JANUARY 2013 - RESPONSE TO SENATOR BLUMENTHAL ON NEWTOWN TRAGEDY

Please read Senator Blumenthal's email first.

 As many know, a terrible tragedy happened in Newtown, CT in December, 2012 when a gunman broke into an elementary school and killed 20 first-graders and six adults.  Many have been trying to make some sense of it and trying to get some understanding about those horrific events.  Senator Richard Blumenthal sent a message to the church on December 27, 2012.  The following is my response I sent to him.  May it give some needed perspective. 

Senator Blumenthal;

Thank you for sending your message.

I agree that sometimes something happens so horrific that it changes the discussion. I believe those events change the discussion not just politically, but more importantly, morally and spiritually. It is indisputable that the massacre in Newtown was not the fault of a gun, or guns. It was not the fault of a particular type of gun. Guns are inanimate and as such cannot be at fault.

But there is fault. It rests with the young man who decided to be an agent of evil. Evil is all around us. We see the evidence of it everyday. This tragedy is not the fault of society either. It is the fault of one young man making a decision to perpetrate evil and spread its horror. He alone is responsible for his terror.

Unfortunately, there are many today who do not recognize the presence of evil as active and working in the world. Is it possible they don't accept that as what is behind a tragedy like Newtown because that would mean that the antithesis of evil must also be accepted? God and his goodness and righteousness?  Perhaps, perhaps. But if any politician or government bureaucrat wants to sincerely make a difference in preventing events like what recently happened, then they must address the fact that evil is the reason for it. If they do not, there is no hope of "fixing" or "stopping" anything.

We could even go to the extreme and outlaw guns altogether and there would still be guns available for someone who is so deviously evil as the Newtown shooter, though such an extreme is unconstitutional. So, what is the answer? There probably isn't one that can stop such events altogether. But we should consider taking steps to re-instill in society the moral principles that teach right and wrong and that God's law is to be followed in all things. Those are character building approaches that change people for the good.

Unfortunately, this nation in recent decades has been on a crusade to eliminate such moral absolutes. We are paying a price today for such attitudes. Remove morality as the fundamental underpinnings of life and society, and you end up with a society that can and will accept, push, and allow almost anything, if not everything. With no moral base, where do you draw the lines of acceptable and unacceptable? There are none and the vulnerable and mixed up in our society are especially affected by the lack of guidance from the truth and God's goodness, often expressed in societal laws and expectations.

Recently, I shared with people at a candlelight vigil an experience from my travels several years ago while I was working for a mission that worked for decades behind the iron curtain to help God's people stay strong in the midst of hostile, atheistic communism. That system was morally bankrupt and was tyranny of the worst kind. With no morality to hold the tyrants in check, they were free to do whatever they wanted to grab and build power. The people didn't matter. They existed to perpetuate the system and give the leaders more power.

While on a trip in what used to be East Germany, I was traveling north of Berlin and saw a sign for a Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck. It wasn't marked on our map. We visited the camp that had been preserved by the Russians as a memorial to the Russian soldiers who liberated the camp and the people. We know how that turned out, but that is another discussion. I toured the buildings and grounds where there was evidence of many horrors done by the Nazis on women from all over Europe. You may have heard of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy from Holland. They were strong believers who were imprisoned there. Betsy died and Corrie survived. Corrie's story of forgiveness is compelling.

After soaking it all in, I had to process it all to try to get a grip on what happened there. I asked myself two questions: "How could this happen? Could it happen again?" I walked to a small adjoining lake by myself. It was mid-morning and the sun was burning off the fog on the lake. It was very quiet and a little eerie. As I pondered those questions, I began to realize that it happened because men had rejected God and his righteousness and therefore were set loose to do whatever they wanted with no moral restraint. So, could it happen again? Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Because whenever men reject God like that in the future, the same is possible.

It is imperative in the midst of our emotion to be rational and truthful about Sandy Hook. Evil is behind it and we need to affect that! Stop it in its tracks. How? Good question for all of us.

1. We must stop the attacks on true morality and the efforts to keep it out of society. When morality is removed, there is no rein on evil. Evil is ruthless and indiscriminate. Everyone is at risk.

2. We must teach where the boundaries are based on solid moral righteousness. Then children can grow up with a sense of what is acceptable and not acceptable, and why. God knows what he is doing, why would society's leaders second guess him?

3. We must free people from the fear of standing up for morality and all the virtues found in God's laws for life. Instead of stifling speech on those things, we should be freeing people and encouraging people to contribute to society the great principles that have proven to be great limiting influences on evil. We see now the folly of evil unchecked.

4. Perhaps most importantly, we need to bring people to God and his righteousness. Government cannot do that and shouldn't. But government can and should make society a fertile ground for moral teaching. Wise government leaders understand that and should step up and remove the increasing number of barriers keeping morality out of the public arena.

As you contemplate your response as a United States Senator, you have a grave responsibility.  Only wise statesmen are likely to have the courage to address the moment with honesty and truth. Reacting to the situation from emotion and the perspective that "we've got to do something" for the sake of doing something is doomed to fail. Just doing something, though not knowing what, is worse than doing nothing! We should use our emotion about Sandy Hook to drive us to act, but thoughtfully, carefully, courageously.

I encourage you to thoughtfully consider the points above and make them a foundational part of any response you have to stopping further tragedies like we have just seen. We are likely not able to stop them completely, but we must do our best. If we ignore the essential moral core of the situation, we will fail badly. Please make those moral points strongly, and at the same time, perhaps we can find some useful, non-intrusive, practical ways to cut down on any impact of future evil-doers without taking away our freedom.

Finally, I encourage you to help people understand, when they talk with you about what happened in Newtown, that life doesn't have guarantees that we will live long and prosper. In fact, James 4:14 in the Bible says life is like a mist, not long in the grand scheme of things. But there is hope. Everyone needs to be ready to meet the Creator. I believe that Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, is the answer to that.

Your message presented a concern about the way things are. I just thought I had to share these considered thoughts with you. I believe they are seriously important to "what happens next?" Please let me know how I might help. I prayed for you.

God bless,

David Steele

Preaching Minister

Woodland Church of Christ

Oxford, CT 06478