Friday, December 21, 2012

Why? My thoughts on the shooting

12/15/12 Saturday
          Why? That is a question on many peoples mind after the senseless killing of 27 people, with 20 of them being little children. It is an understandable question and one that will be hard for anyone to answer. Such death of the innocent is incomprehensible for most but there are some hard realities that are shown in this horrible event. First reality is that this is not unusual at all when considered on the worldwide stage. Most of us in America live in a cocoon where we only allow in what disturbs us the least, and barely tolerate that. However, throughout the world there are horrors  that defy the imagination and these horrors are perpetrated against all aspects of humanity, from babies to seniors.

          Now many of you know that I am a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ. I know that some of you aren’t and understand that well. There was a time I did not believe there was a God of any kind and thought that if there was he was way out there somewhere in space and not at all concerned with the things that go on here on earth. However that has changed now that I have seen evidence of the living God and have come to understand that truth.

          Today I see the world through a different set of eyes. The answer to the question “Why” is a spiritual one that is as old as mankind. The young man who killed his mother, all those children, and the rest, was a man who had no hope, nothing to look forward to, no future, no good reason to live. Why did he have no hope? Because he had no God or understanding of God. This I know well for at one time I was that boy.

          They say he had Asperger’s syndrome, that he did not fit in and escaped through his video games and other means. This I relate to as well, having a tested IQ in the top 2 percent of the nation, no social skills, and all the other indicators of Asperger’s. My escape was books, which I devoured by the hour. Fortunately my books taught a system of values and honor that were often key elements of the science fiction I enjoyed the most. What was unfortunate for this young man is that the video games of today teach and encourage anger, revenge, violence, and that killing is an acceptable solution for problems.

          When I lived without the thought of God existing I lived with only the moment to answer for. You see, if there is no God there is no reason to be good, other than whatever immediate gratification it got me. I only obeyed the law out of fear for the consequence of breaking it and if I felt I could escape that consequence there was nothing to prevent me from violating those moral strictures. Thus the platitude “If it feels good do it” became my law. Without God there is only this life to live. Without God there is no accountability. Without God life has little value. Without God there is no eternity. And without God there is no hope of a better future at the end of life here on earth. So there is only here and now.

          I can only imagine what went through that young man’s mind and that imagination barely touches the surface, if at all. But I have seen many who fit the profile in one way or another, and in fact I probably wasn’t far from it myself. One of the two boys I raised does in some aspects, and there are others I know who are withdrawn and only fit in with a small niche group. Part of what they lack is a sincere understanding of the love of God, and it is this love that I feel is the key that can open the door to their hearts and allow healing to begin. Unfortunately in the world we live in that key is one that has been rejected by many and openly ridiculed in several sectors of American society. Because of this the sad news is we will be seeing more and more of these kinds of events.

          But in regards to the question “Why” there are many aspects to consider, no simple cut and dried answers. The boy (I know, he was 20 but still a boy in my mind) was bullied, did not fit in, was on psych medication, and often retreated into his private world. Apparently he sometimes attended the catholic church with his mother but I suspect it had no real impact on him. There are many who go to church but that does not mean much. Some go because their parents make them, some go because they are “supposed to”, some go to impress others, and on and on the list can go. The reality is that few people who go to church truly practice their faith. If they did there is a possibility this tragedy might not have happened.

          I know I am opening a can of worms here but that is what I am good at. The fact is that there is a general disgust of Christianity in many circles, because so many see the hypocrisy there. I have friends on Facebook who knew me before I returned to God. They never knew I had been a Christian before, that I had fallin away, but they watched as I destroyed my life through drugs, drinking, and criminal activity. It saddens me to see their disdain of Christians in some of the comments they make, but I understand it. Many of them don’t know what to think of me now and my faith in God makes some uncomfortable. That’s ok, I understand this as well.

          The point I am making is that if more people really understood and lived the way Jesus wants us too, there would be fewer people with the potential to become mass murderers. Oh, things like this will still happen and in the coming years it will get worse. The reason I brought up the poor opinion many have of Christians is to highlight the way it should be, versus the way it often is.

          We, or at least many of us, are familiar with the story about a baby being born in a manger at the small town of Bethlehem. “Oh, geese, he’s going to tell that whole Jesus was born in a manger story!” I can hear someone saying at this moment. Well, yes and no. To understand what it means to be a true Christian we need to understand what it is all about. You see, that little baby, born amongst a bunch of farm animals and camels, was God coming to earth. Now I know how ridiculous this may seem to those who don’t believe and I understand the ridicule thrown out regarding such a concept, but bear with me and allow me to choose whatever belief I desire. The “Why” regarding God being born on earth has to do with the love He has for us, and His desire to remove the wall that stands between us.

          I never understood all this God stuff before. It just did not make any sense to me. Why would God be born a baby? Why would He then choose to die a horrible death on a cross? “Why” has always been an important question. It wasn’t until I was sent to prison that someone explained this in a way I could understand. People would say “God loves you” but even that I could not understand. A loving father was something I had never really experienced in real life. No hugs, no kisses, no “You did well” affirmations that I can remember. Understand that I was much like that boy we started this out talking about. Socially inept, unaccepted, bullied even by the girls in school, I was a cast out and would fly off in anger on occasion. So a loving protective relationship was a foreign concept to me.

          Let me tell you how “Why”, regarding God’s love, was explained to me. “Imagine God as a pure white sheet, not a spot or wrinkle, perfect in every way. Now you know”, my fellow inmate explained to me, “that you are not pure at all”. Oh, I knew that for sure. “So you understand then that you cannot take a handful of mud and throw it on that sheet, because it would no longer be pure and white”. Ok that was pretty simple and easy to understand. “But it wasn’t always that way” he continued “originally God would come down to the garden of Eden and walk and talk with Adam and Eve. They were in charge of it all, taking care of God’s creation. They could do anything the wanted except one thing. There was one rule. Only one. “Don’t eat of the fruit of that tree” God said. “For if you do you will surely die”. Now this I can understand. I was in prison for breaking the law. The law of the land is pretty clear (or at least used to be) and says “If you do such and such the penalty is…” With God it is equally clear. He spelled it out straight. Death is separation from God, for God is the source of all life. When we choose to purposely do what we know is wrong, which is what the word “sin” means, then we are no longer pure white and thus become separated from God.

          But God, forever loving us all no matter how bad we get, decided to make a way for us to regain that fellowship with Him. God follows His own rules, that is a part of His pureness, and the wages of sin is death, separation from God. So there is a law and there is a penalty that must be paid for breaking it, and now we are back to that little baby being born and laid in the feed trough of the animals. (Stay with me folks, I will get to that boy who committed such a horrible act. This will all tie together) For my friends who are atheist, agnostic, or doubt Jesus was even born, who pride themselves on logical intelligent thought, there is lots of third party documentation of Jesus’ birth and the events that followed. Roman, Jewish, and Persian historians who were not followers of this religious belief recorded these events. Third party courtroom acceptable proof that it happened, if you will. I don’t believe because it is convenient, I believe because I have learned it is true.

          I need to explain that the question “Why” regarding the Connecticut shooting is not an easy one with a simple answer and my attempt to answer it will undoubtedly fall far short. Understand that this one incident is only a small part of a much larger picture, and it’s that larger picture I am ultimately addressing while trying to somewhat understand the shooting.

          Jesus, who is God’s Son and was there when all was created, came out of heaven and humbled Himself in every way, was born, raised, felt pain, endured temptation, and then was sacrificed like the unblemished lambs that the Jews would kill every year for the sins of the entire nation. He never did anything wrong, but lived His life as an example for all of us to see and learn from regarding how to live. It was that sacrifice that paid the price for all we have ever done wrong and through it we can have forgiveness of all of it. That forgiveness is like taking a bath that washes it all away and leaves us clean and pure, so we can once again have fellowship with God.

          But that example of how we ought to live, how we should act towards one another is what I desire to bring up regarding not just the school shooting but for everyone we get to touch.     This is where we, all who wear that “Christian” label, bear some of the blame. Jesus gave us only two real commandments, to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Everything in the bible boils down to this. But we must recognize the reality that there is the way things should be and the way they actually are. Those who are unhappy with what they see done in the name of God are justified in that, for God is not happy with it either.

This is nothing new. Jesus warned several times that this would be this way. It happened in His life and is a part of the record of the early church. Jesus’ harshest words were for the religious leaders who were the rankest hypocrites. Jesus also warned us of the condition the world would be in during the last days, before He returns to clean it up and start over. He said “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mathew 24)

We see all of these things taking place, no question about it. The part about people’s love growing cold is especially relevant, and holds true not just for people like the shooter but it is something I see in the church too. My Bible tells me this would be as well. This scripture found in Paul’s letter to Timothy sounds like it is describing people who don’t know God and have no religion but the sadly amazing part is it actually describes those in church, as indicated by the last part, where it says they were “holding to a form of godliness”. “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Timothy 3)

It is no wonder that there is so much anger towards the church and church people. Cherie and I have seen and experienced so much of this unholy behavior in churches that we keep a guard up when around church people we don’t know. How sad it has been for me to watch pastors practice the very judgmental things God hates, and then call it good. What can you do? When I dared say “that isn’t right” I was escorted out.

But in the midst of all the darkness there are always some wonderfully bright lights that shine out, people who truly love and are willing to sacrifice for the good of others. It is a shame that they are the exception, rather than the rule, but even this Jesus said would happen. In the end only a few will make it. Those who’s treasures are in heaven, not on earth. Part of the “Why” I lay at the feet of a weak compromising church, and the shepherds who bear responsibility for how they lead the sheep. They WILL answer to God on that final day.

So again there is the way things should be and the way they really are. That young man went to church with his mother, but it is clear that this did not impact him. A true Christian should reach out to those who don’t fit in, should love them and take the time to get involved. Sadly this rarely happens in today’s world. There are many who will throw some money in a basket during a church service and think they have done something, but all they have done is appease their conscience and avoided anything uncomfortable. Jesus said to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. You know, the more you love yourself the harder it is to meet that standard.

Like I said at the beginning of this, “Why” is not a simple question. There are cultural, medical, and social factors that weigh in here as well. Lots of things that contribute to the question “Why”. We are all products of our environments. Remember the old saying “garbage in, garbage out”? We are what we feed ourselves and for many youth in America today, and for that matter for the rest of us as well, what we are fed is a lot of garbage. Whether it is the television shows or movies, what is called entertainment is not that which promotes love, forgiveness, honesty, or many of the other things most consider good. It is a lot of violence, anger, revenge, sexual promiscuity, and deception. Then there are the video games, something else the shooter escaped into. In many of them you go from room to room with the goal of killing as many as possible. This boy was also on psychotropic medication, which only adds to the disconnect from reality.

The bad news is that it doesn’t matter if the government takes every gun there is, we will still be seeing more events like the one that prompted me to write this. It will get worse. Should this be the last days spoken of in the Bible it will get much worse. For those who play at being Christian there will be a purging as with fire. Ultimately this is a battle between good and evil, and it sure looks like evil is winning. But even this was foretold. In the final chapter evil will be punished and those who pass the test rewarded, but the tests will be hard. The world will tremble as these things come about but before that the world will rise up in complete rebellion against all that is good in the eyes of God. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming ? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3.3)

I am tired. There is more I want to say but this is enough rambling as it is. I will close with this statement about those children. It is what Jesus said when His disciples asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 12 "What do you think ? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying ? 13 "If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 "So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.  (Mathew 18)

          Some will say “But they did perish” but I will remind you that God does not see things as we do. Those children are in a place prepared for them long ago, they are in heaven with our heavenly father. In that place there is no time, it is eternal and has no end so no, they have not perished. It is a place I hope to go to when my time here on earth is done and I want to invite as many as I can to join me. I believe in love that requires sacrifice, I believe in helping others, I believe in doing good.

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