Friday, December 14, 2012

Why? Tragedy in Newtown

The personal tragedy must be unbearable. For those of us who have never been through a horrific experience as the families of those murdered in Newtown, Connecticut are going though, it is impossible to imagine. Thoughts and prayers first go towards them.

What could possibly have gone through the mind of a madman who would do something like this is incomprehensible. Intentionally taking the life of another human being is hard to imagine, killing 20 kindergartners is beyond belief. Everybody seems to be asking, why?

The thoughts of many may go something like this; certainly, if there was a God he would've stopped 20 year old Adam Lanza before he committed one of the most horrific crimes we will hear of in our lifetimes. He who is mindful of a sparrow that falls from the sky would cause the perpetrator to crash his car on the way to this murder spree, his guns to jam, or his demented mind to change before committing this un-godly act. Certainly a loving God could do that and perhaps we are unaware of the times that He does. There are no headlines when God intervenes. 

To understand why tragedies happen in life, you must first understand agency. This requires a "big picture" perspective. Why do people do bad things to others on incomprehensible levels? Agency. Other than life itself, the greatest gift we have from God is the agency to choose what we do with that life. With our agency we must accept that others have the freedom to make their own choices. Most often we experience the richness of life from those around us who enliven our experience. We grow, we learn, we love, and we live thanks to those around us who lift us up. With that, we must also except that same agency will be abused for evil.

This may be of little, or no comfort to those who lost a loved one today---but to answer the question of why, we have to look at the entire human experience, a hard thing to do when the tragedy is so horrific and so personal.

I'm not saying we sit back and allow ourselves to be victimized by others because they have agency, quite the opposite, we do everything possible to protect ourselves and others from evil. The same agency that allows tragedy must be used for our safety, how best to do that will be debated forever. 

Thomas Jefferson once described the "sea of liberty" as "tempestuous." He understood the negative side of Liberty. Tonight we are seeing the tempest 24/7 on cable TV. 

For those of us watching Newtown from a distance we are praying for those who are hurting and thanking God for our family and loved ones. We must also understand the principle of agency and how it is most often used for greatness, but it is sometimes horribly misused for tragedy. Today, if we could, we may be tempted to want a life where we are sheltered by a Garden of Eden. Instead, live in an imperfect world of great good, and occasionally, horrific evil. Agency, as a gift from He who loves us most, makes both possible. We cannot have one without the other. 

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