When tragedy strikes.

“With every life taken, we’re all diminished. That’s something too many people don’t get. Yeah, we gotta stop violence and killing — but you’re only adding to the problem when the way you solve it is by more of the same.” -Joe, in The Onion Girl by Charles De Lint.

When I first heard about the shooting in Newton, CN, I was devastated. All I could think was, “What if that had been my child?” But the very first thought to enter my mind was why? I learned about the event as I was going through my Facebook news feed and saw post after post, people saying, first, that a man had entered an elementary school with a gun. Then I saw the updates: 18 children dead, and 8 teachers. Then they said 20 students. My heart cracked in two. I cried. I didn’t know how to handle the news that an entire kindergarten class had been killed by a man walking into a school with a semi-automatic rifle.

However, I soon got sick of the Facebook status updates that I was seeing. They had gone from prayers for the victims and updates about the accident to the age-old debate about gun control. I couldn’t believe it. People (from both sides of this argument, mind you) had the nerve to sit there and say, “Ha! I told you so!” I wanted to scream, “There are children dead and all you can think of to do is yell about banning all guns or arming every citizen overnight?”

I am still upset over this, and I actually deactivated my Facebook account temporarily. In my eyes, the issue is not guns or lack thereof. The issue is Jesus or lack thereof. We live in a broken world full of broken people, and nothing is going to stop that brokenness. I don’t care about gun control. I honestly don’t. Not right now, at least. However, I do care about the fact that there are families who have lost loved ones in a horrific manner. I can’t help but wonder what their view of God is now. I can’t help but wonder if these little ones ever had the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am praying continuously for the Christian community in Newton to reach out and come alongside these hurting families and share the gospel with them in a very practical way: comfort and support in times of need. I pray that Christians everywhere would come together and do whatever they can to help and be a light in a dark world.

I can tell you right now, this little boy was not worried about gun control or political parties. Neither was the girl who is holding him.This is the universal expression of horror and pain. Hands covering his face as he watches something horrific. This is not an expression of outrage. It’s simply fear, shock, and sadness.

We like to politicize everything, here in America. We want to assign blame. By jumping straight to the conclusion that guns or lack of guns could have prevented this tragedy, we are saying, “It was not the fault of a man, but of his weapon.” We are blaming objects, because objects are something we can control. We will march in the streets wearing special colors of ailments of the body, because we can potentially control those, but when it comes to the mind, we don’t want to deal with it, because it shows us how out of control we really are.

If you want to help, start with yourself. You could start by donating, supporting these people financially. There are plenty of ways to do that. One organization that I personally recommend is CLARO. Loosening or tightening of gun laws will not prevent another tragedy such as this any more than laws against drunk driving stop people from getting behind the wheel after their trip to a bar, or laws against drugs will keep people from using and selling them (not that I think those laws should not be in place, please understand).

What will prevent this from happening again is taking time to teach our children and ourselves how to apologize, how to be good people, how to respect others, how to respect ourselves, how to be responsible for our own actions. Teach the children around you that it is OK to recognize when you feel out of control and that there is no shame in telling someone you feel that way and need help. Show that you can admit when you are wrong and be examples of picking yourself up after someone knocks you down. Teach them pride in themselves and that, while you can not control the actions of others you can control your reaction to them. And it’s not just children who need this, some adults have never been taught how to deal with reality without lashing out violently or speaking out in ignorance and hate. For all ages we must be examples of what is good and teach how to recognize what is wrong and how to correct it with love and not with violence. Only instilling the principle of “do no harm” will prevent future acts of senseless violence like that seen today in Newton, CT. Reflect on yourselves, on your relationships and your actions and stop blaming politics, religion, class structure, economics. Be the light instead of pointing out the dark.

-Alicia Vélez Stewart

I think that Alicia about sums it up, and I applaud her. Ultimately, the thing that’s going to fix our world and be a light in a dark place is Jesus Christ. Want to change the world? Share the gospel. You’ll change the world for someone, somewhere.

I’d also like to take a moment and thank God for this young woman, Victoria Soto. She sacrificed her life to save the lives of her students. Before the shooter came into the classroom, she put her entire class into cabinets, or anywhere else that they would fit, to hide them. But when the shooter came into her classroom, there was nowhere for her to hide and she was killed. Thank you, Victoria, for your loving sacrifice.

Victoria Soto, age 27. Hero.

I’d also like to find names of other heroic teachers to honor them and thank them. If you have any information (pictures, ages, stories, etc) please feel free to share them in the comments.

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I Will Never Understand

After watching a video on illegal abortions that occur in the Philippines, I can say that I am conflicted about the issue of abortion. Our assignment in class was to look up Roe v. Wade, and we were to write down 1) whether we knew what the case was before this assignment, 2) a three-sentence summary of the case, 3) how the ruling was interpreted then versus now, and 4) whether we thought that the ruling should be upheld. The last one got me. After seeing the video of the illegal abortions that take place, I understood something that I’ve always somewhat understood but never realized until recently: it’s not as simple as “legal” or “illegal.”

After seeing the abject poverty that over 30% (I believe it says in the video) of the population lives in, I was empathetic to the mothers who were trying to obtain abortions. Here in the United States, we have an overabundance of families willing to adopt “unwanted” babies, or babies who are born into bad situations, if the mother chooses that rout. But in the Philippines, so many of these women have only two choices, abort or starve their children. We have a mentality in the U.S. that the only reason that a woman would want an abortion is because she selfishly does not want her child or the trouble or responsibility that children can bring. We fail to see that in many, many parts of the world, this is not the case.

The young girl in the video who is recorded during her abortion is sobbing during the entire procedure. Why is she sobbing? Because she is losing her child. She doesn’t want this to have to be an option. She doesn’t want to lose her baby. But she is faced with the decision to abort her second child, or let the 8 month old baby that she already has go hungry. Obviously this is not black and white. And obviously the mayor’s decision to make both abortion and contraception illegal was a poor one. But if you notice in the video, there is a comment made: “This is where religion and politics come together.” That sentence got me thinking even more, especially about Christians who think that there should be laws against abortion. Is more legislation really the answer? Are we going to the right place for our problems to  be fixed? What does this say about the idol of government?

The truth is, we’re trying to fix a very deep problem with a very surface-level answer. We’re putting band-aids on broken bones. We’re trying to fix sin, not through Jesus Christ, but through man-made laws. It won’t work. It will never work. I strongly believe that we need to focus on loving these men and women and children. Are we really showing the love of Christ when we stand outside abortion clinics, hiding behind signs, and yelling at women about how awful they are? Even if that’s true (and I know that every human being is born a sinner in opposition to God), we are completely eliminating love from our message. Now, some might say that it’s like a parent’s discipline. It seems harsh, but will benefit the child in the future. To me, it sounds like poor justification for beating a child. We also have to be careful not to go so far in the other direction that we eliminate God’s judgement and wrath.

A large part of why I am not in any pro-life groups is because 1) I feel that they are far too focused on making new laws and putting trust in government when it should be in God, 2) because of how nasty those groups can be toward people, and 3) because they don’t generally focus on loving and serving people, but rather focus on being aggressively legalistic in their approach.

I’d love to know why those same people who are outside of Planned Parenthood yelling at people are not also the same people raising their voices for, say, foster care reform or advocating making adoption easier, in light of the fact that there are 150,000+ children who are up for adoption through the foster care system, and over 600, 000 in the foster care system overall. This does not include the countless other kids who are living on their own with no familial support whatsoever. Why is nobody upset about this? Why is it not a huge issue? Besides this, 25% of U.S. children are not receiving regular meals every day, or live without consistent access to food. To top that off, of the women who get yelled at for having had abortions, so many of these women who had abortions say that they felt pressured into it, or that they regret it, and many even say that if they’d had the proper support they’d have kept their child. To me, this says nothing of the women but says everything about the quality of help that we are giving them. If we’re going to be against abortion, why are all of these other issues ignored when they relate directly? There’s also the fact that information about adoption is hard to obtain and not made widely available, while abortion is covered in every single sex-ed class and Planned Parenthood brochure in existence.

I would love to know why Christians are not coming alongside these men and women more often and saying, “We’re all sinners. I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. We’ve made bad decisions. I don’t agree with the one you made, but I want to love you anyway, because Jesus loved me first.”

 

Author’s Note (added Nov. 20, 2012): I’d like to clear something up real quick. I actually don’t even know if it’s an issue, but I feel the need to address it, just to be completely, entirely, absolutely clear on this: I am not condoning abortion, nor do I support the practice in any way. I believe absolutely in the right to life, and I believe that abortion is, in fact, murder. What I was trying to convey in this post was that my heart breaks for these women, and that I wish that these sorts of things did not have to happen. I was not trying to say that abortion is a solution to poverty, unplanned pregnancies, or anything else. It is never a solution. There is one instance where both the mother and the child cannot be saved, and that is ectopic pregnancyIn this case, the baby has implanted outside the uterus and it is a life-threatening condition for the mother in which the baby will not survive. I do not believe that women should ever be denied medical attention that they need in order to save their life. However, I do not believe that abortion “on demand and without apology” is women’s health, and I do not support it in any way. I may post more on this later, but for now I’d just like to clarify what this post was attempting to get across.

December: the Season for Giving

It’s supposedly a “giving season.” We start around November and go through December 25th in a crazy rush over the many happenings that occur, and we call it “the Christmas shopping season.” We have an entire “season” dedicated to shopping; to buying more stuff. Now we call it a season of giving. But how often do we give without expectation of receiving anything in return? How often do we give because of that expectation? Would we even give at all if we knew that there was no personal gain involved? We talk about the “poor and needy” even as we pass them on the street, while our thoughts remain on our own needs. We then proceed to discuss “good will toward men” while we think about our in-laws that we hate and pay no attention to the homeless man shivering on the corner. We let myriad opportunities to serve each other fly by without a second thought. We think, “I’m too busy. I don’t have money. I don’t have time.” We are busy because we’re out spending money and time on things for me, myself, and I. All of it is for ourselves.

We’re bombarded with advertisements telling us how to give to others in a way that will cause us to receive something even better in return. We are told to give so that we can get. Its called a giving season, yet all we’re really focused on is getting.

We say Christmas time is about Jesus. How often do our thoughts turn to Him? We’re victims of the American Dream. We claim to follow Christ, and yet how often do we check ourselves against His teachings? How often do we truly give? How often do we truly love our neighbor? “And we remind ourselves that to love means to give until it hurts…” (Mother Teresa). Loving and giving are inextricably intertwined. One does not come without the other. If you can do without it, then it’s not truly giving. How often do we consider the needs of the widows and orphans? Very little. All I see in this time of year is a flurry of activity for more, more, more, based on the “I, Me” mentality. It’s so contrary to everything that we say we love about this season.

We sit in our warm homes and complain about the cold while there are those who don’t have a home to go to; we celebrate the holidays with food while twenty-five percent of school-age children in the United States are malnourished due to lack of food, and then we complain about how expensive the food was; we look at a child who has no jacket in the cold and we think, “Poor kid,” but we pass him by and do nothing. There are children in slavery. There are are people starving across the globe. There are those who are ill and have no way of treating their illness. There are women aborting their babies because nobody cared enough to give her the love and support she needed. There are men who are unable to provide for their families. And we think that we’re “giving” by handing over an unnecessary item to someone who already has everything they could ever ask for.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and justice kiss each other. (Ps. 85:10).

Doing justice for the fatherless and the oppressed, so that men of the earth may terrify them no more.  (Ps. 10:18)

“I will now rise up,” says the Lord.  “I will put in a safe place the one who longs for it.” (Ps. 12:5).

“Has this love I speak so loudly of quietly grown cold?” -Big Daddy Weave

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” -Mother TeresaImage