The first response
As our nation continues to mourn over the horrific deaths of innocent children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, some religious leaders are being excoriated for suggesting that this tragedy, along with other recent ones, is a wake-up call of sorts, allowed by God to discipline us for our national sins and call us back to himself before it’s too late. Those who are criticizing maintain that such a response is inappropriate and that what is called for instead is to focus on healing and comfort for the victims’ families and our own children and communities.
But although, of course, the outpouring of support and sympathy and all efforts to bring healing are crucial, it is not the only response that is needed. Consider if you were a father whose home was invaded by a vicious killer systematically going room to room hunting down each of your children. Would the proper response be to hold your wife close and whisper comforting words to her while the perpetrator of evil was still making his rounds? Of course not. The first, and most important, order of business would be to go after the evil one to keep him from killing any more.
I’m sure those first responders at Sandy Hook Elementary knew what their primary task was as they entered that school. It was to seek out and kill or subdue the murderer. To stop any further bloodshed before they attended to the victims. And if somehow the killer had managed to escape, to aggressively hunt him down while others dealt with the aftermath.
Those who are calling attention to our sins in response to this horrible event are effectively acting as any police officer would. They are seeking out and identifying the menace so that it can be apprehended and kept from doing any more damage. Whether or not you agree with their identification is one thing. But I know we can agree that the menace must be sought.
When an alleged criminal is captured and charged we put him on trial. And that’s what we should be doing with this. Let’s look at the evidence before we acquit or convict. But let’s not do the really spineless thing and refuse to even pursue it.
Mass shootings are on the rise and we mustn’t simply examine them individually. There is evil going room to room. And we’ve got to stop it.