Like everyone else I am shocked and saddened by the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The loss of twenty children’s lives is unfathomable. I cannot imagine the pain and grief of the parents, and I pray for them and the families of the adult victims, too. We have all noticed that many of the newscasters have painted this massacre as “evil.” They are absolutely correct.
For more evidence of evil’s reality, read Dr. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie. He talks about all kinds of evil and contends that those who exhibit it most dangerously are those whom have no conscience and are so enamored with themselves that they have a coating of self-assured Teflon. They are so deluded that no sense of personal responsibility sticks with them. They are narcissistic gods of their own dominions. This is the source of much of the evil in our world and especially the evil that victimizes children in human trafficking, pornography, neglect, sexual abuse, and the like.
Those who perpetrate these attacks on children are minions of a worse Evil that has been around ever since the Garden of Eden. In other words, there’s a history of evil’s war against children and it didn’t start this Christmas. For instance, when God-in-the-flesh Jesus was born, narcissistic King Herod’s jealousy was inflamed when the Magi came to visit the Christ Child. With his own power threatened by a child, he ordered all the little boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity murdered (Matthew 2:13-18).
Indeed, evil has been attacking children from the beginning of history. Who have been and continue to be the hardest hit victims of hunger, war, and crime – children, the innocents? I’ve seen this terrible history’s evidence. One of my seminary professors showed us tangible proof of atrocities against children. He brought a clay jar about 12 inches tall to class. He had acquired it on an archaeological dig in Carthage, located in modern day Tunisia. He described to us how there were thousands upon thousands of these urns unearthed. He opened up the urn and scattered across the desk the ashes and tiny bones. It was a child. In Middle Eastern culture there were those who thought that fertility gods would bless you if you paid homage by sacrificing one’s children.
This urn reflected the reality of ancient Israel’s compromise with the surrounding cultures. 2 Kings 17:7-23, especially verse 17, describes why this caused God to send them into exile in 722 B.C. They followed the Baal and Molech-worshipping practices that were prevalent in Carthage and many other places. They put their young children on a pyre of wood, slit their throats, and while they were dying of blood loss they also burned them to death. How horrible! The burial grounds called Tophet(h) in Carthage were replicated all around the Mediterranean, including the Valley of Ben Hinnom just outside the gates of Jerusalem. God punished the Israelites because they attacked their own children!
So at the first Christmas and throughout the Biblical witness there is ample evidence of children being victimized by evil. God, on the other hand, is always on the side of children. Let’s just use Jesus as described in Matthew’s Gospel as an example. In Matthew 18:1ff the disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and the text says, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…’” The text goes even further and says about those who mislead a child (vs.6), “It would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Even with this endorsement of children and warning to those who would mistreat them, the disciples still didn’t get it. Matthew 19:13ff says, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”
On this day of wondering, “Why?” there is very little that a anyone can say to the distraught and heartbroken people across Newtown, Connecticut, the U.S., or the whole world in which children will continue to be targeted by Evil’s attacks. There are unanswerable questions of why didn’t God strike down the shooter, why my child, why, why, why? The only answer is that evil did this, not God. God has a history of being on the side of children. Jesus in John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Let’s tell our children that there’s a war between good and evil, and evil often wins; but there will be a Day when good will have the final word and evil will be no more.
Until then we need to trust in the loving Parent who is on our side and does everything in God’s power to shield us in this freedom-ridden world which allows terrible crimes to occur. God allows us humans to have freedom only to see it abused. It is a mystery and we wish God would set things right so nothing like this will ever happen again. We know that in Bethlehem’s Babe the process of retaking the world for good has begun, and we say, “Come, Lord Jesus – Come!”
In the meantime, we can all hug our children and count every second with them as precious gifts beyond measure. We can do all that we can to protect them better. We can pass gun laws. We can pray, and especially we can teach children that houses of worship are supposed to be sanctuaries – places of refuge and protection in an evil world that specifically targets them. Christmas is a witness that this world has little or no room for the Christ Child who was born in a stable, but we can make room for Him in our hearts and live like Him in the world. We can send the message that while evil does lurk across the land, there is a God who has consistently proven love toward the least of these. God even chose to come and live among us as a child because children best reflect God’s purest creation.
Oh, God, please overshadow the broken lives of your children everywhere and give grace and comfort. Teach us to offer sanctuary to children so that we might better reflect the coming Prince of Peace, even Jesus the Christ. Stop the evil Herod’s of this fallen world, and help us to do our part in crushing crimes against children of all ages. In a choice between light and darkness, let us always choose the light of redeeming love. Amen.