My heart has been broken, as have so many hearts in America and around the world, at the unspeakable murder of twenty children and seven adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Words cannot describe the horror. How do we process such evil? What kind of culture could give rise to such an act? How do we understand the acts perpetrated at Sandy Hook, at the Aurora, Colorado theater and the Columbine High School? What language can we use? We have heard the terminology of mental health, words like rage, rejection, the results of bullying. But we have not heard very much moral language such as depravity and sin.
How do such horrors take place? What was going on in the minds and hearts of the perpetrators? Can we even begin to understand? These are larger-than-life questions, and attempts to answer them have been many. I humbly add the following observations which flow from our core beliefs at the Disciple Nations Alliance.
We are witnessing the fruit of the social and moral breakdown of family and community. Such fruit naturally derives from the seeds of the lies of Satan, lies like “God is not real” and “A healthy and prosperous society can be built on human wisdom.” Such seeds have borne their natural fruits: moral relativism, purposelessness, and hedonism. Appalling violence is seen as legitimate entertainment. The civility which was common in American culture for generations has eroded almost to the point of disappearing.
People are more and more isolated. High school students like the Columbine killers remain lonely while surrounded by hundreds of fellow students. Many young people are suffering from a dearth of family nurture (another fruit of Satan’s lies). Young adults exchange the formation of families and the opportunity to build a lasting legacy for a series of meaningless one-night stands. Rather than developing relationships, teenagers immerse themselves in the virtual worlds of the internet and social media. Too many substitute shallow texting for real conversation, video games for real life.
The week of the Sandy Hook massacre I was reading Os Guinness’s latest book, A Free People’s Suicide. Guinness describes America’s condition as the wandering of a culture that has cut itself off from its Judeo-Christian roots. Many Americans have no concept of absolute truth or moral goodness. Absent truth and reality, people immersed in postmodern culture lead what Dr. Guinness calls “fiction-directed lives.”
The postmodern mind, in contrast to the modern, is obsessed with relativism and fragmentation. In this view, time is neither linear nor cyclical. It is pointless – like truth and certainties of all kinds, it is pulverized into a thousand scattered points, each unrelated to the others and to the past and future. There is no building at all. In fact, there is no duration, bond, tie or commitment. There is only the endless succession of the fleeting now and its array of endless choices that open the future. So there are only separate moments, episodes rather than stories, fragments rather than building blocks, shifting kaleidoscopes rather than meaningful narratives. “No ties, no tears,” is the press release of the modern nomads ever restless to “move on” through the sad deserts of their consequence-free wandering [emphasis added].
Guinness’s words are tragically prophetic: “No ties, no tears!” Do the calamities of Columbine, Aurora, and Sandy Hook indicate the troubling end of postmodern culture? Are these the picture of a civilization that has cut itself off from Truth, Beauty, and Goodness?
Too many in the church want to accommodate the culture. Too many Christians are carelessly becoming postmodern, making postmodern disciples. Instead of living reality directed lives, building kingdom culture of truth, moral goodness, and beauty, we are abandoning the things that give life meaning in exchange for the pointlessness of postmodern wanderings.
Let us mourn with the families of Sandy Hook. Let us, as well, weep with the surviving family members of the Sandy Hook killer. And while we are mourning we must awaken to the crisis of postmodern culture in time to return to the enduring truths. The church must lead by example. It must intentionally resist the culture produced by postmodernism, and work to build a culture rooted in a distinctly biblical worldview, and marked by truth, goodness and beauty. This culture must be built one family, and one local church at a time. Each of us must determine to take the initiative in the various worlds we in inhabit.
As American Essayist, Flannery O’ Conner, reminds us: “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
Yes, the cross is God’s answer to evil. As we celebrate Christmas, we should remind ourselves of why Jesus came. The apostle John declared that The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8 ESV). He came to die, and His cross represents God’s victory over Satan and his lies.
Satan has been lying to our culture, and we have all been affected. There is an urgent need for the church to repent—to cry out to God for mercy on behalf of our nation and ourselves.
At the cross Christ has defeated Satan. At the resurrection the Father has vindicated the Son. When Christ returns and establishes the new heavens and the new earth, all evil will end. We look forward to Christ’s return with hope.
In the meantime, as followers of Christ, let us renew our commitment to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Let us “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). Let us renew our commitment to become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15).
- Darrow Miller