What is it about the mass murder of innocent children at school that troubles us so? I would dare say that elementary school killings trouble us even more so than the horrific mass shootings at shopping malls and movie theaters. Why?
One reason is that many if not all of us feel some level of responsibility for school children’s wellbeing. We promise innocent school children so full of promise and potential that they are safe and sound, when they are dropped off at school. These kids depend on us to protect them. They are not allowed to carry weapons to protect themselves. They are defenseless children. Our society is without defense (and many of us feel this burden deep within our souls), when we do not do everything possible to keep them safe from harm.
Another reason why the mass murder of innocent children at school troubles us so is that all their promise and potential bound up with learning is snuffed out by their senseless deaths. They go to school to be educated and socialized. While movie theaters can educate, their main focus is to entertain. While shopping malls can socialize us, the kind of socialization that occurs there centers on buying and selling goods and services. While movie theaters and shopping malls have important functions to play in our society, they do not serve as storehouses of knowledge and public virtue. You won’t normally find bars and porn shops near schools (except perhaps in places like Portland, Oregon) because schools are sacred ground for the cultivation of innocent lives. We have to do a better job in making sure guns are not on or near school grounds either (except in the case of the police).
During one of his teaching sessions, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). He rebuked his disciples—his own students—for rebuking those who brought these children to him to place his hands on them and pray for them (Matthew 19:13-14). Jesus’ disciples did not see these little children as all that important; in their estimation, the little children weren’t worthy of Jesus’ time. How wrong they were, for the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like them—young innocent lives, so vulnerable and trusting and full of hope.
Although prayer is not allowed in public schools around our nation, many people are praying around our schools today. Pray that as a society we find a way not to hinder the little children from experiencing the fullness of life. Let’s place our hands on these children’s heads, bless them, and do whatever it takes to protect them. Let’s make sure that just as the kingdom of heaven belongs to those like these little children, our public schools belong to the little children; otherwise, the last remaining spark of our own innocence will die with them, when a gunman’s shots ring out.
At this time, we are all vulnerable, just like little kids. What can we do together to protect the little children and secure our country’s future? May the same hand used to bless the little children lead and guide and strengthen us to welcome them back to school and shield them from all harm.