Updated: Aug 5, 2022
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5 NIV)
On December 14, 2012, I saw a post on Facebook that said, “Don’t read the news. Hold your baby close.” Naturally I went to a news site to see what had happened, but I could barely read one article. It was too painful to imagine. That was the day Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut will never forget.
After the outrage and grief, there was a predictable resurgence in questions about how we deal with guns and mental health and whether we should legislate anything. Maybe we could have prevented the shooter from getting access to guns, maybe not. I’m glad people are actually talking about gun control, and I hope they can have a reasoned debate. No matter how that debate turns out, however, we can’t guarantee that we’ll be safe.
Why did Newtown hit us so hard? After all, only 26 people died (28 if you count the shooter and his mother). More Americans than that die in car accidents every day. Of course, it was also the fact that most of the victims were children. We instinctively understand that they are more innocent, that they didn’t deserve this, which of course is true. But worldwide, many more children than that die of preventable causes every hour. So I ask again, why was Newtown different?
I think it’s because this incident brings us face to face with evil. Car accidents are accidents. This man knew what he was doing when he shot his way into the school. I am in no position to call the shooter himself evil, for only God can judge the heart. But his actions, to me, are inescapable evidence that there is evil in the world.
Americans aren’t even comfortable with using the word evil, much less with thinking about it. As Christians, we should be less surprised when we see it, because we know where this evil comes from.
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b NIV).
Most of the time, thankfully, we are safe from any specific dangers and are victims, at worst, of the kind of generalized malaise of greed, selfishness, or neglect. To be reminded that we have an enemy who is actually trying to harm us makes us squirm.
Yet Christians also have the answer to evil! Jesus says,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).
God gave us brains and hearts, and I hope we use them to try to make our society a better place, but salvation does not come from Congress. Evil will not be overcome by policies, but by Christians doing good (Romans 12:21), which is possible because of the power of Jesus, who overcame death.
Right after Newtown, grieving was the right thing to do. Now we owe it to the victims to do something more. What are you doing about Newtown today?
If you are interested in reading more about the power of Christians to transform society from the ground up, I suggest reading The Secret Message of Jesus, by Brian McLaren.