Unimaginable; beyond belief; evil in its most twisted form. And not from an enemy, but from one among us, one who went through the same pathways as those whose lives he has destroyed.
(This is a post in addition to the entry in my Advent series touching on the same issue. The Advent post was written before I was aware of the horrific, unspeakable event at a Connecticut elementary school.)
Is it possible that God has sent the famine of His Word upon our land? Is it possible that we have so neglected justice and righteousness, the good things of beauty and truth so that His Word can no longer be heard? I’m not talking about an apocalypse; I’m talking about a land in which we can no longer dwell with one another because we have just what many have wanted: a place without the guidance and the security of the Word which makes the world intelligible.
We argue for gun rights. No one needs what was used today. Go ahead, tell me all the usual bromides according to which guns don’t kill, people do. Tell it to eighteen families who sent their kids out the door for a day at school, waiting for Christmas (oops, “Holiday” or “Winter”) break to begin in another few days. I cannot imagine that pain. I have lost children, not to violence, but to disease. I understand diseases/malformed hearts, etc. I don’t understand this.
But I have a few clues. One comes from the biblical passage alluded to above, Amos 8:4-12. The prophet delivers the message that there will be a famine of His Word; people will hunger for it, but it will not be heard. Why? Because they did not want it. It told them repeatedly that they would have to do honest business, care about the poor and under privileged ones, cease from cheating lying and stealing in all their respectable ways. They didn’t want that word, though they may have wanted the false security of practicing religious exercises of all sorts.
When the Word of God–His ways, His desires, His purposes for creating humankind in the first place, is withdrawn, we flounder. We don’t know who we are. How could we? The Word that created and defined us, gave us our boundaries and our hopes, our limits and our aspirations, our marvelous capacities and our wisdom to do with them what God’s Word made possible is missing. Not because He no longer speaks; but because we will not listen. We create “entertainment” that glorifies more and more violent fantasies, “music” that degrades rather than describes the beauty of love, objectifies all others. And we allow it all in the name of free speech, free enterprise, and free profit. And then we stand in mock dumbfoundedness when a generation acts out exactly the meaningless life we have bequeathed them.
It is an angry world in so many ways, with so many expressions; none are safe from the devastation brought about by that anger. None. Not even the children we send out the door to a big yellow bus carrying them to learn how to use their minds so they might someday make something good and beautiful. Except they might not know what those terms mean, because the Word was not wanted.
We are all well aware that the same tragedy that befell a community in Connecticut could happen anywhere. And we live in increasing fear as a result. Fear. Yet another residue of a world without the Word. In the days ahead news pundits and talking heads will take turns locating blame for what happened. There should have been better security, there should have been tighter gun controls, there should have been, someone should have done, ya-da-ya-da. We all need someone to blame. Maybe God, who we think could have stopped it in a magical wave of the hand. But we can be sure the real culprits will not be blamed, for it’s us. We didn’t want the life-giving Word. And we get what we wanted.