A tragedy like the mass shooting in an elementary school in an affluent, well-educated community unnerves America. If a tragedy like this had occurred in an impoverished region, it might not have had the same guttural impact. We might expect such mass violence against children to occur in places where education and economic levels are low.
As a society, we put a lot of stock in solving our problems through education and economics. While education and economics play key roles in cultivating communities, they are not sufficient. What is missing? Perhaps even scarier than realizing that such grotesque acts of violence can occur in unthinkable places is that we are not quite sure what to do. The banning of assault rifles, the training of teachers in weapon usage, the installation of more police officers, the reduction in violent movies and video games, the return to traditional values including strengthening of family bonds and religious connections have all been offered as remedies. What if these recommended solutions don’t help us move forward as a society after Newtown?
Could part of the problem be that as Americans we tend to think that by sheer will power and ingenuity and rigorous adherence to various codes along with education of various kinds and economic uplift, we can solve anything? Maybe it will take us realizing that we don’t have solutions, that no community is safe no matter our solutions, before we can come to a point of real resolve. Perhaps then and only then we will come upon a conversion moment. Quick and easy answers are harmful, if we want long-term solutions. Quick and easy answers only last so long. I am not calling for paralysis, but for a sense of perceptive desperation, not unlike what you’ll find at an AA Meeting. We cannot resolve our courtship with violence as a society. We are in need of a higher power, a greater force, divine aid.
Whatever you want to call it, defensive posturing that entails our saying someone else or some other group is to blame will only lead to further violence. We’ll never be able to move through and beyond the tragedy of Newtown if we fail to come to terms with the tragic flaw that resides deep within each of us. What happened there can happen to anyone of us, and inside every one of us. Coming to terms first and foremost with this truth is the first step in moving forward after Newtown.
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.