Learning from Terrible Tragedies like Newtown CT
Adam Lanza killed twenty-eight people on December 14, 2012 in Newtown CT. He murdered his own mother at home. He murdered twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He committed suicide. There was an immediate rush to answer the question, “Why?” “Why did this happen?” “Why did this happen to these innocent young children? “Where does the blame lie?” “Is it mental illness?” “Do we blame it on guns?” We all feel powerless because we don’t know why. If we knew why, we could prevent something like this from happening again. It has happened too many times since the Columbine High School Massacre on April 20, 1999.
Had Adam Lanza not committed suicide would the people of Connecticut be angry that earlier in 2012 they voted to abolished the death penalty?
People flocked to churches the Sunday following the tragedy. The clergy in Newtown, CT must have been deluged with questions about why this happened. Someone came up with what is called “The T-Shirt of the Year” now circulating around social media. The t-shirt reads, “Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools. Signed, A Concerned Student. Dear Concerned Student, I’m not allowed in schools. God.” But, tragedies have happened in churches too where God is not only allow … is worshiped. So taking praying out of the schools isn’t to blame.
But I believe prayer or the lack of it plays a role in what does and doesn’t happen in our world. I think absence of prayer played a role in the life of Adam Lanza and subsequently all of our lives. We read in the Book of Job 42:8b, “My servant Job will pray for you and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.” (niv)
We often hear people talk about their prayer life and how they prayed and made promises to God that they would change their ways. “Lord, I’m going to give up drinking.” “Lord, I’m going to stop doing this or that.” “Lord, I going to church every Sunday from now on.” And on it goes. Does this sound familiar? You’ve either said it or heard it said. Did you ever stop to consider that somebody else was praying for you? Bill Withers wrote and recorded the song, “Grandma’s Hands.” Somebody needs to write about grandma’s prayers. Many grandmothers have prayed for their grandchildren and God accepted grandma's prayers and not dealt with the grandchildren according to their folly.
Some men in church whose marriage and family life is going well will tell you, “We are a family that prays together and worships together.” And on it goes. I once heard a preacher say, “Marriages would be a lot stronger and last a lot longer if husbands prayed for their wives as often as wives prayed for their husbands.” In other words, brother, did you ever stop and think that before you became so churchy your wife had been praying for you for a long time?
After meditating on that Bible passage from Job I am certain that others have prayed for me. My father, my mother, my wife, my pastor and my friends prayed for me and God accepted their prayers and did not deal with me according to my folly.
This twenty year old murderer, Adam Lanza, probably had no one praying for him … caring about him … developing a loving relationship with him. Did he have positive male role models? Did he have positive male relationships in his life? I don’t believe so. Positive male role models and wholesome male relationships are essential for young men to grow into manhood. It was reported that Adam hadn’t spoken to his own father or brother in two years. “He was a loner,” folks said.
I focus on male relationships because, have you noticed, women and girls don’t do this? I don't know of any exceptions and pray there won't be any.
As one who believes in the efficacy of prayer I’m convinced that the lack of prayer also contributed to this tragedy and others like it. Nobody prayed for him. Nobody thought about him. Nobody reached out to him. Everyone who knew him left him alone … ignored him … cared only for themselves. Everyone who knew Adam Lanza was himself or herself mentally ill to some degree. Mental illness has always existed. The way we regard and treat mental illness and the mentally ill has changed. We are too concerned about being politically correct.
We can try to blame it on guns. I played with cap pistols when I was a kid. My folks bought me the Roy Rogers six shooters. I think I was eleven years old when I shook Hopalong Cassidy’s hand in front of the Daily News building in New York City and received a cardboard replica of his six shooter. My grandson, Zair Emmanuel Johnson, pictured with me above will probably never play with guns.
Guns have existed for a long time. The proliferation of guns has changed. The types of guns have changed. Demonstrations of their use have changed. It seems the availability of guns does play a role in these types of tragedies. The company that sells the type of weapon used by Lanza, advertises it as a “... Gun for a Man’s Man in an Era of Depleting Testosterone.” In other words, you are not a real man unless you own one of these. The second amendment to the United States Constitution says I have the right to bear arms. Do I have a need to bear arms? The answer for me is no!
Psychologists tell us this type of event will happen again. We don’t want another Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc. There are other men (I hope not women) out there like Adam Lanza or Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris of the Columbine Massacre. They may or may not be easy to spot. Be alert. Be concerned. Genuinely, care about the people around you and when you suspect someone around you is “different,” pray for him daily. Develop a relationship. Tell him the story of Jesus. Real men pray for others. Somebody prayed for me. <><