This weekend has, for my family, been a case study in the dichotomous nature of life. For my family personally, it was a joyous weekend. On Friday, I took two of my boys into town for the afternoon. We got haircuts and then I took them to do their Secret Santa shopping for Christmas (in our family, with eight children, it can quickly get very expensive for the kids to try to buy each of their siblings a gift, so we put their names in a hat and then they blindly pick out the name for whom they will be a “Secret Santa”). Later that evening, back at home, we were joined for dinner by four young missionaries who are far from home this Christmas. With my own oldest son, Elijah, on a mission in Mexico, they’ve become a sort of proxy for him until he returns.
Saturday was even more special, as we gathered with family and friends for the baptism of my daughter Mahalie. For Christians, few events in life are more meaningful or precious as baptism, as we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and promise to live like Him, knowing we’ll often fall short, even as we try each day to do better. Seeing my sweet little daughter, dressed in all white, representing purity and innocence, brought tears to my eyes. These milestones are, of course, bittersweet, since they remind us of how quickly time flies, and one day we wake up and our little babies have grown up and are living their own lives, going to college or on missions, or getting married and starting families of their own.
Maybe that is why the news of the school shootings in Connecticut came like a hammer blow to my heart. I was in the car with my two boys, laughing and joking and enjoying the day, when I flipped on the radio to listen to music. Instead, I heard the news when I turned up the volume. As I listened, I just shook my head in sad resignation. It seems we hear of one tragedy or another on a regular basis now. Whether these tragedies occur more frequently, or if we just hear about them more frequently in the era of the 24/7 news cycle, Facebook, and Twitter, I can’t say. Regardless, it leaves a hollow feeling in your soul to hear of such things.
With my boys in the car I listened long enough to get the basic details, and then I put in a CD, not wanting them to hear too much of this tragedy, and not wanting to immerse myself in it while I was with them. It was not until later that night that I heard more of the details unfolding, the most crushing of which was the realization that almost all of those killed, nearly two dozen of them, were children between five and ten years old. Hearing that, and after having spent a wonderful time with my own young children that day, I just wanted to weep.
Living in the politically and ideologically rancorous nation we do, I knew immediately that this would become a political tool. Let no crisis go to waste…isn’t that what Obama’s former Chief of Staff said? Sure enough, within a few hours, Obama was at the podium lamenting the shootings, as we all were, and calling for more “meaningful reform” on gun control (just a guess…but I’m guessing that school was already in a “gun-free” zone, for all the good that did). Of course…gun control…that should fix the problem. All we have to do is limit access to guns, or ban them outright, and these tragedies will go away, right? After all, we’ve banned cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and meth, and we all know that it is virtually impossible for anyone to lay their hands on those drugs. (Forgive me…my assistant just sent word to me that illegal narcotics are actually widespread in our country, despite the bans on them).
However, if we will ban guns for everyone but the military and police, then we should also ban baseball bats for all except professional baseball players. Doing so would have saved the lives of Greg McClellan of South Carolina, and Ryan Smith of Wisconsin, both of whom were beaten to death with baseball bats within the last month. We also need to ban shovels, which would have saved the lives of Jose Medrano of Texas, and David Krupski of Maryland, both of whom were beaten to death with shovels in the last few months. Now, we can’t ban water outright since it is essential to sustaining human life, but we should at least regulate access to it. Admittedly, this will be difficult, but it must be done if there is even a small chance that the lives of innocents like the three children of Leshanda Armstrong, who died when she drove their minivan into the Hudson River, drowning herself and them. Then again, we may have to ban bathtubs as well, which would have saved the lives of the five children of Andrea Yates, whom she drowned in their bathtub.
Or we can try to think rationally. We can acknowledge that murder has been around far longer than guns, dating back to Cain killing Abel in the fields, and that banning guns will not save lives. If there is murder in the heart of man it will come to pass, whether by guns, knives, baseball bats, poison, cars, or any of the other endless possibilities. If we attempt to ban anything that can be used as a weapon of malice, then the list will be extensive (including jump ropes, spatulas, toilet tank lids, microwaves, bowling balls, and even a chess board, all of which have been used to murder).
As for myself, though it saddens me, these seemingly more frequent tragedies do not surprise me. We live in a society that in many ways embraces the culture of violence, death, and retribution. We celebrate “gangstas” and thuggery. We live in a society which has legalized the slaughter of tens of millions of the most innocent of all human life, unborn children. Not only did we legalize infanticide, but many in our ranks proudly march in parades to celebrate and defend the practice. We live in a society in which we can buy video games with graphics so detailed as to look startling realistic. Billions of dollars of these games are sold across the country, and our children can use these game controllers to engage in a virtual world which allows them to kill enemy soldiers, or demons and zombies. Some of these games let players live a virtual “thug” life, wherein they can sell guns and drugs, and even commit virtual rape on screen. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on movies produced by liberal Hollywood (who are often the loudest voices calling for gun control) which glorify violence in graphic detail.
Those that lament and fight against such are often derided as prudes and Pollyannas, and ridiculed for claiming that these things are to blame for the increasing violence we see in our society. Now, I am no expert in human psychology, and I don’t think that video games and movies alone, no matter how violent, lead to such killings. But there is no question that they desensitize us to such violence and depravity. It opens our hearts and minds to normalizing the occurrence of such evils. And for someone of the edge of mental stability, might that not be a factor? I don’t know for sure. On the other hand, if someone told me that they could go swimming in the dank waters of a fetid sewer, crawling with all sorts of vile substances, and come out squeaky clean, I’d say they were a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
We also need to understand that there are such things as good and evil, and they’ve long struggled against each other. We need to understand that sometimes evil lurks in the heart of man, not because he got spanked as a child, or didn’t get hugged enough, or got teased as a kid, but because he has embraced that inner darkness. When that happens, banning the tools that can be used for good or ill does not eliminate the evil, it just makes the innocent defenseless. The news reports say that Dawn Hochsprung, the principle at Sandy Hook Elementary, was killed while heroically lunging at the shooter in an attempt to stop him. One might be forgiven for wondering how many children’s lives could have been saved if she’d had a concealed handgun that could have been used to kill this psychopath. Unfortunately, as we bury these innocent children, we can only speculate.