(BNc) — Without judging the pronouncements that poured forth yesterday afternoon, silence seemed our best approach in the aftermath of the murders of 26 people, 20 of them small children, in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We have seen such horrors repeatedly, and news of them do not cease to revolt and distress us. On the contrary, with each one, the feelings deepen at seeing such human depravity. Only later will we find our voice.
But each one has his own way of dealing with such devastating news. In the hours following the shooting, several approaches and reactions to the massacre were noted. All of them, in their way, are valid, and many expressed several of these simultaneously.
The family approach. Was anyone from the church involved? Like parents who immediately wanted to know if their children were hurt, saints quickly turned to ask if anyone from the church was hurt or killed. This is a good thing. Family love in Christ is strong. Our desire is to see and do good to all, but “especially to those who belong to the family of faith” (Galatians 6.10 NET).
There have been reports that at least one person from the church taught at the school. Time will reveal if that is so and the person’s status. Meanwhile, the family of God waits and prays.
The compassion approach. How could this happen? Let’s pray for the parents and families involved. This approach had several manifestations: expressions of shock, calls for prayer, relief at the salvation of small children. Not a few said they would hug their own children more tightly at night, or suggested something similar. Distance prevents many from concrete actions of aid, but signs of solidarity appear constantly.
The apologetics approach. God was removed from the schools, and from society in general, so let’s not blame him for bad things that happen. To those who questioned the existence of God in the face of such an atrocity, some stated that the cruelty of man is not an indictment of the goodness of God. There seems to be an ongoing need for theodicy, the branch of theology that defends God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.
One preacher responded to a bitter Facebook poster by saying that if there is no God, then there is no good nor bad, and no reason to feel upset. He carried the poster’s position to its logical end.
In order to come to grips with, and help explain, yet another horrific slaughter, Christians are linking to a number of articles on the Internet, such as Wayne Jackson’s, “The Value of Human Suffering.” Others are finding aid in Forthright Magazine’s columnists: Paula Harrington’s “Fear and Faith,” Tim Hall’s “Is This Trouble from God?,” and Richard Mansel’s “Aurora: Why Society Has No Answers.” I confess to believing some of my articles pertinent, such as “Cruelty to God’s Creatures,” “When It Pours,” and “We Get Over Things.”
The socio-political approach. We need solutions for mental-health problems and security against shooters. Liberals immediately called for gun control. Some conservatives refused to enter the conversation, believing such a discussion to be untimely, but others replied, correctly, that other policies are needed to be effective. Some showed photos of Israeli teachers wearing or bearing arms as a partial solution to terrorist attacks.
It does seem strange, after so many school shootings in the US, that more has not been done to insure the safety of children, teachers, and staff. Christians, as citizens of their respective countries, may call for better policies to ensure security for all, at the same time they recognize the complexities of the political process.
The eternal approach. This shooting underlines the need to preach the gospel. The best policy is not a government law, but a spiritual mandate, of evangelizing everyone. Such moments motivate Christians, or should motivate them, to renew their efforts to teach others the gospel. Even if government were not unresponsive, evangelism alone can save a soul for eternity. Death is not the end. Each soul whose life was ended yesterday entered into an irreversible state of everlasting peace or torment.
Pointing to God in such moments is not a bland reaction to events, but the vigorous hope that sustains people in times of crisis. Let the call to faith be heard.
Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three married children and six grandchildren. He sometimes writes “7 Points.” http://randal.us