It’s Christmas Day and the usually festive and joyous occasion is overshadowed for many Americans by a sense of sadness and grief because of the tragedy that claimed the lives of the unsuspecting victims – especially the innocent children. Where Christmas Day celebrations should be in full swing, there is instead mourning and agonizing questions without answers. Eventually the grief will fade and yet the questions will remain. How do we explain the unspeakable evil that would take the lives of innocent children with such disregard for the sanctity of life? How can we prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again? How can God allow this kind of senseless violence in a world He loves and cares for? What will His response be to this needless pain and suffering?
It is Christmas Day 1913, the day following the Italian Hall Massacre in which an unknown assailant yelled, “Fire!” in the midst of over 500 blue collar mining families celebrating at a Christmas Eve party. It is thought that the murderer was in league with the mining company management against the striking mine workers and the action was in retribution for the lengthy ongoing strike. The killer was never identified and therefore the accusation never substantiated. Nevertheless fourteen men and women were killed in the chaos that followed the fake alarm as a stampede developed down the stairs from the second story hall and to an exit that could not handle the crush of people. Most agonizingly, fifty-nine children were also killed by the crush of the fear-stricken crowd. This tragic event was memorialized (and dramatized) in a Woody Guthrie ballad, “1913 Massacre.” The questions still remain ninety-nine years later.
This year, we are faced with the exact same questions in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. The tools of violence were handguns and an assault rifle instead of mere words, but the effect was the same. Innocent blood was shed as we are left to ask the same questions. How do we explain the unspeakable evil that would take the lives of innocents with such seeming disregard for the sanctity of life? How can we prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again? How can God allow this kind of senseless violence in a world He loves and cares for? What will His response be to this needless pain and suffering?
Over the next few months, just as with the 1913 tragedy, the debate will unfold in the public square as it should. Gun control advocates will square off against the Second Amendment champions and both sides will make persuasive arguments that opposite actions will prevent another violent occurrence. Gun control advocates will passionately lobby for restriction on assault weapons and high capacity magazines and Second Amendment supporters will just as passionately argue that armed security guards and appropriately trained and licensed private citizens with concealed weapons will curb the violence. They are both sadly mistaken. Whether by gun, knife, fists or even words, violence is inevitable in this broken world in which we live. It is by human choice that the world is broken and not by God’s choice. He allows pain and suffering in the world (for now) out of respect for the human right of free will. When we each individually and consistently choose right over wrong and peace over violence in any form, only then will we have the right to question God. And yet, it is understandable that we would wonder what His response will be to this needless pain and suffering.
God has already responded to the world’s pain and suffering whether it was King Herod’s violence against innocent children in ancient Judea, the 1913 Italian Hall killer, Adolf Hitler in 1935-1945 or Adam Lanza’s violence against innocent children two weeks ago. He responded by sending a child into the world to save the world from violence and sin. It is not the kind of response lobbyists, politicians and power brokers would understand or champion. Human reasoning cannot comprehend the wisdom of God entering the world in the form of a helpless baby born to a poor blue collar family in a backwater village in the middle-east. That the same child would later submit to a criminal’s death on a cross rather than yield to the pressure to ascend to the Judean throne in a violent rebellion against the oppressive Roman Empire and through that death conquer the ultimate oppressor is even harder to fathom. And yet that is precisely how God has chosen to respond to evil – through the gentleness, peace, joy and love of a child born in a stable.
It’s right that we should mourn the tragedy of Newtown. It’s right that we should debate the wisdom of allowing criminals, trained and licensed citizens and law enforcement officials the same virtually unrestricted access to high-powered weapons. It’s right that we should question the appropriateness of Santa Claus helpers posing with AR-15s and customers in a Texas gun club. It’s right that we should stand back and wonder at the irony of perhaps the largest single nation-wide gun sale event in U.S. history one week after the Newtown massacre and one week before Christmas. It’s right that we should question the effectiveness of gun control legislation with so much evidence that they are ineffective at curbing crime and violence. It may even be time for some to wonder if the Mayans really did have it right! However, it’s also right for us to remember that good will always defeat evil not through power, legislation, deadly force or executive order. Good defeats evil with the one force that evil cannot comprehend or even engage. Good defeats evil with love – the love of a perfect child savior.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Merry Christmas from the Intersection!
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