socio-economic group.
Others point to a lack of adequate mental health care, as well as a glorification of violence. Personally, I would add to this list the devaluation of life. When we depict the universe as purposeless, populated by people whose lives have no real meaning except to feel good, it can trigger a terrible reaction in people who are mentally ill. Ultimately, it is impossible to attribute the rise in mass shootings to any single cause other than just plain evil.
In moments like this, we need to have an eternal perspective, not another political debate. What can we say that will bring some comfort for those who have lost loved ones in this tragic event?
Perhaps we can find comfort in reminding ourselves that this life on earth is not all there is. A life can be temporarily taken away, but let’s remember Jesus’ promise of an afterlife, a time when all earthly wrongs are made right and God wipes away all tears. I am reminded of Jesus words: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.