Monday, December 17, 2012

Dying for the sins of others . . . again.

Like Columbine, (an unincorporated area of Jefferson County in Colorado) Sandy Hook (a suburb in the city of Newtown, Connecticut) now bears a name that will forever live in infamy. This post is not about the massacre of children and their teachers in Sandy Hook, but I’m remembering that after a visit to the concentration camp at Dachau, we asked ourselves, “What would it be like to have Dachau as your address?” That name, too, lives on in the history of the diabolical and I’d be inclined to say, “I live near Munich,” if asked for my address.

               Very logically, the two questions, “How could this happen?” and “How could it have been prevented?” are again on the table. In the USA, this presents a real dilemma; the country is almost exactly divided between those who favour Republican values and those who see the world through more liberal, Democratic eyes. It appears very difficult there to raise a nationwide commitment to addressing any problem in a non-partisan manner; in this case the option of revisiting gun control laws will be raised but will again fall victim to the political stalemate. At least that is what many pundits are saying.

               Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind remains fresh in my consciousness, partly because he addresses this very scenario. (My review of the book is available at I think everyone should read it, particularly those who feel strongly that their moral stances are obviously right and the “other side” are a bunch of dimwits. There are plenty of statistics ( that favour the gun control lobby—like the statistic that in 2002, the USA (with lax gun control) had 9,369 gun murders while the UK with strict gun controls had 14—but Haidt suggests that uttering statistics makes no difference in the short run, at least, because our gut feeling prevails and we credit only that which justifies what our intuitions tells us is right.

               In the long run, though, people can be seen to change their minds. There was a time when even progressive, Christian leaders like Tommy Douglas favoured eugenics as regards the sterilization of mentally-challenged persons. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone these days who would admit to such a conviction: conservative, liberal or libertarian.

               The inability to dialogue openly and honestly, to compromise where no consensus is reachable may be one of the great sins of our age, although by far not the only one. Through Jesus’ example, if for no other, we ought by now to understand that innocents will die for persistent, pernicious corporate sin; history demonstrates this over and over again. I’m not given to dire predictions, but if preventive remedies are not found, the USA must be prepared to accept that in future, somewhere around 10,000 citizens will be deliberately shot to death annually, and many of them will be innocent of any action contributing to their deaths. (In Canada, the equivalent toll will be a mere 150 or so.)

               So maybe this was about Sandy Hook after all. All those innocents “crucified” for the sins of their country. 
               It can’t but break your heart.
               Matthew 18:6
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

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