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Reaping What We Sow

December 19, 2012

So, in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children are dead.

20 Children. Most of them six-year-olds. Gunned down by a madman with an assault rifle and two handguns.

I spent most of last Friday feeling like crying.

It is hard to be objective about such a crime, such a violation of the innocence of children.

My first reaction was that moral depravity on this scale is impossible to make sense of, because it is truly senseless.

But, what if it is true that I just don’t want to attempt to make sense of it, because of where such an attempt might lead?

Don’t you and I owe it to those children to at least try?

What do these children’s deaths say to us?

Maybe it is the case that we are immersed in evil, and by failing to speak and act against it, we failed to protect these children. Perhaps we all share in some way in the culpability for this event.

Our civilization is saturated with propaganda blaring that Violence Solves Problems. Movies, television shows, popular novels and video games affirm this principle again and again and again, to the point that this glorification of violence is, in an odd way, invisible. Maybe events like this, and the many other massacres that happen regularly in the United States, are trying to tell us to repent of empire, and the attendant violence by which it and all other empires throughout history have survived.

I believe that a line – a fairly direct one – can be drawn from a civilization that glorifies and affirms the use of violence, and a disturbed individual that makes use of that glorification in a way not affirmed by that civilization.

“But how can you blame me for this horrible crime? I didn’t do anything,” you and I might object.

That is precisely the problem. You and I didn’t do anything.

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22 Comments
  1. Julia Smucker permalink*
    December 19, 2012 3:21 pm

    Movies, television shows, popular novels and video games affirm this principle again and again and again, to the point that this glorification of violence is, in an odd way, invisible.

    Just like the fish that doesn’t know what water is.

  2. trellis smith permalink
    December 19, 2012 4:15 pm

    Geez Julia, you are irritating-keep up the good work!

  3. Jordan permalink
    December 19, 2012 4:32 pm

    Matt [December 19, 2012}: “But how can you blame me for this horrible crime? I didn’t do anything,” you and I might object.

    That is precisely the problem. You and I didn’t do anything.”

    AMEN.

  4. Ronald King permalink
    December 19, 2012 6:03 pm

    When I fear being vulnerable then I help create the violence in this world. To be protected against feeling vulnerable is to live in a constant state of internal violence. Sooner or later the pressure will build to a point of eruption.

  5. December 19, 2012 8:31 pm

    The sad truth is that if you try to do something, you will get your ass kicked, good and hard, until you decide that maybe it’s not worth it. That’s the legacy of the sixties. I was there. I endured a lot of scorn then. And if I say things like I’m saying now, I endure it all over again. I was a conscientious objector then. So I was accused of cowardice. I was accused of false self-rightousness. I was accused of elitism. I was thanked by no one. We don’t act because only civil disobedience is effective, and civil disobedience exacts a toll. You get jailed, you get gassed, you get beaten. You don’t get thanked. The best you can hope for is reluctant tolerance. And that is scant. So I expect no real action on the issue of gun control, or empire-engendered violence. How many will put some skin in the game to oppose it? Not enough. Not nearly enough.

  6. December 19, 2012 8:41 pm

    And I want to add that because of the truth of what I’ve said above, the label “Christian” is, for all practical purposes, meaningless. Empty. Cosmetic. A lie.

  7. Briggs permalink
    December 19, 2012 11:56 pm

    As a Catholic/former Mennonite with a fine formation in Anabaptist non-resistance running through my veins despite my grudging acceptance of Catholic teaching on self-defense, defense of others, and just-war theory, I feel “kin” to Rodak, (above). I am very much in a no-man’s land where violence is sometimes deemed necessary by logic and reason (if not by Christ’s teaching and scripture). That violence is ever necessary still seems wrong to me in the very core of my being.

  8. roth0003 permalink
    December 20, 2012 8:11 am

    I decided to try to respond in kindness to the tragic events of 12/14/12 in Newtown CT. For each of the 28 people who died, I am performing an act of kindness. With each act, I am giving a card explaining in whose name I’m doing a kindness and why. If you wish to download a copy of the card or learn more about it, please go to http://acts17verse28.blogspot.com/2012/12/can-sense-be-made-of-senseless.html or, if you want a tiny url, to http://tinyurl.com/d3syye7.

  9. Agellius permalink
    December 21, 2012 12:51 pm

    “That is precisely the problem. You and I didn’t do anything.”

    Nah. Nothing I could realistically have done would have prevented it. The problem is that people are sinners and in need of salvation.

    You might say the problem is that no one preached the Gospel to this kid. And maybe they didn’t. But maybe they did, and he just wasn’t having it. Or maybe he was having it, but just blew a fuse.

    It’s not always political. But if it is political, I would be more likely to chalk it up to the official stance of the United States government that God is irrelevant to our lives as a nation. That there is no natural or divine law that our actions have to comport with. That what we do here has nothing to do with our eternal destiny.

    Note that I’m not taking the tack that God is punishing us for being irreligious. Rather, that this perpetrator perhaps had no sense of shame or of right and wrong, or a sense that his last act being the taking of innocent lives, followed by self-murder, might land him in an eternity of hurt.

    • December 21, 2012 2:02 pm

      What we have failed to do is suggested by this line from my post:

      I believe that a line – a fairly direct one – can be drawn from a civilization that glorifies and affirms the use of violence, and a disturbed individual that makes use of that glorification in a way not affirmed by that civilization.

      There is a reason that America is prone to these sorts of incidents. Europe is more secular than the united states, Japan is not Christian at all, and both those places have a murder rate that is a small fraction of America’s.

      • Agellius permalink
        December 21, 2012 2:09 pm

        Matt:

        Thanks for correcting my typo.

        I don’t disagree that not glorifying violence might help. That’s not incompatible with what I’m saying. I would favor re-instituting the Motion Picture Production Code, with guidelines for acceptable types and levels of violence in films.

        • December 21, 2012 2:37 pm

          While a revived MPPC might make some impact, it is worth remembering that American entertainment is distributed and consumed worldwide: of the major industrialized world, only America has a high murder rate.

  10. Agellius permalink
    December 21, 2012 3:36 pm

    By the tone of what you’ve been saying, I have been asumming that the U.S. must have one of the highest murder rates in the world. But according to this table [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate]:

    The U.S. is ranked 108 out of 206, give or take one or two places in case I counted wrong (manually).

    While Europe has a lower rate than the U.S., North America as a region has a much, much lower rate than Central or South America.

    What do you suppose accounts for that? Do Central and South America have even more of a “culture of violence” than the U.S.?

    What we need to do about it depends largely on what causes it. For example, I wonder if Europe has more police per capita than the U.S.? Accordign to this article [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_police_officers]: The U.S. ranks 43rd in number of police per capita. Picking some countries at random, France, Austria, Greece, and the Netherlands, all have lower murder rates and more police per capita than the U.S. But South Korea has fewer police and also fewer murders.

    Apparently it’s a complicated issue. But assuming our “culture of violence” is indeed the culprit, what do you suggest as a remedy?

    • December 21, 2012 3:40 pm

      Maybe events like this, and the many other massacres that happen regularly in the United States, are trying to tell us to repent of empire, and the attendant violence by which it and all other empires throughout history have survived.

      • Agellius permalink
        December 21, 2012 3:52 pm

        Well, maybe. Frankly I’m not sure what “repent of empire” means in our case. Are you referring to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Personally I find it hard to believe there’s much correlation between that and domestic civilian violence.

        • December 21, 2012 3:55 pm

          Our civilization is saturated with propaganda blaring that Violence Solves Problems. Movies, television shows, popular novels and video games affirm this principle again and again and again, to the point that this glorification of violence is, in an odd way, invisible. Maybe events like this, and the many other massacres that happen regularly in the United States, are trying to tell us to repent of empire, and the attendant violence by which it and all other empires throughout history have survived

  11. Agellius permalink
    December 21, 2012 3:50 pm

    Some more interesting stats:

    The U.S., as expected, is no. 1 in guns per capita. But since it’s 108 in murders per capita, there is evidently not all that strong a correlation between gun ownership and murder.

    Honduras and El Salvador are ranked nos. 1 and 2 in murders per capita, but ranked 88 and 92 in guns per capita. Sierra Leone has 3 times the murder rate of the U.S., but is ranked 164th in gun ownership.

    None of those countries is included in the list of numbers of police per capita.

    Switzerland is ranked 4th in guns per capita but near the bottom in terms of murder rate.

    Like I said, it’s complicated.

    • December 21, 2012 4:00 pm

      I didn’t mention gun ownership rates in the post.

      • Agellius permalink
        December 21, 2012 4:10 pm

        I know. I just thought it was interesting.

  12. Agellius permalink
    December 21, 2012 4:09 pm

    “Our civilization is saturated with propaganda blaring that Violence Solves Problems.”

    Maybe. But again I doubt whether “violence solves problems” was uppermost in the mind of the Newtown maniac. If I were to imagine what he was thinking, I would look more to seething rage, combined with the notoriety that was guaranteed to follow the episode. Someone suggested not blaring these stories in the headlines nationwide so as not to encourage other nuts in their notoriety-seeking. Makes sense to me.

    And how do we differ from Europe in this regard? Do they lack our pro-violence propaganda, notwithstanding that they watch the same movies and TV that we watch?

    • December 21, 2012 4:11 pm

      [R]epent of empire, and the attendant violence by which it and all other empires throughout history have survived.

      I believe that a line – a fairly direct one – can be drawn from a civilization that glorifies and affirms the use of violence, and a disturbed individual that makes use of that glorification in a way not affirmed by that civilization.

      • Agellius permalink
        December 21, 2012 5:33 pm

        Fair enough.

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