Unspeakable

The senseless violence of a young man has destroyed the lives of 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, if not more, the violence reverberates to family, friends, community and nation. We are saddened by this unspeakable form of violence.

Our prayers: Lord have mercy.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • DerekMc

    Yes. Lord have mercy.

  • Nancy L.

    Thank you, Scot, for posting. I join you in prayer: Lord have mercy.

  • SteveSherwood

    Christ have mercy.

  • Holly

    Heartbreaking. Lord have mercy was the first and only and enduring thing that came to my mind. There really are no other words.

  • ChrisB

    My first reaction on reading this from Downunder (Australia) was “not again” and then “How long O Lord”. For the immediate tragedy words are useless, one can only shake one’s head and wonder how the bereaved will cope. Unfortunately, for America these things will continue to happen until there is a grassroots revolution/revulsion at the gun culture of the USA. Christians this is your chance to actually make a difference, how about marshalling a campaign to say Enough is Enough. The gun lobby and the manufacturers should be told their time has come. The blood of the 5-10yr olds and their teachers is crying from the ground – “don’t let this happen to anyone else”. Are you listening America?

  • Mike M

    ChrisB: unfortunately, the answer is not as easy as that. And an “answer” that addresses only one possible cause can only lead to disaster. We Americans live in a culture of “institutional violence,” a phrase coined by Paul Farmer, MD (and someone who is neglected even on blogs like this one devoted to peace). Institutional violence exists and is permitted at all levels in this country, from the federal government all the way down to families. One big problem is that we believe violence should be answered by more violence. Take Afghanistan, the Drug War, child-support laws, and isolation rooms at public schools as a few examples. God and Jesus have mercy on us all.

  • Greg D

    Chris B and Mike M –

    I am convinced of two things: 1) The government is too afraid to initiate any significant gun control laws. After all, guns now outnumber the population in America. There will only be more violence and bloodshed on the streets of America should our government take away guns. 2) Many of our politicians are funded by gun control lobbyists, special interest groups, and NRA-type organizations. To enact any significant gun control legislation would require politicians losing a lot of their financial support, and they certainly wouldn’t want that.

    For all intents and purposes… America is a violent country… with it’s genesis in 1776.

  • Kate

    This happened in the UK in Dunblane in 1996. 16 children died. Public outcry demanded the banning of handguns and (so far) we have not had another school shooting. Surely the time for proper gun control has come?

  • Sarah

    Talk about missing the point! This is not about guns, the NRA, or even institutional violence. That is the simply the broken world we’ve been called to. If you take away the guns, you haven’t dealt with the true murderous problem. No, this is about sin, pure and simple- his and ours. His was the final choice. His community is quick to throw out names and proclamations of “wierdness” after the fact, but where were they when his mother was raising a boy alone with serious mental health issues? His father kept the family well cared for but lived hours away as did his brother who hadn’t spoken to him since 2010. Really? This young man was sick enough his mother had quit her job to stay home with him. Where was the local church? Have you ever considered how the local church deals with mental health issues? So much sin and brokenness in this picture- and you want to discuss guns? In China on Fridaya man did it with a knife – stabbed 22 schoolchildren and their elderly teacher. No, this is much deeper, much uglier than that. What are we doing in our churches and in our communities to catch kids like this before the tragedy?

  • Kate

    Sarah, you are in fact missing the point. If it’s “not about guns” but about sin, why is it so much more common in the US? Us the US really so much more sinful than elsewhere?!

    Yes, China had a madman loose in a school with a knife, but notice that he “wounded 22 children – at least two of them seriously ” (BBC) rather than killed them all. If there were a killer loose in my kids’ school, I know I’d rather he wield a knife rather than a couple of handguns.

    Sure, the fact that the US does not have a comprehensive healthcare system to help take care of such a damaged young man does not help, but if he had no access to guns, maybe these kids would be sat in hospital nursing their wounds. Sure I want to talk about guns!

  • Phil Miller

    I’m not a gun owner, although I used to occasionally go to target practice with my dad when growing up. I just never became enamored with them as some people I grew up with. I grew up in a pretty rural area of Pennsylvania, so hunting was and still is a big deal. I know many, many gun owners. My dad is a pastor, and he owns guns. I think many people treat them as something of a museum piece. Unfortunately, though, there are those who don’t and can’t be trusted with them.

    As far as a ban on handguns and the like, the pragmatic side of me wonders how that would work. We could stop the legal sale of new and used handguns from stores, but what about the millions that are already in circulation? I don’t see most owners willingly giving them up. I don’t see politicians even coming close to suggesting such a thing, honestly. Yes, people are shocked and outraged now, but sadly most people have short memories when it comes to these things. Americans do have violence in our DNA. Even before the Revolutionary War, this continent was steeped in violence. It seems we made our choice a long time ago, and we will be dealing with the consequences of such choices for a long time.

  • AHH

    Conversation about gun laws is important and overdue, but as others have pointed out it is only one front on trying to lessen the number and scope of tragedies like this (which can only be lessened, never eliminated, this side of the eschaton). There are a couple of other fronts to be pursued in parallel.

    One is dealing with mental illness.
    Another, as has been mentioned here, is our culture of violence (maybe worse in the US than in most places), where gun violence is just one part. And here is where the church needs to look itself in the mirror and ask about our complicity. Not only complicity in supporting things like pre-emptive war or being more concerned about sex and cursing on TV than about its violence, but also things like calling the church to be more “masculine” while defining masculinity in a way that embraces violence (Ultimate Fighting Jesus, anyone?).

    And lest we forget the essential point of this post, indeed, Lord have mercy on all.

  • Patrick

    Kate,

    Because Americans are uniquely violent, that’s why. Other societies that are well armed don’t act like us.

    Added to this phenomena are our mental health laws, which were changed in the 1960s allowing lots of mentally ill people to avoid treatment. These people get to be “normalized” among us now. They make up a large minority of homeless folks.

    This man stole these weapons, murdered his mother, murdered these kids on school property, broke probably 100 laws. As a response, we can make a new law that he couldn’t possess a gun and he’d obey that?

    BTW, the biggest massacre in US history in a school was with a homemade bomb in the 1920s. They were illegal, murderers break laws. Good people abide by laws. Don’t make the error of creating a free space for our most evil citizens.

    If you want less violence, don’t disarm the honorable folks, England is finding out that move leads to empowering the evil:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-154307/Gun-crime-soars-35.html

  • Kate

    Patrick just a word of advice, if you want to sound credible to a Brit, don’t quote the Daily Mail!

    But even this article admits that “The statistics show that crime in England and Wales is continuing to fall.” And note that it is the “Shooting Sports Trust” (our NRA?) that is claiming “that strong measures against guns following the Dunblane massacre were “a mistake”.”

  • Kate

    Patrick just a word of advice, if you want to sound credible to a Brit, don’t quote the Daily Mail!

    But even this article admits that “The statistics show that crime in England and Wales is continuing to fall” including violent crime (down 26% since 1997- how is that empowering evil?). And note that it is the “Shooting Sports Trust” (our NRA?) that is claiming “that strong measures against guns following the Dunblane massacre were “a mistake”.”

  • Mike M

    AHH: amen. When you live in a culture where the answer to violence is more violence, you only get an escalade of violence. More than 160 kids have been killed in our drone attacks. Each one of those deaths is as important as the deaths at Newtown; AHH: amen. When you live in a culture where the answer to violence is more violence, you only get an escalade of violence.

  • Craig

    Such a small price to pay for the comfort and convenience of knowing that I too can purchase an autoloading assault rifle with a 30-round magazine. http://www.bushmaster.com/firearms/XM-15.asp

    As for weakening our culture of violence, recruitment officers are having a hard enough time finding enough football players willing to shoot Afghans, or enough video gamers willing to operate our expanding fleet of combat drones.

    As for dealing with mental illness, am I my brother’s keeper? Just expand the police force with ex-military thugs, build more prisons, and buy yourself a bushmaster.

  • Bill

    I don’t think Americans are any more violent than any other people group in the world. Violence is, when you get down to it, a matter of heart and soul, not a gun, not a knife. What has happened is a tragedy and there are no words that can be used to adequately describe it.

    Hand wringing about guns and the oh so violent Americans is not helpful. It doesn’t even get to the point. Would we have preferred these children and adults died at the hands of someone wielding knives and machetes? The truth of the matter is we may never know why this killer did what he did. Are you settled with that?

    I agree a lot with Sarah (#9). The issue isn’t guns it’s a mental health problem. Until we can get over our fear and stigmatizing of mental illness (the church and government can help here) we aren’t going to make much ground. Also if we can’t stomach the possibility of real evil existing in this world and saying so we aren’t going to make any ground. The killings at Columbine were pure evil. The killings at Newton, the jury is still out but it looks like mental illness played a role. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I think all mentally ill people are evil. They aren’t. Also mental illness is no excuse for killing. Unfortunately or fortunately the killer took care of the justice side of things.

    Pray for the first-responders and the families of those who lost their loved ones and quit your whining about guns and how to control them. Get involved in your communities and put your faith where your mouth is and give shape to your convictions. Get involved with mental heatlh initiatives and working with schools and first-responders. Put up or shut up.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Of course the easy access to weapons of enormous fire power is part of the problem. But so is the issue of mental illness – the incidence of mental illness inside US prisons is 5 times that of the general population. Back in the day they wanted to save money – so they closed many institutions. Thus many are out there, and problems proliferate – violence, vagrancy, theft – and the solution is to lock them up with the general prison population?????

    As my daughter, age 15, commented this weekend: America, where you can have guns but not health care. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • Kim Hampton

    If this is not a gun issue, explain why Japan (which has a much more violent popular culture than the US) had 59 gun deaths last year.

    Great Britain had 39 gun deaths last year. And they don’t have less violence in popular culture than the US does.

    Only one country in Western Europe had more than 150 gun deaths last year; Germany (if I’m reading the official reports right).

    I am bloody sick and tired of hearing “guns don’t kill, people kill.” If you can tell me what the purpose of guns are aside from KILLING, then I’ll listen. Until then, there is nothing to say.


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