Friday, January 14, 2011

In the Crosshairs

The current national conversation about the Arizona shootings is getting bizarre. In a time when the country needs to be grieving and supporting those who grieve, the news media are on a witch-hunt. There is the assumption that someone must be to blame for this tragedy, and they are out to find him or her.

So they blame Sarah Palin! What? How does “targeting” a congressional district for an election victory have anything to do with a mass murder committed by a crazed gunman? I am not a Palin fan, but that is far-fetched by any standard.

Palin’s “blood libel” remark does not help anything; it amounts to accusing the media of anti-Semitism. Where did that come from? The fact that Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish makes this comment even more confusing.

Then the media blames the shooter’s family. They blame the lack of gun control laws in Arizona. They blame the mental health system. They blame the community college he was expelled from. The assumption is that someone must be at fault. Blame, blame, blame. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

As a Christian pastor I know something about guilt and blame. The history of Christianity is filled with it. I have seen preachers and churches manipulate people by guilt and blame. It doesn’t work; it just makes things worse.

The reality is that tragedies happen. People snap. Violence occurs. All the gun control laws and mental health evaluations in the world will not stop it. Some people are just crazy. Others are downright evil. Sin runs deep in the human heart.

We need to stop blaming others for everything that happens in this country. This goes for both right and left, Democrat and Republican. Shootings like this will happen.  Violence is instinctive to the human animal.

We are violent by nature and sinners by choice. Our animal nature and our spiritual nature collude to ensure that that there will always be acts of violence. Ever since Cain killed Abel, man has been killing man. It can’t be bred, educated or legislated out of human nature.

What can we do about it? First, let’s not overreact. Let’s tone down the rhetoric – from the left and the right. Such vitriol is verbal violence that can only lead to more violence. 

Second, preserve personal freedom at all cost. The gut reaction is to try to fix this situation somehow, and that fix is often assumed to be some form of new legislation or regulation. But the cure may be worse than the disease. Never give government the power to solve a problem when there is some other option; government intervention should be a last resort.

Third, let us examine ourselves. Why are we reacting the way we are to the shooting? What emotions does the crazed image of Jared Loughner evoke from the depths of our heart?

Let us examine our own anger, our own hatred, our own fears, and our own prejudices. Let the crosshairs settle onto our own soul.  Then we may learn what is causing us to blame others.

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