At All Times-Psalm 34:1

December 14, 2012

From Shock to Shame (Reflections on the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy)

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Whitney Standlea @ 9:17 pm

Events like the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook today are undoubtedly rare, but are certainly not foreign to us. Although similar events were happening before the Columbine High School shootings of 1999, that is my first recollection of such an event. I was in junior high at the time. Each of these mass shootings is tragic in its scope and senselessness-whether on a college campus, in a movie theater, or a classroom full of five and six year old little children.

It would seem natural that shock, surprise, and horror would follow such events. Within our country we are grieved at the loss of life and the pain that our fellow Americans are experiencing. As we hug our kids extra close today and the tears pour down while we pray, we are certainly mourning with those who mourn.

But I’m starting to ask a question in all of this. Past the shock of the event and the fascination with the ongoing news coverage, where is the shame? Where is the shame? We are all walking around asking “How could someone do something that unthinkable?” As we watch the criminal psychologists map out profiles and speculate on motives, we are all asking “Why?” Was he bullied like the shooters at Columbine? Was he mentally ill? But I don’t think many of us are moving past our shock, and bowing our heads in disgrace. In personal, shame-ridden grief that one of our own did this. We are too busy trying to find ways to separate this person from ourselves so that we can understand how he is not one of us.

Many would say that a sense of shame or guilt over the acts and deeds committed by another person would be completely unwarranted, perhaps even harmful. It would lower your self-esteem to feel bad about something like this. After all, you couldn’t do anything about it and you have no responsibility in what happened today. But I think that needs to be evaluated more thoroughly.

I believe that the lack of shame felt by individual citizens of this country as a corporate body is a prime indicator of the societal problems that allow for these events to take place. I think that when we are so disconnected as a society that we no longer see ourselves as responsible contributors to the events and outcomes produced by our society, that we are setting the stage for these events. Strong, interdependent structural bonds in society glue individuals together in such a way that promotes empathy, national pride, community, and dignity in ways that fight against these very acts. When members of society can become so disconnected (independent) from the effects that their actions have on the rest of the community, it opens the door for these senseless acts of violence that allow the perpetrator to commit absolute atrocities against another human being without an ounce of empathy. Although this article is not written on the cuff of intense behavioral science research, my years of sociological study seem to point in this very direction and I don’t think it would be difficult to accumulate data to verify connections between these things.

Second, as a Christian, I believe our lack of shame and guilt tied to these events, is an indictment on the callousness of our own hearts and the deceptiveness of the sin that permeates our culture. Why do we look at this tragedy in absolute horror, yet we still don’t think twice to allow those atrociously violent tv previews to roll through the commercial breaks in front of our children tonight? We’re crying over the trauma these kindergarteners will deal with that have lived through witnessing these events, yet we allow vivid and life-like blood and carnage to pass before the eyes of our own children day after day. Why are we so baffled at the lack of human decency and compassion from the instigator of this violence, but we don’t even notice that twisted sense of fascination…and dare I say *pleasure?*entertainment?* our own hearts exhibit as we read all the gory details and rehash every single angle of the drama possible? Why do we just shake our heads at the lack of forgiveness and the bitterness that some of these violent criminals have, and fail to repent of our own grudges we hold against our very family members over the most trivial of things? Why do we get all upset at the bullies and those mean teenagers and hateful youth who inflict such emotional damage on rejected, downcast, kids, yet we turn around and refuse to verbally express love to our own children or compliment and encourage them on a daily basis? Why do we continue to give our money to tv stations and shows that display sexual violence in front of us on the screen, and then get upset when a 17-year-old in Colorado sexually assaults and murders a school girl? Its not like he was lacking material for structuring the scenario! Why are you saying “amen!” and yet its flowing from a self-righteous heart as you see all of these things in the lives of those around you, and none of it in your own!

Where do we think this horror is coming from? Its coming from within. Its OUR society, OUR choices, OUR hearts, OUR lives, that are producing this fruit.

There must be a shift in our hearts. We must stop looking at the experts to tell us what was wrong with HIM. We must start asking: What is wrong with me? And we must, to some degree, begin to lower our heads in shame.

May the shame of this event lay us bear and accountable before a holy and just God. May we cast ourselves on His grace as we see ourselves as we really are. He is faithful to forgive those who run to Him. And He is just to forgive the most vilest offender. All justice has been fulfilled on the cross by Christ Himself.  He is the one that is able to expose the depths of the evil with in ourselves and grant us new hearts to walk in love, just as he loved us and gave himself for us.


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