There’s a Newtown, Connecticut inside all of us.
Everyone hurts. Everyone reels. Everyone sees the pictures, sees the names, reads their stories, and we all swallow back the tears. Death hurts. Death stings. We mourn with those who mourn.
There’s the initial ache (and we do).
I have a six year old daughter, who might just as well have been one of those little girls. I’ve buried another daughter whom I never got to meet.
But when the questions come, and they most certainly will come, what will we say?
There is only one faithful way to answer these questions.
We have turned away from God.
We have all turned aside from the One who made us. We have turned away from His Word, His love, and we have chosen death, we have chosen heartache, we have chosen our own pain and agony and confusion. We have invited the darkness, invited the demons.
Those little girls and boys were no more or less deserving of death then my four children or any other children.
But God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree, they would die. The miracle was that they didn’t fall down on the spot. The miracle was that even though they chose death, and they would return to the dust they were made from, God had mercy upon them.
Because of our sin, because of our rebellion against the God who created us, who created this beautiful, glory-riddled world, because we insist on ignoring Him, ignoring His Word, and choosing our own paths, our own ways, we consistently choose death. And so the shocking thing really isn’t that a disturbed young man would walk into an elementary school and murder 20 innocent children and 6 courageous adults in cold blood. The shocking thing is that this doesn’t happen more often.
Jesus said that a man who hated his brother in his heart was guilty of murdering him in his heart. A man who lusts after a woman who is not his wife has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Leave vengeance to the Lord; God will repay. Do good to those who persecute you, who curse you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Overcome evil with good.
We pat Jesus on the head and tell Him that’s all nice and cute, but we live in the 21st Century, buddy. The real world. And we go merrily on our own way with assault rifles in our hearts, aimed at our parents, our spouses, our children, our bosses, the annoying neighbor next door, the people who voted for the other guy. We sing Joy to the World, the Lord is Come because it makes us feel warm inside, and then we click over to pictures of unloved women strung up in front of cameras, forced by circumstances, by demands, by fears to make us feel warm in another way.
And we love it this way. We love to hate, we love to use, we love to abuse, we love to serve ourselves. We love this darkness, and when someone stands up and says something true, we despise them, and we laugh them off the stage.
There’s a Newtown in all of us: A city of rage, a frustrated, bitter young man in everyone, and his name is Adam. Adam Lanza had this Adam inside him, every human has this Adam inside them. And the self-righteous blindness that ignores this fact, that doesn’t see how this could possibly happen is precisely how this has and will continue to happen. The reason women are raped is because men raped them in their hearts and minds first. The reason children are murdered is because we hated them in our hearts first. We snapped at them in anger, in frustration. They were whining in the backseat of the car, they were embarrassing us in front of our friends. And so we pulled a 9mm semi-automatic and shot them with words and looks and our tone of voice.
But we aren’t just the perpetrators. We’re also the victims of our own violence. We all see the faces of the children, of those teachers, and we all cry with their families. We all burn with anger, with questions, with cries. Oh my God. Why have you forsaken us? We all reel in disgust. We hold our little ones tighter. We thank God for their little lives. We pray for their safety, for their protection.
And we all, like the president, say, something must be done. This cannot continue. This cannot go on.
But whose voice will we listen to? Will we turn back to the voice of the God who made us? Will we turn back to the God who was born to save this messed up world?
Will we turn and let His face shine upon us so that we might be saved? Or will we continue to imagine vain things?
Will we kiss the Son and bow in reverent fear? Will we submit to Jesus as the only way, the only savior, the only King? Or will we continue into the dark, ignoring the God who made us, ignoring the God who gives us life every day?
You didn’t make yourself. You didn’t invent yourself. You didn’t think this place up. And you and this world are too amazing, too crazy good to be some kind of blind accident. Think about it for a moment. The reason a tragedy like this hurts so much is because we actually have it so good. The wind blows on our faces. We see sunsets and smell rain. We laugh and dance and embrace. We taste cool, clean water. These are not random accidents. These are Christmas presents all day long, every day of the year, good and perfect gifts coming down from the Father of Lights.
When we turn around and face Him, there is love and grace and healing, but that means recognizing the fact that we are unlovely and we need love, recognizing that we have sinned and we need grace, recognizing that we are sick and dying and we need healing. We have to recognize that we are the problem. We all have Newtown tragedy deep in our souls. We have an Adam lurking in our hearts. Newtown is actually Oldtown, as old as Adam, as old as the Fall. But Jesus has come to establish the New Town, the New City, the City of God, so that every tear may be wiped away, every wrong put right.
The blood of Jesus is the foundation of this city. Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You see, the only way we can be saved is if someone breaks into our lives, breaks into our hearts and saves us from ourselves, saves us from our evil thoughts, our hatred, our lust, our confusion, our pain, our guilt.
Jesus wasn’t born two thousand years ago so we could have vague feelings of brotherhood. Jesus was born in order to take our weakness, our brokenness, our hurt, our confusion, and the very sin and evil resident in all of us on to Himself. He was born that He might take all of it to the cross and in His death destroy it all. That’s how Christmas came to matter. That’s why this birth matters more than any other. That Child, God’s Beloved Son, was gunned down by Roman soldiers in plain daylight, and by His death has broken into this dark world, so that the Adam in all of us might die, and a new Adam might rise in his place, clothed and sitting in his right mind.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
David Bennett says
After hearing, reading, and seeing all the vain, feeble, dismal, and embarrassing attempts by “Christian” pastors on the TV commenting on this tragedy over the past days, it is a great blessing to read this. Your words are always faithful, honest, insightful, and heartfelt; they are very much appreciated here in Elk where your ministry – in some sense – was spawned. May our great God bless you and keep you and your dear family this Christmas season, and always. David
Robert Brenton says
“There is a Newtown in all of us: a city of rage, a frustrated bitter young man.”
“The shocking thing is that it doesn’t happen more often.”
Due to to saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and his indwelling Holy Spirit, the trusting Christian believer who daily puts off the old Adam while putting on Christ no longer lives as a rage-filled bitter young man possessed by demonic unholy spirits. The reason Newtown doesn’t happen more often is due to the Holy Spirit’s awesome binding power against the evil strong man, and his restraining — holding in check — of sin.
On the whole, I agree with the thrust of your article. You do end up prayerfully pointing us to our Second Adam, and the need to be stamped in his image. If indeed the image of First Adam is effaced in the grace-filled, faithful Christian, then how can he any longer carry within himself the demonic rage of a Newtown massacre? That’s what I want to know.
I understand how many people can be implicated in Adam Lanza’s heinous sin, but is the faithful church of Jesus Christ also guilty? If the church is faithful, is it at the same time rebellious? Is that what you are saying?
Fr. Jonathan says
Powerful reflection. And this is the bit that is so hard for people to see, that we are not basically good people who occasionally do something evil but basically evil people who are being redeemed anyway by a good God.