It angers and frightens me how blind we can be. How we consistently and constantly turn our backs on the weakest members of our society, and then blame them for the troubles we have.
Over the past day and a half, I have seen news articles calling Adam Lanza-the young man who took 28 lives at Sand Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, yesterday, after killing his mother in his own home-a monster. People are calling him evil, are blaming this ‘random, rare occurrence’ on a bad apple. Of course it’s not the fault of gun laws in the country. Of course it’s not the fault of the school system, or the health care system, or the obsession with fear and sensationalism in the media. None of those things affect anyone – this was just an evil man doing what evil men do – killing people!
Except that it’s not. Adam was a normal kid. He had learning difficulties, and quite possibly mental illness. And he grew up in a society in which if you are not NORMAL, you are ABNORMAL. He grew up in a society that medicates first, and asks questions second. He grew up in a society that values the Almighty Dollar over personal relationship and community. Do evil men exist? Yes. But they do not exist independent of the rest of the world. They exist as a part of a system which does not value human dignity, only human performance.
I worry about the USA, but I don’t have much ability to talk about it, as I don’t live there. It is obvious to me that there is something deeply broken in a culture that puts more money into its military than into its education or healthcare. Something broken in a culture that worships gun ownership as a basic human right. But I’m not alone with these thoughts – most people observing the US from outside would probably say something along the same lines.
I can talk about Canada, though. I have always valued the fact that Canada cares for the weaker members of society. Public health care, available to anyone, means more to our culture than we sometimes realize. Welfare, as well, saves many people from dying every year, as does our shelters and subsidized housing. Military has traditionally been a lower priority, and relegated to peacekeeping. We were the negotiators of the world. I am terrified that all this seems to be in the process of changing. Over the past couple years, we’ve cut funds to social housing, had to go to court to keep our proven-effective harm reduction policies, increased military spending, and advertised the military more heavily on TV than I can ever remember.
If we want to keep our children alive and healthy, we must put our money where our mouth is. We must put money into our schools and teachers, into our mental healthcare facilities and workers, and into our social safety nets. More than money though, we need to come together as a community. We need to care about our neighbours. We need to be engaged in a life-giving manner in our communities. Isolation kills.
There will always be tragedy, because we are a broken people. We glorify broken agendas, and we walk broken lives. Even we in the church mask our love of money, power, and prestige by telling ourselves that we build bigger buildings and purchase better sound equipment ‘for the glory of God’. That’s a lie. What brings glory to God is not empty songs and ‘worship’ – glory is brought to God when we lower ourselves to the level of the broken, the hurting, the poor, and the marginalized, and walk with them in their struggle. When tragedy does strike, as it did yesterday, our first act as Christians must be to comfort and to help in any way we can. Our second act must be to work to understand how the Christian community can be a positive and God-filled source to stop this from ever happening again. What if Christians were known to be THE people you go to if there is trouble? What if we recreated the idea of sanctuary, turning our churches from a once-a-week gathering into a always-open home for those who are hurting?
What if we worked to equip young Christian men and women with the skills needed to effect change in these hurting areas? What if we focused on raising up community builders, psychiatrists and psychologists, mental and physical health workers? What if we paid more attention to the needs of those outside of the church, rather focusing solely inward?
We live in the midst of a broken world, and we claim we have the answer. Why aren’t we showing it? We are the hands and feet of God. We have no right to ask why He isn’t showing up if we are not willing to show up ourselves.
PS, read this article – it may change the way you feel about the massacre: http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/