Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013 3:43:51 AM
As a mother and teacher, I have had a difficult time trying to get my head and heart around the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. For me, the most challenging part has been trying to understand how such an evil act could prevail against our most vulnerable, our most beautiful, and our most cherished. Those twenty six and seven year olds went to school that December day thinking only of the pictures they would draw, the stories they would read, the games they would play, and the Christmas they would soon celebrate. But because of someone's fit of madness or evil, their lives and future here in this world were destroyed. It is enough to nauseate any parent to the core.
Without question God did not cause or by any means desire the death of His precious creations, and I firmly believe they are singing hymns beside Him in the highest point in heaven. But for the rest of us left behind who have to confront the darkness under which they left us, the big question remains: why did He permit it?
As I've pondered this question, I've been reminded of perhaps the most profound Catholic writer of her time, the late Flannery O'Connor. I was introduced to O'Connor's writings in college, and immediately there was something about her work that drew me in. Her stories typically entailed strange (often classified as grotesque) characters engaging in common day occurrences that take a tragic, and often dark, turn for the worse. Whether it be the idle vagrant who cons a mother into giving him the family's car only to abandon the mother's deaf and mentally challenged daughter at a roadside lunch counter or the escaped convict who is almost spiritually saved by a hypocritical grandmother just moments before he rejects that salvation and kills her and her entire family, her stories jolt readers into searching for the purpose behind the gravest of events. And that purpose, according to various O'Connor scholars, is typically to highlight through an unspeakable and exaggerated storyline the spiritual evil that lurks more commonly around us--as well as the grace we often reject to combat it.
In a sense this tragedy is an O'Connor story come to life. The most horrific unimaginable event has been placed in front of us, but why? What are we failing to do everday--spiritually speaking--as a nation that would in any way contribute to the meaningless taking of the most precious human lives?
The answer, I think, is in the American lackadaisicle attitude toward the dignity of life. We were founded as a country of people made in the image of God, and as such, we fostered a certain respect for all human life. And that respect was intended to underscore the protection of our individual liberties. But over time we've continued to protect our individual liberties without reference to the dignity of God's creation.
We assist women in killing their babies in the womb, the most precious and vulnerable of human life, because a pregnancy would somehow infringe upon their worldly pursuits. We turn a blind eye to the poor on the street because we do not believe they deserve something better. We allow television to fill our young people's minds with portrayals of teenagers who dismiss their parents and stereotype adults as unuseful rather than purposeful. We place our elderly, the wisest in society, in nursing homes when they simply eat up too much of our time. And the list goes on. The truth is we have been actively chipping away at the human person for decades and stand shocked when we are confronted with a horrific manifestation of this attitude.
As we move forward as a nation, we need to get back to the essential building blocks of our society: the God-given life. We must foster the kind of thinking and behavior that treats every one of us as significant and meaningful--whether it be at the beginning, middle, or end of life.