We are still here … the end didn’t come, at least not just yet. However, I’m sure for the parents and grandparents of the children and teachers killed in Newtown, Conn., life has an end-of-the-world feel to it right now. I have not been led to comment on the shootings, but rather have chosen to listen to others share their grief, fear, anger, frustration, and ideas on how to prevent something like this ever happening again. Part of the reason for my silence is the fact that some things are just too overwhelming to Tweet and time is needed to gain perspective. Another reason is the realization that many people tend to rant and rave, prophesy and pontificate, then snap back to business as usual and forget all about tragedy (especially when the media stops reporting on it) until it strikes again.
Once again we have heard the desperate cries for gun control; pleas for more honest conversation about mental illness, stricter controls of the video game industry selling its violent content to children; and our President’s impassioned plea for love to displace the evil of our society. Commentators on both sides of every issue decry the ineptitude of past attempts to control violence in our culture and “poo-poo” any other solutions except their own. For example, Mike Huckabee made a strong theological case for the presence of sin in the human heart, but felt that gun control was not a solution. Then there are others like commentator Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune who not only shoot down gun control but every other solution that has been proposed— not very helpful, but probably the most honest perspective. Yes, we need to do something and what we do must entail a multiplicity of elements with which not everyone will agree. However, we must honestly admit that whatever we do will not be “fool” proof. This will happen again; some fool will always sneak in a window as our culture of violence regresses from bad to worse.
Romans 1:18-32 is a commentary on our cultural decline— and we are a culture in moral decline. Three times in this passage Paul repeats the phrase “and God gave them over” (v. 24, 26, 28). This is how God’s wrath “is being revealed (note present tense) against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…” A culture that suppresses what they know to be true about God, suffers the greatest punishment that can be imagined— God gives them over to do whatever their futile and darkened hearts can conceive. Tell me, what is more inconceivable than a teenager killing six and seven year old kids? Paul further describes the culture that God gives over to itself as “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice…they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Oh my gosh— just like us! We have fallen off the moral cliff!
Wilfred McClay in a recent article in Christianity Today (November 2012) asks, “Can our freedom itself, and more generally the rights-based liberalism we have come to embrace in the modern West, survive without the Judeo-Christian religious assumptions that have hitherto accompanied and upheld it? Though himself an atheist, the Italian writer Marcello Pera has argued that it cannot— that it is impossible to uproot such ideas as human dignity from the Christian intellectual soil in which, historically, they were nourished.”
Our cultural values of goodness, kindness, love, generosity, compassion, etc— all those things we want to teach our children, cannot be sustained apart from the biblical principles upon which our nation was founded, especially concerning the nature and destiny of man. Today was not the end of the world, but it might not be far off. Maranatha!