In the aftermath of Newtown

We’re all still reeling from the news.  The absolute senselessness of it all falls like a dense, dark fog on your heart.  We can’t suppress the mental images of horror.  The unthinkable end of those precious little ones – just like our children.  Your mind just wants to hit the brakes.  Just stop thinking about it.  But try as you might, it lingers.  And haunts.

But then we snap to and begin the collective reappraisal.  We can’t let this kind of thing happen again.  Hence the renewed debate over gun control.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I fully agree that this is an issue that warrants rethink.  The principle that firearms should be regulated is a no-brainer.  But Newtown demands infinitely more than policy or enforcement reappraisal.  Newtown demands deep, meaningful, national introspection.

By introspection, I don’t mean seriously rethinking the 2nd Amendment.  Guns are a necessary evil in a world of bad guys.  As long as there are bad guys, we’ll need guns.  Of various sorts.  And as long as government is prone to fall into the hands of bad guys, private citizens will need them.  I wish it weren’t so.  But let’s face the music.  Until the Kingdom comes and the violent “beat their swords into ploughshares,” guns are here to stay.

But that’s not really my point.  My point is that we need introspection on the national soul in the most radical sense.  Gun control is a superficial solution – and arguably a big distraction – when the core, the heart, the very control-center of our national being is quite out of control. 

Even if we craft better gun legislation or simply enforce existing legislation better, will it change the fact that across every index, America is driving well in excess of the speed limit, music blaring, weaving back and forth over the double yellow lines?

Will it change the fact that we cannot control our marriages?  Or for that matter, our tempers?  Will it restrain our sexual overindulgence?  Or put a curfew on our decades-long bacchanalia?

Will it help us control our waistlines, the widest in the world?  Will it curb our spending?   It’s not just government going off the fiscal cliff.  Before we wag our fingers at our politicians, let’s just watch the grainy security videos from Black Friday.  Yes, that’s us, America.   And now we stampede on Thursdays, while the stuffing is still warm.

And perhaps most painful to ask, will any legislation help us control our own dear children?  They see that we cannot control ourselves, so why should they?

I wish it were all a matter of better policy, better enforcement, or both.  But it just isn’t.  Newtown was hardly an isolated event.  It is an obvious link in a chain.  And it points to something much, much deeper.  Something systemic.  Something spiritual.  Nor is it just about them.  Whoever they are.  This is about us – all of us.  Right here in our sleepy, little law-abiding towns.

What’s more, the tragedy after the tragedy is that it seems the only way to regain control is to surrender it.  To hand the keys over to a sober driver.  Or the license back to the D.O.T.   It’s an answer to be sure, but a profoundly demoralizing one.  And quite scary, when you’re tempted to gaze into the murky, crystal ball.

But is it the only option?  There is, after all, the Author of control, from whom we’ve fled.  We can always go back Home – into the arms of the Father through His only-begotten Son.  There we can have forgiveness, welcome, structure, and peace.  But it will mean coming to our senses.  It will mean a full-stop to our superficiality and blame-shifting – and a total acceptance of our reckless folly and rebellion.  It will mean confession of sin, personal and corporate.  It will mean repentance.  Even amending our constitution to reflect it all.

Maybe, just maybe,  Newtown will be a turning point.  Where America goes deeper than mere policy or enforcement and instead rediscovers her God.  Now that’s a painless train of thought, with images you don’t have to shake.  A day when “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.”  You can think about that.  And you can pray for it, knowing that God will surely hear.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.”

Author: westportexperiment

I am a minister serving Presbyterian Reformed Church of Rhode Island, with strong interest in the history, theory, and contemporary application of parochial church extension.

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